In Brief

Coronavirus: Six Nations matches to go ahead as scheduled

English football authorities consider playing games behind closed doors

This weekend’s Six Nations matches between England and Wales and Scotland and France will go ahead after an emergency meeting of the rugby championship’s committee in Paris.

Italy’s visit to Ireland on Saturday was postponed last week after pressure from the Irish government, and there were fears that the two other matches would also be shelved as the number of coronavirus cases continue to grow throughout Europe.

Despite concerns across the continent, Six Nations organisers took a more measured approach in announcing that “based on the latest information” the rest of the tournament will go ahead as scheduled.

According to The Guardian, the Rugby Football Union is “taking its guidance from Public Health England”, which has not yet banned public gatherings, unlike France, where assemblies of more than 5,000 people have been prohibited. 

The Paris half-marathon was cancelled on Sunday, and the French capital’s book fair has also been axed, yet there have been no restrictions about travelling on the city’s public transport system, which illustrates the lack of coherent strategy to tackling the virus.

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Cancellation crisis

It is expected that the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will today unveil a series of measures to be implemented in response to the spread of the virus, and they may include sporting events.

The Six Nations couldn’t come up with a new date for the Ireland vs. Italy game, but the Guardian reports that “the intention is to reschedule the fixture and complete the tournament”. 

It’s unlikely that a slot could be found before October, however, and the challenge will be even greater if other matches are also cancelled in the coming days. 

Ireland are scheduled to play France in Paris on Saturday week but it’s hard to see how that match will go ahead given the way the French government is reacting to the epidemic.

Coronavirus: what is the plan for a UK outbreak?

Football fever

As for the football authorities, The Times reports that the FA, Premier League and English Football League bosses “have held initial discussions over what steps to take if measures are introduced to limit mass gatherings”. 

Like France, Italy and Switzerland have introduced restrictions and their English counterparts fear that there could be similar measures taken by their government. 

One option under consideration is to play matches behind closed doors and broadcast them as normal. However, says the Times, there is concern that such a scenario “would potentially lead to people gathering in numbers outside stadiums anyway”.

Six Nations round four fixtures 

  • Saturday 7 March: England vs. Wales (4.45pm GMT; live on ITV and S4C)  
  • Sunday 8 March: Scotland vs. France (3pm GMT; live on BBC) 
  • Ireland vs. Italy: postponed  

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