Football’s authorities in England have taken the decision to suspend all games with immediate effect amid fears over the spread of the Coronavirus.
The Premier League, EFL, FA Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship have announced the decision to suspend all fixtures, with the former releasing a statement announcing their intention to return on April 4 “subject to medical advice and conditions at the time”.
FA Cup fixtures later this month have also been cancelled by the Football Association, with a Premier League statement announcing the league’s intention to reschedule fixtures when advised it is “safe to do so”.
“Despite the challenges, it is the Premier League’s aim is to reschedule the displaced fixtures, including those played by Academy sides, when it is safe to do so,” the statement reads.
“In this fast-moving environment, further updates will be provided when appropriate.”
The decision comes in the wake of both Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi testing positive for the virus, whilst several clubs including Everton, Bournemouth and Leicester have also placed players or staff into self-isolation.
Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters admits the situation is unprecedented, but says action must be taken to ensure the health and welfare of players, staff and supporters.
“Above all, we wish Mikel Arteta and Callum Hudson-Odoi speedy recoveries, and everyone else affected by COVID-19,” he said.
“In this unprecedented situation, we are working closely with our clubs, Government, The FA and EFL and can reassure everyone the health and welfare of players, staff and supporters are our priority.”
An EFL statement also confirmed the suspension of England’s football league until April 3 at the earliest, with the decision to be kept under constant review by the authorities with health and well-being of paramount importance.
“The FA, Premier League, EFL and Barclays FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship have collectively agreed to postpone the professional game in England until 3 April at the earliest.
“This action, which will be kept under constant review, has been taken due to the increasing numbers of Clubs taking steps to isolate their players and staff because of the COVID-19 virus.
“The postponements include all matches in the Championship, League One and League Two, as well as all Academy and youth team fixtures.
“In addition, clubs are being advised to suspend indefinitely all non-essential activities which include, but are not limited to, player appearances, training ground visits and fan meetings.
“Whilst the EFL Board has continued to take the advice and guidance offered by the Government and its health advisors, emerging developments mean now is the time to implement football’s contingency plans in response to the crisis.
“A further update on these plans will be given post an EFL Board Meeting next week.
“This decision has not been taken lightly, but the EFL must prioritise the health and well-being of players, staff and supporters while also acknowledging the Government’s national efforts in tackling this outbreak.”
The outbreak of the Coronavirus has seen 596 confirmed cases in the UK at present – though the number is suspected to be much greater – with 10 fatalities recorded at present.