By Press Association
Manchester City’s Premier League clash with Arsenal is the latest game to be been postponed as a “precautionary measure” over coronavirus fears.
Nottingham Forest and Olympiacos owner Evangelos Marinakis, who announced on Tuesday that he had contracted the virus, met Arsenal staff and players during the February 27 Europa League tie at the Emirates Stadium.
Here is how the Covid-19 outbreak has affected sports fixtures so far:
On the international front, this afternoon’s Women’s European Championship qualifier between Montenegro and the Republic of Ireland, in Budva, will be played behind closed doors.
The FAI said: “The Group I game will still go ahead as planned, with kick-off set for 3pm Irish time, but the decision has been made to close the stadium to members of the general public.”
The clash will be televised live on RTÉ 2 with coverage beginning at 2.30pm.
Also, the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2020 play-off semi-final against Slovakia in Bratislava on March 26 will be played behind closed doors.
The Bosnia and Herzegovina federation has confirmed ticket sales for this month’s Euro 2020 play-off match with Northern Ireland, which were set to go on sale on Wednesday, have been suspended.
England’s friendly against Italy at Wembley on March 27 is set to go ahead as normal, but Italy’s match against Germany in Nuremberg four days later will be played behind closed doors.
France will also play this month’s friendlies at home to Ukraine and Finland without spectators.
The Premier League issued a statement in the early hours of this morning confirming the postponement.
It read: “Tonight’s game between Manchester City and Arsenal has been postponed as a precautionary measure following the announcement yesterday that Evangelos Marinakis has contracted COVID-19.
“Thirteen days ago, Olympiakos played at the Emirates Stadium in the Europa League and Mr Marinakis, the Greek club’s owner, met with several Arsenal squad members and staff.
“Following medical advice, Arsenal FC and Manchester City FC consider it is necessary to postpone their fixture due to be played this evening to give time to fully assess the situation.
“The Premier League has therefore agreed that tonight’s game will be rearranged.
“We understand this will cause inconvenience and cost to fans planning to attend the game but Arsenal, Manchester City and the Premier League have agreed that the short notice of Mr Marinakis’ infection means there is no alternative but to take the time to complete a proper assessment of risk.
“All necessary measures are being taken and the Premier League currently has no plans to postpone any other matches.”
Arsenal, who earlier on Tuesday told the PA news agency none of its personnel who had met Marinakis had reported symptoms, said “a number of players” were self-isolating until Friday and would have been unavailable for Wednesday night’s game, triggering the Premier League’s decision to postpone.
“We have been taking medical advice and tracing any individuals who had what the (Government) guidelines define as close contact with him at the game 13 days ago.
“As a result of this exercise we identified that a number of players met the Olympiacos owner immediately following the game.
“The medical advice we have received puts the risk of them developing Covid-19 at extremely low. However, we are strictly following the Government guidelines which recommend that anyone coming into close contact with someone with the virus should self-isolate at home for 14 days from the last time they had contact.”
Arsenal’s trip to Brighton on Saturday remains scheduled to go ahead as planned. The PA news agency understands Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta is not one of those in self-isolation, while Gunners players who did not come into close contact with Marinakis are expected to train tomorrow and those in isolation will join in on Friday if clear.
Olympiacos, meanwhile, say none of their players or staff have tested positive for the virus.
A club statement read: “Olympiacos FC informs that after the necessary medical examinations of all members of the football department, managers and staff, the tests came out all negative for the COVID-19 virus.”
The Greek side face Wolves in the Europa League behind closed doors in Athens tonight, although the Premier League club are angry that UEFA denied their appeal to postpone the tie.
“Our position is that the trip poses unnecessary risks to our players, staff, supporters and the families of all who travel, at such critical and uncertain times,” a Wolves statement read, adding the club was also concerned for their opponents’ mental and physical wellbeing.
The Wolves-Olympiacos match is one of many European ties that will take place without spectators.
Manchester United’s Europa League last-16 first leg at Austrian side LASK on Thursday and the second leg of Chelsea’s Champions League last-16 clash away to Bayern Munich on Wednesday, March 18 are among them.
So too the second leg of Rangers’ Europa League tie at Bayer Leverkusen on Thursday, March 19.
English Football League
Despite Marinakis’ diagnosis and his position at Forest, the English Football League says there is no immediate plans to postpone any fixtures.
A Forest statement said Marinakis had shown no symptoms when in Nottingham last week, during which time he attended the club’s home game against Millwall on Friday night and reportedly met with the first-team squad.
Confirming matches across its three divisions would continue as normal for the time being, an EFL statement said: “The League is in dialogue to fully ascertain the set of circumstances that existed when Mr Marinakis visited (Forest) last week and in conjunction with the club will make a determination on what measures are to be taken – if any – when full details are known.”
League One club Portsmouth, who played Arsenal in the FA Cup nine days ago, say they are awaiting further advice.
A club spokesman said: “We are in contact with our governing bodies and await further instructions from them. Until then, we will continue to follow government guidelines and adhere to their advice.”
At least the next two rounds of LaLiga matches will be played without fans while games across the French leagues will be played behind closed doors until April 15, as will the 25th round of fixtures in Portugal’s top-two leagues.
Italy’s Serie A was one of the first leagues to be suspended following the outbreak.
The Italian Football Federation admitted the season may not be completed, which would leave the options of not having champions this season, making the current standings final or scheduling play-offs to determine the title winners and relegated clubs.
UEFA said it had received no requests from national associations to postpone Euro 2020, which starts in Rome on June 12.
Elsewhere, a member of McLaren’s Formula One team is in self-isolation after being tested for coronavirus at the Australian Grand Prix.
It is understood that the team member reported symptoms associated with the disease in the Albert Park paddock on Wednesday morning.
They were tested at the circuit’s medical centre before returning to the team’s hotel in downtown Melbourne. Two personnel from American outfit Haas were tested and are also in self-isolation.
A spokesperson for McLaren said: “We can confirm that one team member has self-isolated in the hotel as a precaution, in line with our policy, after showing symptoms similar to coronavirus.
“We are awaiting test results and currently do not have a definitive timeframe for these. The team is operating as per our normal schedule.”
England cricketers, meanwhile, have been instructed not to sign autographs or pose for selfies with fans during their Test tour of Sri Lanka in a bid to insulate the squad from the virus.
“Whilst we acknowledge that this will be disappointing for some supporters, we stress that this a measure to protect the ongoing well-being of the England Test squad and is a decision which has not been taken lightly,” read a statement from the England and Wales Cricket Board.
Handshakes between squad members, officials and opposition were already banned, with ‘fist bumps’ the new preferred greeting.