Drastic Ligue 1 response to Coronavirus but appears Premier League business as usual after COBRA meeting
We have already seen football matches played behind closed doors in Italy as they attempt to contain the spread of the Coronavirus.
Now on Monday the French government have taken drastic action as well when it comes to football.
They have announced (see below) that all Ligue 1 matches until 15 April 2020 will be played behind closed doors, or can sell up to a maximum of 1,000 tickets.
However, it appears to be a different story in the UK, at least for the time being.
Monday morning saw Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden give a series of interviews, saying the government’s advice is that for the foreseeable future major sporting events shouldn’t be affected, telling BBC Radio 5 Live:
“At this stage we’re not in the territory of cancelling or postponing events.
“I was at Twickenham [for England v Wales] with the Prime Minister [on Saturday]. There was a huge crowd of people there. There is no reason why people should not be going to those events. It is very premature to be talking about things like that.
“That is why I asked the chief medical officer to brief the sporting bodies last week and that is why we will be driven by the advice of the chief medical officer as we continue.”
These comments were made before a COBRA meeting today, after which it was confirmed that the country remains in the ‘contain phase’, meaning the situation hasn’t worsened enough for more drastic measures to be implemented in dealing with Coronavirus, which appears to confirm for sure that sporting events, including Premier League matches, won’t be affected until further notice. I wrote an article last night (see below) saying that banning fans from Premier League matches and other sporting event, made little sense unless it was part of a much wider ranging set of measures to try and combat the Coronavirus threat.
Sky News’ Political Editor Beth Rigby:
PM spokesperson after Monday’s COBRA meeting: “We remain in the contain phase but it is now accepted that this virus is going to spread in a significant way”
All Ligue 1 matches until 15th April behind closed doors or limited to 1,000 fans
France’s Minister for Sports, Roxana Maracineanu, has this afternoon announced that all Ligue 1 matches until the 15th April will be played behind closed doors or limited to 1,000 fans being able to attend, as the country continues to fight the COVID-19 outbreak.
“It must be respected that a maximum of 1,000 people can be in a stadium. Either the clubs will make the decision to sell just up to 1,000 tickets, or they will prefer to play behind closed doors or postpone the fixture if possible.”
My article last night (Sunday 8 March 2020) about the subject of potentially playing matches behind closed doors because of Coronavirus;
Coronavirus is of course the big topic of conversation at the moment, every news report leading with some new angle/update.
Little surprise then that the Premier League and football in general are also part of this debate.
The first visible signs of this have of course been Premier League players told not to shake hands before, during and after matches.
Now there is a meeting set to be held on Monday (see below) between government officials and sporting authorities, including the Premier League, to discuss potential contingency plans that may be put in place to try and combat the spread of the virus.
This is said to include the possibility of Premier League games being played behind closed doors, as part of a strategy to limit large gatherings of people.
Obviously we all want to see the impact of the Coronavirus to be kept as limited as possible in the UK and overseas.
However, I do fail to see how something like playing PL matches in empty stadiums is any kind of a great tactic, unless it is part of a much wider all consuming strategy to tackle the Coronavirus.
I think to be honest it sounds like a move that would be more about being seen to be doing something, with football having such a massive profile and the fact it would attract so many headlines, rather than actually thinking it would have any great impact overall.
If say you played next Saturday’s game at St James Park behind closed doors, what would be achieved? You would prevent 50,000 people gathering at an outside venue but what about everything else that is happening in people’s lives?
Yes you might put off 3,000 Sheffield United fans off travelling, as well as Newcastle fans, but what about the 10,000 or so music fans set to see The Script on Saturday night in an inside venue.
What about the tens of thousands of people in the city’s packed bars and restaurants?
What about the thousands of people who visit Tyneside every week from all parts of the UK and beyond?
It has been suggested that if PL matches were played to empty stadiums, all games would then be shown on live TV, leading to even more packed bars indoors, which surely if far worse than an open air venue.
This is before of course you get to the far bigger picture.
What impact would closing stadiums to fans have, if for example you allow all the airports to operate as normal? Millions of people going in and out of the UK travelling in such confined spaces and coming together inside airports for hours at a time.
Unless drastic measures are taken, such as seriously limiting everybody travelling, then not allowing people to gather together in football stadiums just sounds like tokenism.
Sky News report:
‘Major sporting events including Premier League football matches could be played in empty stadiums as the Coronavirus outbreak spreads.
Sports authorities and broadcasters have been summoned by the government to Monday’s meeting, to discuss contingency plans in case the virus spreads further.
The Premier League is prepared for the possibility that Public Health England will advise that some fixtures this season will have to be played behind closed doors, as has been the case in other European leagues like Italy and Morocco.
It is understood that the preference in the case of advice that the season be postponed, or played behind closed doors, would be that it continues without fans permitted inside stadiums.
The league is also considering other possible contingency plans that may include advising against, or even a possible ban, on over-70s, the demographic considered to be at highest risk from the spread of COVID-19, from coming inside stadiums.’
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