Despite the predictions of Everton executive Sasha Ryazantsev just a week ago, the Premier League is going to continue as normal for now and games are not being switched to behind closed-doors even as the COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc around the world.
The British Prime Minister made the announcement today after chairing an emergency Cobra meeting today of consisting of cabinet members and various other leaders. The country has been in ‘contain’ mode until now, but will now shift to the ‘delay’ phase. While the Government are not taking the drastic measure of banning mass gatherings everywhere impacting sports and entertainment and also closing schools, colleges and possibly even workplaces where people gather in numbers, though he did not eliminate the possibility.
Boris Johnson on why sporting events continue in Britain: "It is very important that we are guided by the science. there is very little epidemiological or medical reason at the moment to ban such (sporting) events."— Rob Harris (@RobHarris) March 12, 2020
‘Social-distancing’, ‘self-quarantine’ and ‘self-isolation’ are all terms being used to describe the act of removing oneself from the public sphere to ensure that while you are showing symptoms you are not actively transmitting the virus to other parts of society that are especially prone to it such as the older and immuno-compromised sections of the population.
So, basically, wash your hands and carry on regardless.— John Cross (@johncrossmirror) March 12, 2020
Britain’s Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance maintained that preventing supporters from watching games in stadiums is not the way to stem this outbreak -
“On average, one person infects two or three others. You therefore have a very low probability of infecting a large number of people in a stadium and a rather higher probability of infecting people very close to you.
”And that means that most of the transmission actually tends to take place with friends and colleagues and those in close environments - and not in the big environments.
”Though it is true that any cancellation of things can have some effect, if you then get a displacement activity where you end up with everyone congregating somewhere else, you may actually perversely have an increased risk, particularly in an indoor environment.
”So it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at some point make the decision from a resilience point but this is not a major way to tackle this epidemic.”
COVID-19 as of yesterday has been designated as a full-fledged pandemic, having affected 114 countries around the world and taken over 4,600 victims with nearly 125,000 confirmed cases. In the United Kingdom alone there have been 596 cases confirmed (53 in the Northwest, 8 on Merseyside) as of the time of publishing this piece, with 10 dead. This is the first pandemic defined by the WHO since the H1N1 “swine flu” in 2009. The timeline for the spread of the virus has been exponential in this era of global travel, with the first cases reported in China only a hundred-odd days ago.
In the world of football, it was announced that Nottingham Forest and Olympiakos owner Evangelos Marinakis has also tested positive. The Greek side played Arsenal last week in the Europa League, and as a result Arsenal’s Premier League game against Manchester City this week was postponed due to fears of exposure. Earlier today Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers announced that some of his squad were showing symptoms and had been quarantined, with media reporting that up to three players are affected and the whole squad and support staff tested. The Foxes had played against Aston Villa on Monday night.
Everton are scheduled to play Liverpool in the Merseyside Derby on Monday, with the Reds coming off an ouster from the Champions League against Atletico Madrid at a packed Anfield with over two thousand visiting fans from Spain which has declared a nationwide state of emergency. The mini-Derby between the Under-18 sides that was scheduled for the Liverpool Academy in Kirkby was already announced earlier as a closed-doors affair.
Elsewhere in Europe though the mindset is not the same. Denmark have suspended all football following suit from Italy’s Serie A and Spain’s La Liga while Germany’s Bundesliga, France’s Ligue 1 and the Netherlands’ Eredivisie are either suspended or continuing behind closed doors. Portugal also just announced that their season is suspended for now.
The rapid spread of the illness throughout Italy has led to the suspension of the top two divisions in football for at least a month, and last night the announcement that Juventus defender Daniele Rugani had tested positive for the Novel Coronavirus with the Bianconeri now going into a mandatory 15-day quarantine and today Sampdoria announcing that former Southampton striker Manolo Gabbiadini was also ill.
A number of Champions League and Europa League games have either been postponed or will proceed behind closed doors, and all continental youth games already suspended for the next month. Now it appears UEFA are considering suspension of all football in the continental competitions with a meeting scheduled for Tuesday. With Euro 2020 scheduled for this summer and all these leagues unlikely to complete their seasons, there is word too that the continental showcase could be postponed to next summer.
NBA players Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz have tested positive too leading to the immediate suspension of basketball in the USA, which was followed by the European governing body for the sport making a similar decision after a Real Madrid player also tested positive. That led to a two-week minimum cessation of activities in La Liga with the entire Real Madrid franchise shutting down for now.
In other sports, the Australian Grand Prix has been canceled, with the China leg of the Formula 1 season scheduled for next month also canceled for now. In the United States, the MLS has announced a one-month suspension with the NHL also suspending the remainder of the current season indefinitely. Earlier this week was the announcement that the Indian Wells’ Open tennis tournament was being cancelled though in golf the TPC Sawgrass event in Florida is still on. In more updates, the ATP and NLL are suspending their seasons while the PGA and Nascar will continue behind closed-doors.
The 2020 Olympics scheduled for Japan this summer are already under risk, with the organizers planning to continue without fans and only a television audience if it comes to it.
Outside of sport, Hollywood icon Tom Hanks is in self-isolation after he and his wife started showing symptoms and now Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is also self-isolating after his wife started showing symptoms this morning.