Crystal Palace games are to be suspended until April 3 at the earliest after the Premier League season was halted at an emergency meeting this morning following positive cases for COVID-19 at two clubs overnight.
With the coronavirus outbreak leading to many leagues across Europe being suspended or played behind closed doors the Premier League initially announced that the weekend’s fixtures would all go ahead as planned, with the Government advising yesterday that postponing sporting events and large gatherings at this time was not required.
Less than an hour after that announcement, Arsenal confirmed that their head coach Mikel Arteta had tested positive for COVID-19, the first confirmed case at a Premier League club. This prompted the Premier League to schedule an emergency meeting in London today to discuss how to move forward. Arteta was soon joined by England winger Callum Hudson-Odoi who confirmed overnight that he too had tested positive for the virus.
The suspension until April 3 has been followed by all levels of professional football in England affecting the EFL, FA Cup and the Women’s Super League. The next two match weeks will be postponed with the situation set to be reviewed at that date.
It was made clear that all footballing activities were to be suspended until April 3 at the earliest with it highly unlikely that the league would be able to resume by that date with Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing yesterday that the peak of this epidemic is expected to be another 10-12 weeks away.
Palace were due to travel to Bournemouth on Saturday who had confirmed five members of their first team including goalkeeper Artur Boruc and four members of staff were self-isolating over fears they may have contracted the virus.
Premier League teams were advised to stop all non-essential activities such as fan meetings and player appearances with Palace’s afternoon press conference cancelled, although some teams had already held theirs in anticipation of the weekend’s fixtures before the suspension.
At present Palace have not taken any self-isolation measures although fellow London sides Chelsea, Arsenal and West Ham have taken precautionary measures. Watford, Palace’s last opponents, confirmed they were awaiting the results of a test on one of their players.
Chief Executive of the Premier League Richard Masters said: “Above all, we wish Mikel Arteta and Callum Hudson-Odoi speedy recoveries, and everyone else affected by COVID-19.”
“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.”
The Premier League have said they will provide further updates when appropriate and it is likely the situation will become clearer after the governing body UEFA holds an emergency meeting on Tuesday, with all stakeholders including the players union, clubs and leagues from all of their member nations, to discuss a unified approach on how to proceed with the season.
One option would be to delay Euro 2020 for a year. If that were to happen it could potentially free up space to complete displaced fixtures, with the Premier League confirming in their statement that they aim to reschedule matches when safe to do so.
If delays were to continue beyond April 3 it would increase the likelihood of the season being ended with the current positions being final. Officials at some clubs believe that if the season cannot be completed it should be rendered void.