The owner of Nottingham Forest and Olympiakos has tested positive for coronavirus, prompting a scramble to contain the possible spread of infection among fans and players.
Evangelos Marinakis was present at the City Ground last Friday night for Forest’s 3-0 defeat to Millwall. He also met the Forest squad and posed for photos with several fans. On 27 February he was at the Emirates Stadium as Olympiakos knocked Arsenal out of the Europa League.
Marinakis confirmed he had the virus in a post on Instagram. “The recent virus has ‘visited’ me and I felt obliged to let the public know,” he wrote. “I feel good as I take all the necessary measures and I discipline to the doctors instructions. I strongly advise all my fellow citizens to do the same. I wish all a quick recovery.”
Olympiakos are due to play Wolves in the Europa League on Thursday, with Uefa having already announced that the game will take place behind closed doors to limit the risk of transmission. It was also announced on Tuesday that Chelsea’s Champions League second leg in Munich will be played behind closed doors.
There will be further uncertainty now as to whether the game should go ahead at all, and concern over upcoming fixtures in the Championship and perhaps even Premier League. Forest’s next fixture is scheduled to take place away at Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday and the EFL are in contact with the club over what steps to take next.
In a statement the club said: “Nottingham Forest can confirm that owner Evangelos Marinakis has tested positive for the coronavirus. Mr Marinakis was diagnosed after showing the first symptoms on his return to Greece yesterday afternoon. During his short stay in Nottingham last week he did not show any symptoms of the virus. The club are seeking advice from medical professionals and the relevant governing bodies to ensure the correct measures are taken. Until this time the club will be making no further comment.”
Marinakis is believed to have met the Forest squad in the dressing room before the Millwall match and, according to the Daily Telegraph, shaken the hands of the players. With skin-to-skin contact one of the ways in which coronavirus is transferred, the Forest players will now have to be tested for the virus, and there will also be concern over the fans who met with Marinakis outside the ground after the game.
Subsequent to Marinakis’s admission, Millwall said that some of the club’s senior executives had self-isolated as a precaution. A club spokesman said: “All necessary precautions are already being taken. Senior club representatives who came into contact with (#nffc owner) Mr Marinakis last Friday have all begun a period of self isolation, as per government advice.”
Coronavirus can be present in the body for 14 days before manifesting symptoms, which means that Marinakis’s presence at the Emirates could also be a concern. An Arsenal spokesman said: “Our home match with Olympiakos was played on Thursday 27 February and none of our staff who came into contact with him on that matchday have reported any symptoms since. We continue to follow strict protocols with regard to coronavirus. We’re following the government health guidelines and have additional procedures in place to protect our players and staff.”
Elsewhere in football, the scale and speed of the response to coronavirus continued to grow. On Monday all sports events in Italy were cancelled until 3 April. On Tuesday, the French Football Association announced all matches in Ligue 1 and 2 would be played behind closed doors until 15 April. Spain’s La Liga announced that all fixtures would be played behind closed doors for the next two weeks, but the Spanish footballer’s union has already responded with a call for the matches to be suspended arguing the health of players would be at risk.
More immediately, Manchester United’s Europa League last-16 match against LASK on Thursday will also take place without fans present.