- Brighton v Arsenal game on Saturday is postponed
- Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi also tests positive
- Premier League to hold emergency meeting on Friday
Sean Ingle – The Guardian
Premier League clubs will meet on Friday after Mikel Arteta was diagnosed with coronavirus. Composite: Getty Images/Arsenal FC
Premier League clubs are preparing for the football season to be suspended after the Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday night and their match on Saturday against Brighton was postponed.
Arsenal confirmed their first team squad and coaches would now self-isolate, and they would be unable to play some fixtures on the scheduled dates. In the early hours of Friday, Chelsea announced their players are self-isolating after Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive.
Meanwhile, having earlier declared that the weekend’s top-flight games would go ahead as planned, the Premier League has called an emergency meeting with its clubs on Friday regarding future fixtures this season.
One club executive told the Guardian they expected the season to be suspended for several weeks in the light of the Arteta news, and didn’t rule out the possibility of the whole season being voided.
On Thursday it was also reported that the Manchester City defender, Benjamin Mendy, is self-isolating after a member of his family fell ill, and three Leicester players have also undergone tests for Covid-19 after experiencing symptoms.
As things stand, the Premier League is the only major top-flight league in Europe not to shut down or close its doors because of the coronavirus. The top divisions in Spain, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands, Ireland and the United States have all been suspended amid the outbreak, while the German Bundesliga and France’s Ligue 1 are holding matches behind closed doors.
Fixtures in the Scottish Premiership also appear set to be postponed after this weekend’s Old Firm clash between Rangers and Celtic, following First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement that gatherings of more than 500 people will be banned from Monday.
Earlier, English football had been told to carry on as normal after the government’s medical experts insisted that their remained a very low probability of someone with Covid-19 infecting a large number of people in a stadium. However, the Arteta news quickly made that advice appear complacent.
The scale of the problem for global sport due to the rapid spread of the virus was once again illustrated in a fast-moving 24 hours as:
- European football’s governing body, Uefa, moved closer towards postponing the 2020 European Championships, the final of which is due to be held at Wembley, until 2021. Uefa officials will discuss the future of the tournament next week.
- Real Madrid’s Champions League match against Manchester City next Tuesday was delayed after a basketball player from the Madrid team, which shares the same training facility, tested positive for the virus.
- This weekend’s Formula One season-opening Australian GP in Melbourne was called off after a staff member from the McLaren team tested positive for Covid-19.
- President Trump called for the Tokyo Olympic Games in July to be postponed for a year.
- Men’s tennis was shut down for six weeks, with the prestigious Miami Open and Monte Carlo tournaments cancelled.
- The Pro-14 rugby tournament for clubs from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Italy and South Africa was suspended until further notice.
- Irish racing was told that it must be held behind closed doors until 27 March.
- In the US, major league basketball, baseball, hockey and soccer were all suspended, with the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournaments cancelled.
This summer’s European Championships were already expected to be the most complicated ever staged, because 12 stadiums in 12 different countries were being used, starting in Rome on 12 June and ending on 12 July with the final at Wembley. But the spread of the coronavirus has now put its future in doubt. Delaying Euro 2020 could free up space in the calendar for the European leagues to finish their seasons this summer.
The Euro 2021 women’s tournament in England is not due to start until 11 July, so one plan being discussed is for the men’s competition to take place beforehand. A final decision will come when Uefa meets with representatives from the clubs, leagues and the players’ union Fifpro on Tuesday.
Insiders have also told the Guardian that “everything will be on the table” at the meeting – including drastic plans to make the rest of this season’s Champions League and Europa League ties into one-legged games staged in neutral venues.
Uefa confirmed the talks were “in the light of the ongoing developments in the spread of Covid-19 across Europe and the changing analysis of the World Health Organisation.”
The International Olympic Committee has insisted that it is still full steam ahead for the Olympics in Japan in July despite calls from Trump for a postponement until 2021.
At a briefing at the White House, Trump said: “I like that better than I like having empty stadiums all over the place,” he said. “If you cancel it, do it a year later. That’s a better alternative rather than having it with no crowd.”
But the IOC said it remained “absolutely in line with our Japanese hosts” in its commitment to deliver a safe Olympic Games this year.
In the cricket, England’s tour of Sri Lanka was continuing. But a spokesperson for the ECB said “this is a highly evolving situation and circumstances are changing rapidly, sometimes several times a day”.