What approach are the football competitions in England taking to the coronavirus threat?
Like all sports competitions, the Premier League and EFL are taking guidance from the government, whose position based on expert medical advice is as stated by Public Health England: “There is presently no rationale to close or cancel sporting events, but this may change as the situation evolves.” Matches are going ahead as scheduled, but will be postponed if the advice changes, or in individual circumstances.
What happens if somebody at a club is diagnosed with the virus?
Individual matches may be postponed and other measures taken at clubs if somebody has tested positive, as happened with the late postponement as a precautionary measure of Manchester City’s match against Arsenal, which was scheduled for Wednesday night. That was due to the diagnosis of the Nottingham Forest and Olympiakos owner Evangelos Marinakis, who met Arsenal players when they played against the Greek club on 27 February. Arsenal said they are following medical advice and their players are self-isolating but should return to training on Friday, and Saturday’s match at Brighton is still on. Forest issued a statement on Wednesday saying that all players and staff have been tested for the virus and “all results have come back negative.” Their match at Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday is planned to go ahead.
What will happen to the competitions if the season cannot be completed?
In sporting terms, this is a worst case scenario which none of the leagues or Uefa are seriously planning for yet. Uefa has a working group with European leagues to try and coordinate the calendar, and reschedule postponed matches to ensure that seasons can be completed. “We are confident that such a concerted approach will allow for the fixtures to be played,” Uefa has said. If leagues cannot complete their seasons, very involved discussions would take place about the sporting and financial impacts. It is difficult to avoid the assumption, as a starting point, that in such an extreme case a season, however advanced, would have to be considered null and void.
Could Liverpool be awarded the Premier League trophy before the end of the season if they have clearly won the title mathematically?
The Premier League typically awards the trophy to the champions at their final home match of the season, and the league does not currently have plans for the trophy to be at Liverpool’s derby with Everton on Monday, when the title could be mathematically won. The league says it is not planning to award the trophy early, but the case for doing so could become stronger depending on the spread of the virus and the required response.
Is the 2020 European Championship still scheduled to go ahead?
Yes. Uefa is keenly aware that the tournament is at risk, given the lockdown of Italy and response to the virus across Europe, but has said it is taking advice from the World Health Organization and national authorities, and its current position is: “EURO 2020 will kick off on 12th June 2020 in Rome. Uefa is in touch with the relevant international and local authorities regarding the coronavirus and its development. There is no need to change anything in the planned timetable. The issue will be kept under constant scrutiny.”
What are the options for the 2020 Olympic Games?
The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo 2020 organisers are continuing to insist that the Games will go ahead as planned in July. That remains the likeliest option. However a Tokyo 2020 board member suggested earlier this week that a delay of one or two years would be the “most feasible” option if things get worse – which suggests contingency plans are at least being discussed. The situation remains fluid – however a decision to delay or postpone the Games, if it comes, is unlikely to be taken before the end of May.