Coronavirus: Premier League puts season on hold as football acts over COVID-19

Coronavirus: Premier League puts season on hold as football acts over COVID-19

All Premier League and English Football League matches have been postponed until April 3 at the earliest amid the coronavirus crisis.

Confirmation came after meetings involving league officials and club representatives on Friday.

Synchronised Premier League and EFL announcements, released at 11:00 GMT, followed the news of Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta and Chelsea teenager Callum Hudson-Odoi testing positive for the COVID-19 virus.

The UK Government said on Thursday it was not yet necessary to postpone major sporting fixtures, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson declaring there was “no medical reason at the moment to ban such events”.

However, the Premier League has taken the view that the time is right to call off games until the threat has subsided. England’s top-flight is due to return on April 4 with the EFL provisionally having a game scheduled for the previous evening.

The Premier League said in a statement: “Following a meeting of shareholders today, it was unanimously decided to suspend the Premier League with the intention of returning on April 4, subject to medical advice and conditions at the time.”

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said: “Above all, we wish Mikel Arteta and Callum Hudson-Odoi speedy recoveries, and everyone else affected by COVID-19.

“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.”

The Premier League said its intention was to ensure the postponed fixtures were played at a later date.

England’s friendly internationals against Denmark and Italy have also been postponed, the Football Association (FA) said. Those games were due to take place on March 27 and March 31 at Wembley.

Liverpool are on course to win their maiden Premier League title, and a first top-flight championship since triumphing in the old First Division in 1989-90.

Jurgen Klopp’s side sit 25 points clear of second-placed Manchester City, having won 27 of 29 matches so far.

A number of Premier League games had already been postponed, including Wednesday’s match between Manchester City and Arsenal, which did not go ahead, and Arsenal’s clash with Brighton.

The Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship have also been put on hold. The EFL said all academy and youth-team fixtures had also been postponed.

“In addition, clubs are being advised to suspend indefinitely all non-essential activities which include, but are not limited to, player appearances, training ground visits and fan meetings,” the EFL said.

The EFL explained why the decision had been taken to go beyond that recommended on Friday by the government.

It said: “Whilst the EFL board has continued to take the advice and guidance offered by the government and its health advisors, emerging developments mean now is the time to implement football’s contingency plans in response to the crisis.”

The Champions League has also been hit hard by postponements, and a UEFA meeting on Tuesday could see decisions made on how that competition and the Europa League move forward, and whether Euro 2020 can take place this year.

All professional and grassroots football in Scotland has been postponed until further notice, the Scottish Football Association said.

It means Sunday’s Old Firm clash that was due to see Rangers host Celtic will not go ahead as planned.

Scottish Professional Football League chief executive Neil Doncaster said it “seems only a matter of time” before a player becomes infected, and explained it was the prudent decision to call off games.

He added: “We realise that many people will be bitterly disappointed, and we would obviously prefer to be in a position where we can continue as normal, but that’s neither realistic nor possible.”

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