SPORTS How the coronavirus pandemic is affecting European football

SPORTS

How the coronavirus pandemic is affecting European football

AFP

04:41, March 13, 2020

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Valencia's Mestalla stadium was empty for their Champions League game against Atalanta this week. (Photo: AFP)

The coronavirus pandemic is causing havoc with football in Europe, with serious doubts surrounding the continuation of both the Champions League and the Europa League as ties are postponed and players at competing clubs are quarantined.

AFP Sport rounds up the situation in the leading leagues around the continent:

England 

The Premier League is so far the least affected of Europe's major divisions. Manchester City's clash with Arsenal has been the only match postponed after Arsenal players came into contact with Olympiakos owner Vangelis Marinakis following their Europa League defeat by the Greek side two weeks ago.

However, Arsenal's visit to Brighton is still planned to go ahead on Saturday as the 14-day period since contact was made with Marinakis will have expired.

No restrictions have yet been made on supporters attending stadiums.

However, that could change as soon as Thursday with The Times reporting government plans to play games behind closed doors in order to complete the season and ban pubs from televising matches to avoid people congregating there instead.

Spain 

La Liga has suspended all matches in its top two divisions for at least two weeks, after a meeting on Thursday with the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and the Spanish Players Union (AFE).

It had initially been decided on Tuesday that games would be held behind closed doors but they will now be suspended completely.

The decision came as Real Madrid confirmed the first team had gone into quarantine after one of the club's basketball players tested positive for coronavirus.

Real Madrid's basketball and football players share facilities at the club's training ground.

Spain's Copa del Rey final between Basque rivals Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao, scheduled for April 18 in Seville, has already been postponed after both clubs agreed a suspension was preferable to playing the fixture without supporters.

Spain has reported 2,140 coronavirus cases and 48 deaths, according to figures on Thursday.

Italy 

The Serie A season has been suspended until April 3, along with all sports in Italy, where the country's entire population is in lockdown in a desperate bid to halt the spread of a coronavirus that has killed 827 in the country in just over two weeks.

On Wednesday, Juventus announced that one of their players, Daniele Rugani, had tested positive.

A full round of games was played last weekend, with all matches behind closed doors. However, the Serie A schedule has already fallen behind with four postponed games from the previous round of fixtures still to be played.

Two more rounds of matches would have been completed between this weekend and April 3.

Meanwhile, the Coppa Italia has ground to a halt too, with both semi-final, second legs having been called off last week.

Germany 

The first ever Bundesliga game to be played behind closed doors took place on Wednesday, when Borussia Moenchengladbach beat Cologne 2-1 in an empty stadium.

All matches in the Bundesliga scheduled for this weekend will be played behind closed doors as well.

Last weekend the German health minister, Jens Spahn, called for all events with more than 1,000 people to be cancelled "until further notice".

But the decision to close stadium doors rests ultimately with regional authorities and is made on a case-by-case basis.

On Wednesday, Timo Huebers, a player at second-division side Hanover 96, was the first in the country to test positive for COVID-19.

France 

The situation has evolved quickly in France, where last weekend Paris Saint-Germain's game at Strasbourg was postponed because of the extent of the outbreak in Alsace in the east of the country.

However, the subsequent decision by the French government to ban all gatherings of more than 1,000 people has had a domino effect on football in the country, which is the worst-affected in Europe by the pandemic after Italy.

Now all games in the top two divisions will be played behind closed doors until April 15. However, the League Cup final between Paris Saint-Germain and Lyon, scheduled for April 4, has been postponed with authorities hoping the game can be played before a crowd at a later date.

Elsewhere 

Switzerland last week postponed all matches in the country's top two divisions until the end of March. Since then, Portugal has announced that games in its top two divisions will go behind closed doors with immediate effect with no date given for reopening stadiums.

Matches in Greece are to be played behind closed doors for the next two weeks, while in the Netherlands games have been suspended until the end of the month.

Several members of Ajax's backroom staff were forced into quarantine last week after former Denmark international Thomas Kahlenberg tested positive for coronavirus following a visit to Amsterdam.

Fixtures in the Belgian top flight this weekend will be played without spectators, while the domestic cup final scheduled for March 22 has been postponed.


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