JEDDAH: Almost 100 footballers and staff have tested positive for COVID-19 as Saudi football clubs resume training for the Prince Mohammed bin Salman Football League competitions.
The Saudi Arabian Football Federation said that 1,351 tests were carried out between June 21 and July 8, resulting in 50 players and 47 administrative staff testing positive.
Matches in the professional league are set to resume on Aug. 4 after being suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which halted all sports activities in the Kingdom.
The Saudi Pro League Association and relevant authorities have introduced a range of protocols to ensure a safe return to competition.
Players are encouraged to use hand sanitizers and disinfectants before and after training. Surfaces will be cleaned and sanitized around the clock, and coaching and administrative staff must wear face masks at all times.
Staff and players will have their temperatures checked at the entrance to training grounds, which will have designated entrances and exits to avoid overcrowding. Staff will also check for symptoms among players during training sessions.
Pools will remain closed, while equipment including balls, goalposts and training items, as well as training spaces used by players, will be disinfected before and after use.
Staff members older than 65 and those who suffer from chronic illness will not be allowed on the field.
The federation also decided to increase the number of substitutes during a game from three to five in line with amendments approved by the International Football Association.
Players must follow social distancing rules while training and on substitute benches and in locker rooms. Exchanging shirts and handshakes are prohibited.
Games will be played without fans.
Training resumed on June 21, 2020, in line with medical protocols and precautionary measures.