Football Schedules Affected by Coronavirus COVID19 – 2020
In December 2019, a novel Coronavirus broke out in Wuhan, China. Since then, it has caused disruption, panic and heartbreak whilst spreading worldwide. In this article, we will focus on how the recent worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 has affected football around the world.
Table of Contents:
UK Football and COVID-19
As with any highly contagious virus, it’s best to avoid large crowds. Unfortunately for football fans, that’s really hard to do. Just last Sunday, Manchester City lifted the Carabao Cup in-front of 82,149 fans at Wembley. On that same day, the UK announced that 13 additional people had tested positive for the virus, taking the total number of cases to 36. It has since risen to 87 at the time of writing and looks likely to grow exponentially.
If you’re not aware, all viruses have an incubation period. Simply put, this is the amount of time it takes between being exposed to the virus and your first sign of symptoms. According to WHO, the incubation period for COVID-19 can range from a single day to 14 days.
As a large list of public gatherings, festivals and events are being cancelled around the world, the UK the Health Minister has openly warned people to expect the worst. In other news, 58,000 people saw Tottenham lose on penalties to Norwich yesterday. 27,000 watched Leicester progress in the FA Cup and 21,000 saw Sergio Aguero help City past Sheffield Wednesday.
Should these games have been played behind closed doors?
In countries with more cases than the UK, the consensus has been to avoid crowded places and to avoid going out altogether, if you can. This depends on your age and underlying health, but it was also backed up by WHO. You would think that with an exponentially growing number of cases, the UK could look at other countries and the rate in which it has spread and put safety measures in place, including playing all football matches behind closed doors. Some countries have suspended football altogether.
Attendances and Postponements Since COVID-19
Since February 1st, 525 games have been postponed across all leagues on FootyStats. At the time of writing, there are 722 games that have either been cancelled or are awaiting new dates. Hundreds of fixtures in our database still have their initial dates but are certain to be moved, cancelled or played behind closed doors in the next month.
Leagues Suspended from COVID-19
Football competitions across Europe have now either come to a halt or will be played behind closed doors for the foreseeable future. This list will be updated daily as and news becomes available.
As the situation in Italy, Spain and Germany progressed, UEFA has announced that a number of Champions League games will be played behind closed doors. Chelsea’s away fixture at Bayern Munich is the latest to be added to that list. Despite Spain now registering well over 1000 cases and Madrid shutting down all schools, 3000 of their fans will travel to Anfield for their 2nd leg fixture against Liverpool.
It goes without saying that China has suspended the Super League and all sporting events. This has also had a knock-on effect for Chinese teams taking part in the AFC Champions League. The knock-out stages are currently postponed. Representatives have agreed that group games initially scheduled for March and April will be moved to May and June. The hope is that the final will still take place in November.
On Tuesday, March 10th, it was confirmed that Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis has COVID19. He was at the Emirates Stadium less than two weeks ago, so because of this, Manchester City vs Arsenal has been postponed. He was also at Nottingham Forest’s previous game, at home to Millwall. At the time of writing, this is the only game that has been effected in England, however, it is widely expected that we will hear more news from Arsenal, who’s players are currently self-isolating.
Matches in France are being played behind closed doors.
Matches in Germany are being played behind closed doors. Last week a group of Japanese fans were ejected from a RB Leipzig game over fears they might have the virus. They were allowed to enter the stadium but were told to leave after only 15 minutes. The club has since apologised.
The Hong Kong Premier League has suspended action until March 10th, although authorities could extend the suspension on the competition depending on the reduced spread of COVID-19.
International Champions Cup
The International Champions Cup, hosted in Asia, is a competition where some of the biggest teams in the world come together and compete in a small, friendly knock-out tournament. Last year, Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal took place. Hundreds of thousands of fans come together to watch these games live. It’s thought that the teams scheduled to play have pulled out, meaning the competition can no longer function.
It might have taken them longer than some expected, but Iran finally cancelled all of their upcoming football matches. No fixtures will be played until March 20th. The Iranian Premier League was 70% complete.
Serie A initially postponed fixtures due to an outbreak of cases but has now confirmed that all fixtures will be played behind closed doors until at least the 3rd April. This government decree covers all sporting events. The Coppa Italia Final has also been moved and will now be played in May.
At the time of writing this, Japan has over 1,000 cases. However, a large majority came from the Diamond Princess. Still, this has not stopped the Japanese government from taking COVID-19 seriously and has since postponed all Japanese football, including the J League. The league had just got underway, with a single game played. Other sporting events and festivals have been cancelled and all eyes will be on the Olympics Committee over the next few weeks. The latest from President Thomas Bach’s was to let the public know that the words “cancellation” and “postponement“ were not even mentioned at a recent meeting.
Matches in Portugal are being played behind closed doors.
The Premier League in Kuwait has postponed their latest round of fixtures. The next match in that competition will take place on March 16th.
Players, coaches and match officials from all Scottish football games have been banned from handshakes. The Scottish FA wrote to clubs on March 4th with this news and it was implemented the same day for Hibernian vs Hearts. SFA chief Ian Maxwell said: “The safety of everyone involved in attending or participating in a major football event is our foremost consideration”.
Matches in Spain are being played behind closed doors.
The K-League in South Korea was suspended on 25th March. It was scheduled to start just days later. FC Seoul and Ulsan Hyundai announced that they will play their AFC Champions League group games without fans.
The Swiss Super League has been put on hold until at least the 23rd March. This comes after the Swiss government banned events involving more than 1,000 people in attendance. Ice Hockey, another big sport in Switzerland, has also been cancelled due to the virus.
Thailand, who saw an influx of Chinese tourists between December and February, has cancelled all football matches until April. Initially, all games were due to be played behind closed doors. Further precaution has since been taken to ensure the safety of the public.
Last Updated: 11th March
Euro 2020 and COVID-19
It just so happens that Euro 2020 was the year that UEFA decided to spread the tournament across 12 countries. The semi-finals and the final will be in London, at Wembley Stadium. The tournament is scheduled to get underway in less than 100 days. There are nations yet to qualify who must play in playoff matches. These will be played at the end of March and surely behind closed doors, although no official announcement has been made yet.
The competition is due to start on June 12th and the latest out of the UEFA camp comes from president Aleksander Ceferin, who said he’s confident that his governing body could deal with any “worst-case scenario” whilst keeping the competition alive.
However, the Champions League is a more pressing concern for UEFA and it has already been confirmed that knock-out games in Italy will be played behind closed doors. Why not the rest of Europe? It’s clear that Italy is simply further along in their exponential growth than other countries.
Tokyo 2020 (Neymar, Mbappe)
Should the Tokyo 2020 Olympics go ahead, it’s likely that Kylian Mbappe and Neymar will not be there. This comes after reports from France suggested that PSG will refuse to send their star players to Tokyo, seeing it as too much of a risk to their health. They are under no obligation to do so and given that Paris Saint-Germain pays roughly £50m per year for these players, it’s probably within their rights if they feel their assets (players) are potentially in danger.
Might this encourage other players to do the same? Personally, I believe we could see a domino effect, with a large event or competition first being cancelled. This could put pressure on other industries to do the same. For example, if Euro 2020 was to be postponed due to safety fears, would the Tokyo Olympics follow suit given that thousands planned to visit Japan for the games? Stay tuned to this article for the latest updates.
For all the latest on COVID-19, please visit your government’s health association website or Twitter for the latest official updates. For the latest numbers, you can view live data via Woldometers.