Premier League ‘likely’ to go behind closed doors because of coronavirus

Outbreak at just one club would make it hard to complete season

A photograph taken on February 27th shows the closed entrance of the San Siro stadium ahead of the  Europa League round of 32 second-leg  match between Inter Milan and Ludogorets. Photograph:  Miguel Medina/AFP via Getty Images

A photograph taken on February 27th shows the closed entrance of the San Siro stadium ahead of the Europa League round of 32 second-leg match between Inter Milan and Ludogorets. Photograph: Miguel Medina/AFP via Getty Images

 

The spread of coronavirus means it is likely Premier League matches will be played behind closed doors this month, a leading club executive has admitted.

Sasha Ryazantsev, Everton’s chief financial officer, said banning fans from matches in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus would be a decision “forced” on clubs. However with Italian authorities having taken the decision to play Serie A fixtures behind closed doors until April, the possibility of something similar in England is increasing.

“It would be a forced decision rather than one we would proactively engage in,” said Ryazantsev, who was speaking at the FT Business of Football Summit in London. “But the whole situation goes far beyond the world of sport. Of course nobody wants to play behind closed doors and I don’t think it’s inevitable at the moment that it will happen. But we feel it is quite likely it may happen in the coming weeks.”

The Premier League wrote to its member clubs this week asking them to prepare contingency plans for the virus, as the official government response moved from one of containment to trying to slow the spread of the disease. In the letter, the league suggested that an outbreak of coronavirus at just one club would make it difficult to complete the season.

While the Premier League’s official position remains “business as usual”, events are moving fast. In one example of changing behaviour, Gary Neville withdrew from a keynote speaking role at the Business of Football Summit, in compliance with a new Sky Sports policy on coronavirus.

Stephen Zhang, the president of Inter Milan, did speak at the event. Zhang has been outspoken on the Italian response to coronavirus, calling the president of Serie A a “clown” for postponing Inter’s match against Juventus last weekend with less than 24 hours’ notice.

Zhang said he did not regret his choice of language. “A lot of people think my words are strong but when protecting people and safety words are never too strong,” he said.

“We always have to deliver a positive message and take responsibility for the public. From a moral standpoint I thought [the Serie A approach] was completely wrong. We believe that safety and security of public health is the most important thing. Nothing can be compromised on this topic.” - Guardian

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.