In Depth

Coronavirus crisis: football suspended in England and Scotland

Premier League, EFL, WSL, SPFL and the football associations take action

Football in England and Scotland is on hold in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus. 

It was reported on Thursday night that Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi had tested positive for the virus.

Then in major announcements on Friday the leagues and associations of both UK countries confirmed that matches were now suspended. 

The Premier League, Football Association (FA), English Football League (EFL) and the Women’s Super League (WSL) collectively agreed to postpone the professional game in England until Friday 3 April at the earliest.

And the Scottish FA and Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) joint response group also confirmed that all domestic professional and grassroots football was suspended until further notice. 

Internationals and Euro 2020

The decision to postpone football in England means the Three Lions’s international friendlies against Italy and Denmark at Wembley Stadium this month will not go ahead. 

Euro 2020 is also in doubt because many domestic leagues across Europe have stopped playing. Sky Sports reports that Uefa will meet next week and it’s likely that Euro 2020 will be postponed until next year.

Uefa postpones UCL matches

Meanwhile, next week’s Uefa Champions League and Uefa Europa League matches have been postponed. This includes the remaining Champions League round of 16 second legs on 17-18 March; all Europa League round of 16 second legs on 19 March; and all Uefa Youth League quarter-final matches scheduled on 17-18 March.

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Premier League

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Football postponed: what the statements said   

English FA

“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. It will also apply to all England team fixtures at every level and all FA competitions including the Emirates FA Cup and the Women’s FA Cup, along with academy and youth-team matches. The decision is being made purely on the number of cases requiring self-isolation and the impact on facilities. Given the steps being taken across clubs, there is no alternative but for today’s action. However, all parties are committed at this time to trying to complete this season’s domestic fixture programme and are liaising to establish appropriate options to do so.”

Premier League

“Following a meeting of shareholders today, it was unanimously decided to suspend the Premier League with the intention of returning on 4 April, subject to medical advice and conditions at the time. Despite the challenges, it is the Premier League’s aim to reschedule the displaced fixtures, including those played by Academy sides, when it is safe to do so. In this fast-moving environment, further updates will be provided when appropriate.”

Richard Masters, Premier League chief executive 

“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.”

Scottish FA

“The Joint Response Group can confirm the decision of the Scottish FA Board to suspend ALL domestic professional and grassroots football under the jurisdiction of the Scottish FA until further notice. The Scottish FA and SPFL will continue to liaise with governments and Uefa in relation to domestic, European and International fixtures in the coming days and more information will be communicated at the appropriate time. The Scottish FA Board made its decision in the interests of the health and safety of players, match officials, staff, supporters and the general public.” 

Ian Maxwell, Scottish FA chief executive

“Since the guidance outlined by governments last night we have been engaged in extensive dialogue to clarify the position and implications of that guidance for Scottish football. Today’s announcement is made in the interests of public health but, equally, the health and safety of players, match officials, and staff across the game. This is of paramount importance as the country enters the ‘delay’ phase of the coronavirus pandemic. It is also why the Scottish FA is compelled to ensure that the suspension is cascaded through the non-professional and grassroots games until further notice.” 

Neil Doncaster, SPFL chief executive

“As everyone knows, this is a fast-moving and unprecedented situation for the entire country. The health and safety of fans, players and officials is absolutely paramount. We have not yet had any confirmed cases of coronavirus amongst players in Scotland, but, given the nature of this outbreak, it seems only a matter of time. 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.”

English Football League

“The postponements include all matches in the Championship, League One and League Two, as well as all academy and youth team fixtures. 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. 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. A further update on these plans will be given post an EFL Board Meeting next week. 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.”

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