The global situation around the COVID-19 pandemic remains fluid and continues to escalate at a rapid rate. After the United Kingdom Government proclamation yesterday to continue sporting activities as normal, the Premier League issued a statement in the evening to say that all matches this weekend are still a go, the only one of the major European leagues to either not be suspended or else play behind closed doors.
“Following the latest update from Government issued this afternoon, all Premier League matches will go ahead as scheduled this weekend.
”While the Prime Minister advised that all sporting events should take place as normal for now, he also indicated that Government is considering banning major public events, like sporting fixtures.
”We are therefore continuing to work closely with our clubs, Government, The FA, EFL and other relevant stakeholders to ensure appropriate contingency plans are in place as and when circumstances change.
”The welfare of players, staff and supporters is of paramount importance and we will continue to follow Public Health England guidelines thoroughly.
”We will keep everyone updated as appropriate.”
However, within an hour of that announcement, Arsenal manager and former Everton midfielder Mikel Arteta declared that he tested positive for the coronavirus. The Gunners’ midweek game against Manchester City was already postponed after Nottingham Forest and Olympiakos owner Evangelos Marinakis also tested positive. The Greek side had played Arsenal last week in the Europa League.
Arteta had taken the test after feeling poorly during training yesterday, with the club saying -
“Our London Colney training centre has been closed after head coach Mikel Arteta received a positive COVID-19 result this evening.
”Arsenal personnel who had recent close contact with Mikel will now self-isolate in line with Government health guidelines. We expect this to be a significant number of people from Colney, including the full first-team squad and coaching staff, as well as a smaller number of people from our Hale End Academy which we have also temporarily closed as a precaution.
”We expect those who did not have close contact with Mikel to return to work in the coming days. In the meantime our Colney and Hale End training centres will undergo a deep clean and our other club sites are operating as normal.”
Within minutes of that news breaking, the Premier League released a statement calling for an emergency meeting for today.
“In light of Arsenal’s announcement tonight confirming that their first team coach Mikel Arteta has tested positive for COVID-19, the Premier League will convene an emergency club meeting tomorrow morning regarding future fixtures.
”The Premier League will make no further comment until after that meeting.”
The Brighton & Hove Albion game against Arsenal this weekend has now been postponed. Manchester City then announced that Benjamin Mendy was self-isolating.
“The club is aware that a family member of a senior men’s team player is in hospital with symptoms of a respiratory illness.
“He has undergone tests at hospital, one of which is for Covid 19. Until the results are known the player in question is self-isolating as a precaution.”
It didn’t end there, with Chelsea announcing late at night that the injured Callum Hudson-Odoi had also tested positive.
“Chelsea men’s team player Callum Hudson-Odoi had a positive test result for Coronavirus returned this evening. Chelsea personnel who had recent close contact with the player in the men’s team building will now self-isolate in line with Government health guidelines. These will include initially the full men’s team squad, coaching staff and a number of backroom staff.
“It is expected that those who did not have close contact with Callum will return to work in the coming days. In the meantime, the men’s team building, one of several separate buildings at our training ground, will remain closed. The rest of our training facility, Stamford Bridge and our other facilities are operating as normal.”
With all of this is in addition to the three Leicester City players that are all in self-isolation after possibly having contracted the coronavirus too, the pressure is on the Premier League now to rescind their decision to continue with this weekend’s fixtures with the squads of four teams now possibly compromised.
An option to continue the season has been to proceed with closed-doors, but after the latest news where players and staff are also now testing positive, it’s looking more than likely that there will be surmounting pressure to at least cancel this weekend’s games, if not suspend the whole season much like most European leagues have chosen to do.