It certainly looks like the coronavirus (Covid-19) is spreading rapidly, with Italy being the worst country affected in Europe, with 79 deaths so far. This has led to many Serie A games being abandoned or played in empty stadiums. Switzerland also postponed every game in the Super League last weekend.
In England, it is starting to gather pace, and although we’ve only had 53 confirmed cases the numbers are rising daily, with most numbers located in London and the South East of England.
Mikel Arteta has already said that he is expecting there to be some disruption, and we saw on Monday that many Arsenal players refused to shake hands with the Portsmouth team and preferred to use fist bumps. The Arsenal boss already thinks that we play too many games, and he reflected: “It’s very condensed and if any event happens that is not considered, like for example the coronavirus, then it will be even more complicated.”
Brighton have had 6 confirmed cases so far, the highest in the country, and Sky is reporting that they have implemented a series of restrictions at the club. Last night the club detailed how they are advising players and staff to:
Postpone all player appearances across both men’s and women’s squads.
Restrict players posing for selfies and signing autographs pre-match and post-match at the stadium.
Restrict “direct physical contact, such as handshakes, hugging, hi-fives”.
Avoid non-essential visitors or meetings at stadium and training ground, encouraging use of Skype.
I know that football isn’t the most important thing in the world, and if our games have to be cancelled to safeguard lives then so be it, but if it does continue spreading as fast as it is, then surely we need to worry about continuing with public events shortly if it is to be contained.
I wonder if Liverpool fans are worrying that the season may get cancelled and they won’t get their title, after losing their unbeaten record and the chance of the treble gone after last night’s defeat at Chelsea. But that seems unlikely. The Premier League have said they will suspend all matches if the government imposes a blanket ban on mass gathering for less than two weeks.
If there is a ban for a month or more, then they have decided that the games will be played behind closed doors but hopefully televised.
Do you think that fans may just voluntarily refuse to go to games to try and avoid any contact with the virus?