Arsenal’s recent Premier League fixture against Manchester City was cancelled as a “precautionary measure” after their recent Europa League opponents Olympiakos announced that their owner Evangelos Marinakis had contracted Covid-19.
Daniele Rugani, an Arsenal and Chelsea target in the summer, tested positive for Covid-19. This led Inter Milan to suspend all footballing activity and the signs are that this could be just the beginning of the impact and fallout of Covid-19.
Callum Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea) and Benjamin Mendy (Manchester City) have tested positive and Leicester City manager Brendan Rogers has confirmed that his Leicester City players are also showing symptoms.
In Spain, the Copa del Rey final between Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad has been postponed for the same reason and now Arsenal’s head coach and former Manchester City assistant coach, Mikel Arteta, has tested positive. Arsenal have instructed their players and staff to self-isolate but there are no details on what happens now. Arteta himself said:
“This is really disappointing but I took the test after feeling poorly. I will be at work as soon as I’m allowed.”
As each day goes by, another announcement and more uncertainty follow. In the long term, there is every chance of fixture congestion and if the outbreak continues, the domestic seasons may even face the prospect of being cut short. As per the recent announcement by FA, all competitions including Premier League, EFL Cup, and FA Cup have been suspended till April 3rd.
“We are considering the question of banning major public events such as sporting fixtures.” “The scientific advice is that this will have little effect on the spread but there’s also the issue of the burden such events can place on public services.”
There are a whole host of possibilities in this scenario but in the worst case, if the Premier League season were to end, an aggregate system could be employed to work out a final points tally, which would be hugely unpopular and extremely unfair.
As the virus spreads reality, the inevitable financial impact on football clubs at home and abroad is starting to become clear. The governing bodies are looking long and hard at the situation but football is a multi-billion pound business and its improbable that a complete shut down is likely to occur.
Clubs may well have to play behind closed doors for a short period, even though the actual threat of the virus spreading in these circumstances is minimal. Clubs can’t afford to lose gate receipts on monies already accounted for in their operational budgets and they would also face the prospect of compensating season ticket holders.
The broadcasters such as Sky and BT may even try to find a legal loophole from making payments in the event of fans being banned from matches. They also face the prospect of advertising losses and having to restructure their broadcasts to offset the lack of atmosphere.
In Europe, what happens to the Champions League? The Champions League could be suspended altogether and played after the virus subsided and the season has long ended. There is no way that fans should be permitted to travel abroad for Champions League matches during this period with many countries already in a complete lockdown. Meanwhile, Europe’s top five leagues – Premier League, Ligue1, La Liga, Bundesliga, and Serie A along with UEFA’s Champions League and Europa League- have been suspended for now.
In Italy, a strict regime is in place that will see those disobeying hastily adopted laws placed in prison and friends of mine have said that even shopping is under strict control to prevent people from converging on stores and spreading the infection further.
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In terms of football, there are no obvious plans at present but smaller, less glamorous clubs, will not be able to absorb the financial ramifications from the Covid-19 pandemic, especially from ending the season prematurely for a short spell or completely. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that but it’s a major concern for lower league outfits. All supporters are looking for answers but there may be a period of continuous discussion until the FA announces their intentions.
However, Arteta’s infectious condition changed the landscape completely. The incident led to an FA statement which said:
“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.”
Other issues will include the international stage to consider with Euro 2020 on the horizon and it’s not out of the realms of possibility that it may be postponed or cancelled with fears regarding the transportation and migration of Covid -19.
England were due to play Italy on March 27th in one of the final two friendlies as preparation before Gareth Southgate’s side entered the Euro 2020, but that also has been called off.
As I’m writing this, the FA are meeting to discuss and make a decision for the immediate weeks ahead and for the rest of the season, but it’s not only football that has to introduce measures because many Sports are in the same position.
Formula One has confirmed the season-opening Australian Grand Prix this weekend has been cancelled. In America, the NBA season has been suspended indefinitely with two Utah Jazz players tested positive for Covid-19.
The MLS football season has been suspended for 30 days and Eredivisie, the Primeira Liga, and the Turkish Super Lig have all been terminated.
How long this will continue is anyone’s guess, who foots the eventual bill is the question. For information on what you can do to avoid contamination of Covid-19, visit your government’s official website and follow the advice given.