Spanish soccer authorities have immediately suspended the national championship La Liga for at least two weeks after the Real Madrid squad was quarantined today following a player on the club’s basketball team testing positive for the coronavirus.
The Danish soccer league was another to confirm it was being postponed today, while the Italian league remains called off until at least April 3. Major League Soccer also announced this AM that it is suspending for 30 days to combat the virus spread.
In response, European soccer body UEFA has called an emergency meeting of its 55 member associations to discuss its response to the crisis. Reports emerged earlier today that two of UEFA’s flagship tournaments, the Champions League and Europa League, were at risk of being postponed.
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As things stand, matches taking place in the Europa League tonight, including Manchester United travelling to take on Austrian club LASK, will go ahead. Next week’s round of Champions League fixtures includes Manchester City v Real Madrid, which is unlikely to take place due to the Spanish team’s quarantine.
In a statement on its website, UEFA said it will communicate its next steps after the meeting concludes.
The news of further disruption will be a major blow to broadcasters. In the UK, for example, BT Sport paid $1.5BN for the rights to show three seasons of the Champions League at the back end of 2019. Last year’s Champions League final between Liverpool and Tottenham was viewed by 160 million people around the world.
The UK Premier League, the richest soccer competition in the world, has yet to see cancellations but it was confirmed today that three players at Leicester City football club were being tested after displaying symptoms of coronavirus.
The 2020 UEFA European Football Championship, which is scheduled to run June 12 – July 12, could also be at threat. Matches are due to take place across Europe including in Spain and Italy. The tournament is a major sporting event for global audiences, with the 2016 edition attracting two billion viewers around the world.
Global sporting fixtures have been hit by the virus. Last night, the NBA suspended its season after a Utah Jazz player tested positive. The NHL also said that it is evaluating its options. There have been major cancellations in tennis, including the Miami Open and Indian Wells. The Olympics, due to take place July 24 – August 9 in Tokyo, Japan are currently still scheduled to take place.
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