CORONAVIRUS: PREMIER LEAGUE HOLDS EMERGENCY MEETING TODAY

The Premier League will hold an emergency meeting today after it was revealed Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta had contracted coronavirus.

The shock news came on the day English football was told by the government to carry on as normal.

But Arsenal’s situation forced the Premier League to schedule an emergency conference call on Friday morning with all 20 clubs. The Gunners’ match at Brighton on Saturday has been postponed. 

The League will face pressure from clubs to call off the rest of the matches this weekend. There are concerns over the safety of their players and the integrity of the competition. 

A Premier League statement said: ‘In light of Arsenal’s announcement tonight confirming that their first-team coach Mikel Arteta has tested positive for COVID-19, the Premier League will convene an emergency club meeting on Friday morning regarding future fixtures.

‘The Premier League will make no further comment until after that meeting.’ 

The meeting is expected to take place on Friday morning at 10.30am.

One proposal being discussed by the Premier League is to postpone games until the international break when they could potentially be rescheduled.

If Arsenal’s players are to be self-isolated for the next two weeks from Friday, that also puts their FA Cup quarter-final with Sheffield United in jeopardy. 

The news came just hours after English football was given the green light to carry on as normal by the government on Thursday night as much of the rest of the sporting world was shut down in an attempt to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 

On an unprecedented day of cancellations football league programmes in Spain, Portugal, Holland and the United States were suspended alongside postponements in rugby, tennis, golf, basketball and athletics, while England’s Test series in Sri Lanka that is due to start next week came under threat and more doubts were raised over whether this summer’s European Championship and Olympics will take place as planned.

UEFA will hold talks with the 55 national associations and representatives of Europe’s leading clubs next Tuesday to discuss contingency planning for the European Championship, including taking the dramatic step of postponing the tournament for 12 months. 

If that is agreed then this summer will be used to schedule any outstanding Champions League and Europa League fixtures, as several knockout matches have already been postponed, as well as giving time to complete any unfinished domestic leagues. La Liga and Serie A have both been suspended.

Amid an atmosphere of uncertainty several other radical proposals will also be discussed, including shortening the Euros by cutting the number of teams and scrapping the qualification play-offs due to take place this month, which will be strongly opposed by those involved including Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. 

UEFA are also considering a truncated Champions League and Europa League in an attempt to ensure both competitions are completed this season by reducing the remaining knockout rounds from two legs to one.

The Premier League and EFL will, as it stands, continue as normal in front of packed crowds this weekend in a stark contrast to the situation elsewhere in Europe, and the status quo will remain until the government alters its advice on mass gatherings, which may not be for several more weeks. 

Boris Johnson raised the spectre of eventually banning sporting events or restricting crowds on Thursday, but emphasised scientific advice he has received that large crowds do not in themselves carry a huge additional risk.

‘We are considering banning major public events like sporting fixtures,’ he said. ‘The scientific advice is this has little effect on the spread, but it does place a burden on other public services.’ 

English clubs’ European campaigns have been affected however, with Manchester City’s last 16 Champions League knockout tie against Real Madrid next week postponed as the Spanish club are in quarantine. 

That is the second postponement City have experienced in as many days after their Premier League game with Arsenal was called off in the early hours of Wednesday morning, and the club are understood to be unhappy with the guidance they have received from the league headquarters.

Rugby union in England followed football’s lead, with the Premiership set to continue after the Pro14 fixtures in Scotland, Wales and Ireland were suspended indefinitely.