Today, Mikel Arteta, the head coach of Arsenal soccer club, tested positive for the virus, as did Chelsea player Callum Hudon-Odoi. Other clubs including Leicester and Everton are also self-isolating to manage potential cases.
“In this unprecedented situation, we are working closely with our clubs, government, The FA and EFL and can reassure everyone the health and welfare of players, staff and supporters are our priority,” said Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters. “Above all, we wish Mikel Arteta and Callum Hudson-Odoi speedy recoveries, and everyone else affected by Covid-19.”
The org added that it was aiming to reschedule the displaced fixtures “when it is safe to do so”.
UEFA, the European soccer body, today also confirmed it was calling off the next set of matches in the Champions League and Europa League, which would have taken place March 17-18. It has also cancelled the draw for the next round of fixtures on March 20.
“In the light of developments due to the spread of COVID-19 in Europe and related decisions made by different governments, all UEFA club competitions matches scheduled next week are postponed,” read a UEFA statement. “Further decisions on when these matches take place will be communicated in due course.”
Yesterday, in an address to the nation UK PM Boris Johnson said that the government was considering banning sports events to quell large public gatherings, but did not enact any firm policies. The decision has now been taken out of the government’s hands as sporting bodies react to a spike in confirmed cases.
As we reported yesterday, this news is going to be a blow to broadcasters.
The Premier League is the richest soccer competition in the world and the third in global sport behind the National Football League and Major League Baseball; the latter has also suspended the beginning of the season due to coronavirus. The Premier League is broadcast in 212 territories to 643 million homes.
The UEFA tournaments are also huge audience draws for broadcasters. Last year’s Champions League final between Liverpool and Tottenham was viewed by 160 million people around the world, for example.
Soccer leagues across Europe are being impacted. Today, France’s top two leagues were suspended immediately “until further notice”. That follows similar moves in Italy, Spain and numerous other nations.
The English Football League, which includes teams in the Championship, League One and League Two divisions, has also suspended until April 3.
“This action, which will be kept under constant review, has been taken due to the increasing numbers of clubs taking steps to isolate their players and staff because of the COVID-19 virus. This decision has not been taken lightly, but the EFL must prioritise the health and well-being of players, staff and supporters while also acknowledging the Government’s national efforts in tackling this outbreak,” read a statement from the EFL.
The 2020 UEFA European Football Championship, which is scheduled to run June 12 – July 12, could also be at threat, depending on how the virus develops in coming weeks. 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.
While confirmed cases of Covid-19 in China, where the virus originated, have slowed, there have been an explosion of positive cases in Europe this week, with Italy, Spain, Germany and France hit particular badly.