Pep Guardiola and Gary Neville lead calls to suspend football season

Pep Guardiola and Gary Neville lead calls to suspend the football season ‘rather than staging games without fans’ after Man City v Arsenal clash is cancelled due to coronavirus

  • Tonight’s Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal has been postponed due to virus
  • Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis contracted coronavirus and visited the Emirates Stadium
  • But Premier League does not plan to postpone other matches and ‘all necessary measures are being taken’
  • Forest are testing players and staff after Marinakis is said to have shaken hands with every squad member 
  • MOTD host Gary Lineker says: ‘Can’t help feeling like it’s the beginning of the end of the football season’ 
  • Premier League clubs have held talks with broadcasters about streaming live matches free of charge 

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola and Salford City co-owner Gary Neville have called for the football season to be suspended instead of staging games without fans as the spread of coronavirus sparks fear across Britain.

Premier League football matches are expected to take place as normal across England this weekend despite all domestic Italian football off until April 3 and games in Spain to be held behind closed doors for at least two weeks.

But tonight’s Manchester City v Arsenal match has been postponed after Nottingham Forest and Olympiacos owner Evangelos Marinakis contracted coronavirus and visited the Emirates Stadium in London on February 27.

Guardiola said, ahead of the postponement which was announced overnight, that suspending the season makes more sense than staging games without fans – likening empty stadiums to theatres with no spectators.

And Neville, co-owner of League Two club Salford, has said the EFL season should be delayed rather than matches continuing behind closed doors ‘to protect the revenues for clubs that require this income to survive’.

BBC Match of the Day host Gary Lineker also tweeted: ‘Can’t help feeling like it’s the beginning of the end of the football season. Despite the words of the late Bill Shankly, football is not more serious than life and death.’

Andy Holt, chairman of League One outfit Accrington Stanley, has already stated he wanted to ‘pause games and review’ in all football competitions while the threat of spreading coronavirus is coronavirus.

However, the Premier League has so far insisted it has no plans to postpone any other matches and ‘all necessary measures are being taken’, with Arsenal’s visit to Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday still set to go ahead. 

Premier League clubs have held talks with broadcasters about streaming live matches free of charge if ordered to stage games behind closed doors by the Government, but there are currently no plans to restrict crowds.

However, contingency plans are being put in place should Public Health England change its advice, with clubs asking to be given as much notice as possible if they are going to be asked to postpone or cancel games.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola (left, speaking during a press conference on March 6) and Gary Neville (pictured on Sky Sports during coverage of Liverpool v West Ham United on February 24) have both spoken out about the coronavirus threat

The FA have also raised the possibility of waiving the Saturday 3pm blackout to allow matches kicking off at that time to be streamed or televised, but the Premier League regard that as a dangerous precedent and may object.

Nottingham Forest have been testing players and staff after Marinakis is thought to have shaken hands with every squad member last Friday when they were beaten at home by Millwall in the Championship.

What Premier League fixtures are due to take place this weekend? 


  • 12.30pm: Watford v Leicester City
  • 3pm: AFC Bournemouth v Crystal Palace
  • 3pm: Brighton and Hove Albion v Arsenal
  • 3pm: Manchester City v Burnley
  • 3pm: Newcastle United v Sheffield United
  • 3pm: Norwich City v Southampton
  • 5.30pm: Aston Villa v Chelsea


  • 2pm: West Ham v Wolverhampton Wanderers
  • 4.30pm: Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United


  • 8pm: Everton v Liverpool

However the club announced today that all of their players and staff have tested negative for the virus.

A Forest spokesman said: ‘Within hours of receiving the news that owner Evangelos Marinakis had tested positive for the virus, the club took swift action to arrange tests for the entire first-team players, staff and officers that came into contact with the owner last week,’ they added in a statement.

‘The club will remain in close dialogue with the relevant governing bodies and football authorities to ensure the correct measures are taken.’

Millwall directors are now self-isolating after meeting Marinakis at the game. Forest’s next fixture is at Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday, with the South Yorkshire club understood to be in dialogue with Forest and the EFL concerning the match.

There has been talk Premier League and English Football League games could be played behind closed doors but Neville, the joint-owner of Salford, has joined those rejecting that as an alternative. 

‘I do NOT support matches played behind closed doors,’ former England and Manchester United defender Neville said on Twitter.

‘If it’s necessary to shut down stadiums the associations must find a way of delaying the season and playing the games when it is safe to do so to protect the revenues for clubs that require this income to survive.’

A video shows Evangelos Marinakis – who has contracted coronavirus – celebrating with the Olympiacos players in the dressing room at the Emirates Stadium on February 27 after their victory over Arsenal in the UEFA Europa League

Olympiakos and Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis (centre) celebrates on the pitch after the UEFA Europa League match between Arsenal and Olympiakos at the Emirates Stadium in North London on February 27

A video posted by Evangelos Marinakis on February 28 shows him celebrating at the Emirates Stadium in London

Speaking before the news that tonight’s game with Arsenal had been postponed, Guardiola said of playing games behind closed doors: ‘If it’s a short time, one game, then fine. But, if it’s longer, it must be suspended.

What is the situation in football around Europe? 

  • ENGLAND –  ONE POSTPONEMENT Manchester City v Arsenal is off tonight, but the Premier League says it has no plans to postpone any other matches
  • ITALY — SUSPENDED All domestic football suspended until April 3.
  • FRANCE — EMPTY GROUNDS Matches in Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 will be played in front of a maximum of 1,000 spectators until April 15.
  • SPAIN — EMPTY GROUNDS Matches in the first and second divisions will be played without fans for at least two weeks.
  • GERMANY — EMPTY GROUNDS Chelsea’s Champions League game at Bayern Munich will be behind closed doors. Bundesliga have confirmed selected games will be behind closed doors.
  • GREECE — EMPTY GROUNDS Next two rounds of Super League play-offs will be played behind closed doors.
  • POLAND — EMPTY GROUNDS All top-flight matches to be played behind closed doors.
  • SWITZERLAND — SUSPENDED Top two divisions suspended until at least March 23.
  • PORTUGAL — EMPTY GROUNDS Top two divisions behind closed doors until further notice.
  • BULGARIA — EMPTY GROUNDS Next two rounds of domestic football will be played behind closed doors, some matches have also been postponed.
  • ROMANIA — EMPTY GROUNDS League to be played behind closed doors until further notice.
  • SLOVENIA — SUSPENDED All matches suspended until further notice.
  • SLOVAKIA — SUSPENDED All matches suspended until at least March 24.
  • AUSTRIA — EMPTY GROUNDS All matches to be played behind closed doors.
  • CROATIA — EMPTY GROUNDS Clubs required to play behind closed doors or limit numbers.
  • ALBANIA — SUSPENDED Prime Minister has said all sports events will be cancelled.

‘I would not love to play matches in the Premier League, the Champions League or the cups without the people. We play for the people. If they can’t be there, it makes no sense. 

‘It’s like an actor going to the theatre when nobody is there. Who are you acting for that night? There is no reason to play without the people. Football is for the people. But we are going to follow the instructions of the Government.’ 

City’s home Champions League last 16 second leg against Real Madrid could also be behind closed doors. ‘If UEFA say we have to play without spectators, then we’ll play,’ added Guardiola. ‘Health is the most important thing.’

Marinakis’s announcement on Instagram came as Wolves were pushing UEFA to postpone tomorrow’s Europa League last-16 first leg tie away at Greek side Olympiacos — also owned by Marinakis — rather than playing it behind closed doors. 

Olympiacos’ players and staff took tests for the virus, and all have now tested negative. 

Wolves coach Nuno Espirito Santo said: ‘If we have to go we will, but we don’t agree — we’re not happy to go. Behind closed doors doesn’t make sense. We’re pretending to live a normal life when things aren’t normal. 

‘Are we sending the right message to say we’re OK to have contact and fans can’t? It will eventually happen in the Premier League.’  

Wolves will respect UEFA’s decision and play their no-spectators match in Athens, but urged the governing body to ‘consider alternative options moving forwards, as this will not be the last fixture to be affected by coronavirus’.

‘Our position is that the trip poses unnecessary risks to our players, staff, supporters and the families of all who travel, at such critical and uncertain times,’ the Wolves statement read, adding the club was also concerned for their opponents’ mental and physical wellbeing. 

Olympiacos said none of their players or staff have tested positive for the virus.

A club statement read: ‘Olympiacos FC informs that after the necessary medical examinations of all members of the football department, managers and staff, the tests came out all negative for the COVID-19 virus.’    

The Etihad Stadium is pictured this morning after Manchester City v Arsenal was postponed due to coronavirus fears

A notice in Manchester confirms the postponement of tonight’s Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal

Meanwhile, Chelsea’s Champions League fixture with Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena a week today will be played behind closed doors, and all ticket-holders have been given a full refund.

Insurance hit would cost the FA £3million a game 

The FA face multi-million-pound losses if they are forced to cancel matches or stage them behind closed doors due to coronavirus as their insurance policies do not cover public health epidemics.

Sportsmail has learned that the governing body do not have ‘loss of profits’ insurance for cancellations caused by what insurers deem to be force majeure or ‘acts of God’, leaving liabilities of around £3million per game for any fixtures called off on Government advice.

England’s friendly against Italy on March 27 is expected to be cancelled due to all 60 million inhabitants of the visiting country being placed under quarantine. 

A number of other major events scheduled to take place at Wembley this season are also under threat, including the semi-finals and final of Euro 2020.

UEFA would be liable for the losses if those games do not take place, but the FA are responsible for the majority of other matches scheduled for the national stadium including the FA Cup final. 

A working party has been set up by UEFA to work with all the European leagues on contingency planning, but they have yet to give serious consideration to postponing or cancelling their flagship international event.

The FA are understood to be stoic about the situation and confident about their ability to meet obligations.

In addition to reimbursing ticket holders they may also be forced to repay sponsors and compensate members of Club Wembley, a scheme that generates around £40m a year for the FA. 

Many lower clubs could struggle to pay salaries if fixtures are cancelled or crowds restricted.

The Bavarian government has decided to ban events with more than 1,000 visitors until the end of the Easter holidays.

Manchester United also said they would refund fans who had bought tickets for their Europa League match against LASK in Austria tomorrow, which will be played with no fans in attendance. 

So too the second leg of Rangers’ Europa League tie at Bayer Leverkusen on Thursday, March 19. 

Meanwhile Roma announced they will not travel to Spain for their Europa League match against Sevilla tomorrow.

The Italian club tweeted: ‘AS Roma will not go to Spain for the Europa League match against Sevilla due to lack of authorisation from local authorities.’

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta is understood to not be one of those in self-isolation. Gunners players who did not come into close contact with Marinakis are expected to train tomorrow, while those in isolation will join in on Friday if clear.

Arsenal told MailOnline that the Emirates Stadium changing rooms are ‘100 per cent’ deep cleaned after every game, regardless of any coronavirus threat.

Brighton said their Premier League match against Arsenal at the Amex Stadium this Saturday remains scheduled to go ahead as planned, with the risk considered extremely low.

A Brighton statement read: ‘Albion’s match against Arsenal this Saturday remains scheduled to go ahead as planned, in line with government advice, and following consultation with the Premier League and medical advisors.’

Arsenal added: ‘Everyone at Arsenal Football Club wishes Mr Marinakis a swift recovery and we look forward to the players and staff returning to work on Friday in preparation for our match at Brighton.’ 

West Ham say their clash with Wolves on Sunday is scheduled to go ahead as planned, although the club are monitoring the situation.

Last Saturday the Hammers played Arsenal.  A statement from West Ham read: ‘West Ham United continues to closely monitor the situation regarding the coronavirus outbreak. 

‘All necessary measures are being taken and our medical staff, in line with guidance and advice from the relevant authorities, are constantly managing the club’s position, with the safety and welfare of our players, staff and supporters being of paramount importance. 

Ban post-match pizza, personalised water bottles and don’t touch the taps: The 12-step plan for footballers to help avoid spread of virus 

The Professional Footballers’ Association have launched their plan to help players avoid spreading the coronavirus, releasing a 12-point strategy to stop the disease disrupting the game.

There have been 383 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the UK, with six deaths, and it is having an increasing impact on sport in the country. Arsenal’s trip to Manchester City on Wednesday night became the first to be postponed due to fears around the coronavirus, but the Premier League looks set to remain largely unaffected for the time being.

Now players have received advice from the PFA on how to avoid the coronavirus and not spread it among team-mates, with the first point insisting that they use their own water bottles during games and to not share their towels or robes either.

Most teams have a kitman that supplies individual towels but players can often be seen passing around water bottles on the sidelines during a match.

No food in the dressing rooms is another instruction from the PFA, which would put an end to post-match meals, and stars are urged to avoid touching taps with their hands – and to instead use disposal towels to turn them on.

The call to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds has been stressed in various government hygeine campaigns in the last few weeks, and this is reiterated here too, and the PFA wants players washing them as often as possible.

To combat the spread of the virus, any star with signs of a respiratory infection – the main symptom of the coronavirus – must leave training immediately and begin to self-isolate themselves.

The plan adds that if this happens outside of a training session then the player in question should avoid all contact with team-mates and phone their club doctor.

PFA Deputy Chief Executive, Bobby Barnes said it was in constant discussion with figures from both football and the government to keep players and clubs safe.  

‘Along with other player associations from around the world, we have been in meetings with FIFPRO this week to discuss all eventualities and potential next steps with regards to the coronavirus.

‘I have also been directly involved in conversations with other relevant authorities, including UEFA, on this matter.

‘This is a very fast-moving situation which is subject to change on an hourly basis. We are discussing with governing bodies, not only in the UK but also globally, to ascertain the best advice and information for our members.

‘Players will and should be taking medical advice from the appropriate medical staff at their individual clubs together with their respective government’s national advice at this time.’

‘After discussions with the Premier League and our medical team, Sunday’s game against Wolverhampton Wanderers at London Stadium is scheduled to go ahead as planned. The club will keep supporters updated should the situation change.’

League One club Portsmouth, who played Arsenal in the FA Cup nine days ago, say they are awaiting further advice.

A club spokesman said: ‘We are in contact with our governing bodies and await further instructions from them. Until then, we will continue to follow government guidelines and adhere to their advice.’  

A Football Supporters’ Association spokesman told MailOnline: ‘With a number of European leagues playing games behind-closed-doors speculation has grown about what measures the UK Government may implement.

‘We won’t fuel speculation but we will continue to share information with supporters and update new information via the FSA website.

‘Our primary focus will always be the safety of supporters and, to that end, we’d encourage match-goers to closely follow Public Health England advice.’

A statement about the postponed Manchester City v Arsenal match read: ‘Tonight’s game between Manchester City and Arsenal has been postponed as a precautionary measure following the announcement yesterday that Evangelos Marinakis has contracted Covid-19. 

‘Thirteen days ago, Olympiakos played at the Emirates Stadium in the Europa League and Mr Marinakis, the Greek club’s owner, met with several Arsenal squad members and staff.

‘Following medical advice, Arsenal FC and Manchester City FC consider it is necessary to postpone their fixture due to be played this evening to give time to fully assess the situation. The Premier League has therefore agreed that tonight’s game will be rearranged.  

‘We understand this will cause inconvenience and cost to fans planning to attend the game but Arsenal, Manchester City and the Premier League have agreed that the short notice of Mr Marinakis’ infection means there is no alternative but to take the time to complete a proper assessment of risk.

‘All necessary measures are being taken and the Premier League currently has no plans to postpone any other matches.’ 

Arsenal, who yesterday said none of its personnel who had met Marinakis had reported symptoms, said ‘a number of players’ were now self-isolating for 14 days and were thus unavailable for tonight’s game, triggering the Premier League’s decision to postpone.

A spokesman said: ‘We have been taking medical advice and tracing any individuals who had what the (Government) guidelines define as close contact with him at the game 13 days ago. 

‘As a result of this exercise we identified that a number of players met the Olympiacos owner immediately following the game. The medical advice we have received puts the risk of them developing Covid-19 at extremely low. 

‘However, we are strictly following the Government guidelines which recommend that anyone coming into close contact with someone with the virus should self-isolate at home for 14 days from the last time they had contact.’ 

Despite Marinakis’ diagnosis and his position at Forest, the English Football League says there is no immediate plans to postpone any fixtures.

The Champions League match between Valencia and Atalanta in the Mestalla takes place in an empty stadium last night after the match was ordered to be played behind closed doors as the number of coronavirus cases grow around the world

Waiters wearing masks serve food and drink in a terrace outside the Mestalla during last night’s Champions League match

The Ipurua stadium where the Spanish La Liga match between SD Eibar and Real Sociedad was behind closed doors last night

A Forest statement said Marinakis had shown no symptoms when in Nottingham last week, during which time he attended the club’s home game against Millwall on Friday night and reportedly met with the first-team squad. 

Timeline of how football has been hit by the virus

The spread of coronavirus around the world is having a major impact on the football calendar, with Manchester City’s match against Arsenal the first Premier League casualty. Here is how events have unfolded:

  • January 30 – China’s domestic football season – including its lucrative Super League – is postponed.
  • February 4 – Asian Champions League matches involving Chinese clubs Guangzhou Evergrande, Shanghai Shenhua and Shanghai SIPG, are postponed until April.
  • February 13 – Manchester United’s new signing Odion Ighalo trains away from the club as a precautionary measure following his arrival from China.
  • February 23 – Serie A matches in the northern Italian regions of Lombardy and Veneto are postponed, along with matches in the lower leagues.
  • February 25 – Five Serie A matches, including Juventus at home to Inter Milan, are ordered to be played behind closed doors. Japan’s J-League is suspended.
  • February 29 – The five Serie A matches due to be played in empty stadiums are called off at short notice. They are rescheduled for Wednesday, May 13, with the Coppa Italia final moved back a week to May 20.
  • March 1 – Sampdoria v Verona is postponed.
  • March 3 – The Italian Cup semi-final second leg between Juventus and AC Milan in Turin is called off. The return leg of the other last-four tie, between Napoli and Inter Milan, is also postponed.
  • March 5 – The Premier League bans pre-match handshakes. It is also announced that Valencia’s Champions League last-16 tie at home to Atalanta, on March 10, will be played behind closed doors.
  • March 6 – In France, Paris St Germain’s fixture at Strasbourg is postponed.
  • March 8 – UEFA bans pre-match handshakes between players and officials in all its competitions.
  • March 9 – It is announced that PSG’s Champions League match against Borussia Dortmund will be played behind closed doors, along with Olympiacos v Wolves and Sevilla v Roma in the Europa League. The Asian qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup, scheduled for later in the month, are postponed.
  • March 10 – Nottingham Forest confirm their owner Evangelos Marinakis, who also owns Olympiacos, has been diagnosed with coronavirus. European matches including those involving Chelsea, Manchester United and Barcelona are ordered to be played behind closed doors, as is the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2020 play-off against Slovakia on March 26, and all matches in the top two divisions in Spain and France. Wolves’ request to have their fixture at Olympiacos postponed is turned down by UEFA. Northern Irish champions Linfield confirm a member of their squad has tested positive for the virus.
  • March 11 – Manchester City’s Premier League match with Arsenal is postponed with a number of Gunners players in self-isolation following their tie against Olympiacos.

Confirming matches across its three divisions would continue as normal for the time being, an EFL statement said: ‘The League is in dialogue to fully ascertain the set of circumstances that existed when Mr Marinakis visited (Forest) last week and in conjunction with the club will make a determination on what measures are to be taken – if any – when full details are known.’

On the international front, the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2020 play-off semi-final against Slovakia in Bratislava on March 26 will be played behind closed doors.

The Bosnia and Herzegovina federation has confirmed ticket sales for this month’s Euro 2020 play-off match with Northern Ireland, which were set to go on sale today, have been suspended. 

England’s friendly against Italy at Wembley on March 27 is set to go ahead as normal, but Italy’s match against Germany in Nuremberg four days later will be played behind closed doors.

There remains no immediate threat of England’s friendly matches against Italy and Denmark being postponed, according to the Football Association.

The matches, both to be played at Wembley, are due to go ahead on March 27 and 31.

A tweet from the England team account read: ‘At present, and in line with current government advice, nothing has changed regarding the status of our games against Italy and Denmark later this month.

‘We will be sure to inform fans should there be an update.’

France will also play this month’s friendlies at home to Ukraine and Finland without spectators.

The French League Cup final between Paris St Germain and Lyon on April 4 has been postponed.

The Ligue de Football Professionnel announced the two teams’ Ligue 1 matches, which were originally scheduled for that weekend, will now take place behind closed doors.

This afternoon’s Women’s European Championship qualifier between Montenegro and the Republic of Ireland, in Budva, will be played behind closed doors.

The Football Association of Ireland said: ‘The Group I game will still go ahead as planned, with kick-off set for 3pm Irish time, but the decision has been made to close the stadium to members of the general public.’

At least the next two rounds of LaLiga matches will be played without fans while games across the French leagues will be played behind closed doors until April 15, as will the 25th round of fixtures in Portugal’s top-two leagues.

Italy’s Serie A was one of the first leagues to be suspended following the outbreak – and the Italian Football Federation has admitted the season may not be completed.

One possibility they mentioned was to have play-offs to decide the champions and relegation to Serie B. 

A second would be to declare the current standings as final — which would result in Juventus winning the title by one point from Lazio, despite the fact the teams were scheduled to play each other once more in a title decider. 

An advertisement warning people of the threat from coronavirus at the Leicester City v Aston Villa match on Monday

A hand sanitizer dispenser inside Old Trafford stadium during the Manchester United v Manchester City match on Sunday

An NHS warning on the screen at the Chelsea v Everton Premier League match at Stamford Bridge in London on Sunday

UEFA said it had received no requests from national associations to postpone Euro 2020, which starts in Rome on June 12. 

Gary Lineker ‘feels like it’s the beginning of the end of the football season’

BBC Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker has said he ‘can’t help feeling like it’s the beginning of the end of the football season’.

The 59-year-old former England captain tweeted his thoughts after the postponement of Manchester City v Arsenal was announced.

He said: ‘Off to Liverpool but can’t help feeling like it’s the beginning of the end of the football season. Despite the words of the late Bill Shankly, football is not more serious than life and death.’

Lineker was also asked whether he would favour postponing Euro 2020, and replied: ‘I’ve no idea. I think we listen to scientific experts and heed their advice.’

He latter added that fighting coronavirus was ‘way more important than football competitions’.

An FA spokesman told MailOnline: ‘We will continue to follow Government advice and no special measures have been proposed at this stage.’ 

World players’ union FIFPRO has called on competition organisers across the globe to take ‘transparent, reasonable and consistent’ decisions based on government advice in relation to the outbreak.

‘Professional footballers, like other workers, are concerned about themselves and their families and friends being exposed to the coronavirus during their daily lives,’ the statement read.

‘For players, their exposure could come during travel, training and match days. Any actions relating to these activities must be co-ordinated in close co-operation with players and their unions.

‘We ask that employers and competition organisers respect the wishes of players to take short-term precautionary measures including suspending training or competitions. 

‘We support the players and their associations who have requested a suspension or postponement of football activities in their countries or regions.’

FIFPRO also called on the football industry to consider ‘extraordinary solidarity payments’ for clubs impacted by postponements or matches being played behind closed doors.

Elsewhere, a member of McLaren’s Formula One team is in self-isolation after being tested for coronavirus at the Australian Grand Prix.

It is understood that the team member reported symptoms associated with the disease in the Albert Park paddock this morning. 

England cricketers, meanwhile, have been instructed not to sign autographs or pose for selfies with fans during their Test tour of Sri Lanka in a bid to insulate the squad from the virus. 

From football to Formula One, and racing to rugby: How coronavirus is impacting sport around the world 

The coronavirus outbreak continues to have an impact on the sporting schedule as some of 2020’s biggest events come into view.

A range of sports have had to take action to prevent the spread of the virus, with postponements hitting the Premier League, Guinness Six Nations and Formula One, while all domestic sporting action in Italy has been suspended until April 3 at the earliest.

Sports governing bodies in the United Kingdom attended a meeting with broadcasters and Government officials on Monday to discuss contingency plans and, with spectacles such as Euro 2020, the Olympics and golf’s majors on the horizon, the PA news agency takes a sport-by-sport look at the impact of the coronavirus.


Wednesday’s Premier League clash between Manchester City and Arsenal was postponed as a ‘precautionary measure’ after Olympiacos owner Evangelos Marinakis tested positive for coronavirus. Marinakis, who is also the majority owner of Nottingham Forest, met Arsenal staff and players after the Europa League tie at the Emirates Stadium on February 27. Arsenal said none of their personnel who had met Marinakis had reported symptoms, with ‘a number of players’ understood to be in self-isolation for 14 days. They will return to training on Friday if they remain symptom-free, with the league trip to Brighton on Saturday scheduled to go ahead. The English Football League says there is no immediate plans to postpone any of its fixtures. All domestic sporting action in Italy – including Serie A matches – has been suspended until April 3, although that does not cover Italian clubs involved in the Champions and Europe Leagues. French Ligue 1 games will be held behind closed doors or in front of no more than 1,000 spectators, while the top two divisions in Spanish football will be played without spectators until at least March 22. All matches in the German Bundesliga this weekend will be played behind closed doors, except RB Leipzig’s home clash with Freiburg which does not have any restrictions. Other matches being played behind closed doors include Barcelona’s match at home to Napoli and Chelsea’s trip to Bayern Munich in the Champions League next week, as well as the Europa League games between Olympiacos and Wolves and LASK and Manchester United on Thursday and Rangers’ match at Bayer Leverkusen the following week. Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2020 play-off semi-final in Slovakia on March 26, will also take place in an empty stadium, while the Bosnia and Herzegovina Football Federation has suspended ticket sales for their play-off match with Northern Ireland. UEFA, however, says it has received no requests to postpone this summer’s Euro 2020, which is scheduled to be held in 12 cities across the continent, beginning in Rome.

Olympics and Paralympics

The International Olympic Committee remains fully committed to staging the Tokyo 2020 Games as scheduled this summer, despite Japan’s Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto suggesting it could be postponed until later in the year. The British Olympic Association still plans to send a delegation of around 55 people to Tokyo this month for a ‘detailed operational recce’.

Rugby Union

The France v Ireland and Italy v England games in the final round of the Guinness Six Nations have been postponed, with Wales v Scotland the only game due to go ahead as scheduled. PRO 14 matches involving Italian sides Benetton and Zebre have been postponed, but the organisers of rugby union’s European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup competitions have said the quarter-final ties scheduled for April 3-5 are still set to go ahead.

Formula One

A member of McLaren’s Formula One team is in self-isolation after being tested for coronavirus at the Australian Grand Prix. It is understood the team member reported symptoms associated with the virus in the Albert Park paddock on Wednesday morning. They were tested at the circuit’s medical centre before returning to the team’s hotel in downtown Melbourne. Two personnel from American outfit Haas were tested and are also in self-isolation. Organisers insist the opening round of the season in Australia on March 13-15 will go ahead as planned, but this month’s Bahrain Grand Prix – from March 20-22 – will take place behind closed doors. F1 personnel who have visited high-risk countries within 14 days of their arrival in the Gulf Kingdom will be subjected to an extensive screening process. Italian team Ferrari remain in close contact with the authorities in light of the increasing restrictions on movement in the country. The FIA is monitoring the situation, having already called off the Chinese Grand Prix.

Formula E

The Formula E calendar suffered a third postponement after the Jakarta E-Prix, set for June 6, was called off. Formula E had already postponed the Sanya E-Prix – scheduled for March 21 – on February 2, with the view of rescheduling both races later in the calendar, while the Rome E-Prix on April 4 was shelved last week due to Italy’s ban on domestic sporting action.


The opening two races of the MotoGP season in Qatar and Thailand were postponed. Organisers moved the Thai event to October 2-4, bringing the Aragon GP forward one week to September 25-27.


Several events in Asia have already been postponed, as has the European Tour golf event scheduled to start in Nairobi on March 12. Augusta National Golf Club chairman Fred Ridley still expects the Masters to go ahead as planned next month.


Fears of two cases of coronavirus at the UAE Tour saw the race cancelled with two stages left. Team INEOS are among a host of teams who have decided to withdraw their teams from all racing until the Volta a Catalunya on March 23. The Strade Bianchi, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo and the Giro di Sicilia races in Italy have been postponed.


The high-profile BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, where the likes of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic were due to compete, was called off. Organisers of the Miami Open, due to start on March 23, are monitoring the situation closely but preparations are continuing. The WTA said the Xi’an Open (April 13-19) and Kunming Open (April 27-May 3) – both set to be held in China – were cancelled.


Racegoers planning to attend this week’s Cheltenham Festival have been told not to if they have any of the symptoms of coronavirus or they have been to or transited through the high-risk countries, or been in contact with anyone that has, in the last 14 days.


The World Indoor Championships, which had been due to take place in Nanjing in China this month, have been called off. Organisers of the London Marathon are monitoring the situation but the April 26 event is scheduled to go ahead. The Paris Marathon, which was due to take place on April 5, has been postponed until October 18 and the Rome Marathon, scheduled for March 29, has been cancelled.

Rugby league

The Betfred Super League match between Catalans Dragons and Leeds in Perpignan on Saturday will go ahead behind closed doors.


All events scheduled for March in Japan have been cancelled.


The £1million China Open, scheduled to start in Beijing at the end of March, has been cancelled. The attendance in the arena for this week’s Gibraltar Open has been limited to 100 people.

Ice skating

The World Short Track Speed Skating Championships, scheduled for March 13-15, were called off.


The International Judo Federation has cancelled all Olympic qualification events on the calendar until April 30.

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