- ‘It may happen in the coming weeks’, says Everton’s CFO
- Premier League: season could be curtailed by outbreak
Paul MacInnes – The Guardian
Bournemouth fans wear masks during last Saturday’s match against Chelsea.
Photograph: Marc Atkins/Getty Images
The spread of coronavirus means it is likely Premier League matches will be played behind closed doors this month, a club executive said.
Sasha Ryazantsev, the Everton chief financial officer, said banning fans from games in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus would be a decision imposed on clubs. However, with Italian authorities having taken the decision to play Serie A games behind closed doors until April, the possibility of something similar here is increasing.
“It would be a forced decision rather than one we would proactively engage in,” said Ryazantsev at the FT Business of Football Summit in London. “But the whole situation goes far beyond the world of sport. Nobody wants to play behind closed doors and I don’t think it’s inevitable that it will happen. But we feel it is quite likely it may happen in the coming weeks.”
The Premier League, meanwhile, confirmed yesterday that fair-play handshakes will not take place between players and match officials from this weekend due to the coronavirus.
Officials wrote to its member clubs this week asking them to prepare contingency plans for the virus, as the officialgovernment response moved from one of containment to trying to slow the spread of the disease. In the letter, the league suggested that an outbreak of coronavirus at just one club would make it difficult to complete the season.
In one example of changing behaviour, Gary Neville withdrew from a speaking role at the summit in compliance with a new policy from Sky Sports on coronavirus.
Measures taken by Liverpool include not having any mascots on the pitch and the club added: “Any supporter displaying symptoms that are consistent with the virus should ensure they familiarise themselves with the chief medical officer’s advice on self-isolation.”
Stephen Zhang, the president of Internazionale, has been outspoken on the Italian response to ccoronavirus, calling the president of Serie A a clown for ppostponing Inter’sSerie A match against Juventus last weekend with only one day’s notice.
Zhang said he did not regret his choice of language. “A lot of people think my words are strong but when protecting people and safety words are never too strong. . We always have to deliver a positive message and take responsibility for the public.”