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Premier League and EFL to allow water breaks amid soaring summer temperatures

Coventry players take a water break during their Carabao Cup first-round match against Bristol City on Wednesday (Nigel French/PA)
Coventry players take a water break during their Carabao Cup first-round match against Bristol City on Wednesday (Nigel French/PA)

Premier League and EFL matches this weekend are set to feature water breaks as England faces another period of high summer temperatures.

The Met Office has issued an amber extreme heat warning which came into force on Thursday and covers the rest of this week. It covers much of the southern half of England as well as parts of eastern Wales.

The PA news agency understands any match in the EFL or Premier League where the temperature is forecast to hit at least 30 degrees Celsius is set to feature a cooling break midway through each half to enable players, coaches and officials to rehydrate and cool down.

Temperatures in the area covered by the heat warning are expected to get into the low to mid-30s.

A break was called in Sunday’s Premier League match between West Ham and Manchester City while evening games in the Carabao Cup first round earlier this week – including Coventry v Bristol City – also featured water breaks.

Meanwhile, player welfare lobby group Progressive Rugby says it seems “eminently sensible” to delay the start of English rugby union’s lower leagues season amid soaring temperatures.

A decision could be announced next week over whether to delay the start of the grass-roots campaign because of current rock-hard playing surfaces, particularly in the south-east region.

League action is scheduled to begin in early September, although many clubs will have pre-season friendlies arranged this month.

Some clubs are minimising contact training, and the Rugby Football Union are believed to be considering a later kick-off, while maximising use of artificial pitches is also being looked at.

“Rugby is an intensely physical sport and we are wholly supportive of any measure that protects the welfare of players,” a Progressive Rugby spokesperson told the PA news agency.

“Given the prolonged hot weather it would seem eminently sensible to delay the season’s start to prevent the risk of players suffering serious injury.”

The Grounds Management Association, which represents groundstaff and professional clubs, is not aware that any of its members’ water use is being restricted as a result of the hosepipe bans currently in place in the UK, but accepts the situation could change.

Andrea McMahon, the GMA’s director of communications, told PA: “In terms of any clubs being told that they cannot use water, that has not yet happened.

“That’s not to say, however, that in the future that position won’t change. Depending on how bad things get – and these hot climes are likely to be more frequent, or ferocious or long-standing – we don’t know what will happen in terms of future restrictions and whether sports clubs will remain exempt.”

Hackney Marshes Football Pitches
Dry grass on the football pitches at Hackney Marshes in London (Victoria Jones, PA)

McMahon pointed out that the water company bans also included health and safety exceptions in their temporary use bans (TUBs), where not maintaining pitches could endanger player safety.

“The water companies don’t want to put lives at risk or create any kind of unsafe environment, which is why they have exemptions in place, and sports grounds are currently covered within these exemptions,” she added.

“We must ensure that clubs aren’t frivolous with water and only focus on watering the areas they need to – but watering the playing surfaces is vital for safety reasons.

“People often associate frozen and icy pitches as being dangerous but don’t think about the danger of a hot, hard pitch.

“At the moment we are able to use water as a sector, but we’re certainly keeping a close eye on it.”

The Football Association is understood to be monitoring the extreme heat closely and is working with both the GMA and the Football Foundation on guidance to the grassroots game.