On Friday morning, it was announced by the Premier League and the EFL that all matches have been suspended following an emergency meeting between clubs due to the coronavirus outbreak. This announcement followed the news that both Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea star Callum Hudson-Odoi have tested positive for the deadly virus.
As it stands the Premier League is set to return to action on April 4th however some have deemed this wishful thinking and there are doubts whether the season will even be finished at all. The suspension on Friday came following a wave of public pressure that forced them into making a U-Turn on their statement from the day before which said that the fixtures would go ahead as planned.
This change in attitude from the authorities followed Arsenal revealing Mikel Arteta had contracted the deadly virus and that staff members, as well as the players, have begun to self-isolate which meant they would be unable to play for the foreseeable future.
Chelsea also announced in a statement that 19-year-old wonderkid Calum Hudson-Odoi also had tested positive, stating: “Callum displayed symptoms similar to a mild cold on Monday morning and has not been at the training ground since then as a precaution. However, his test came in positive and he will undergo a period of self-isolation.”
It’s not just the Premier League which the outbreak has effected with all major leagues around Europe being currently suspended apart from in Turkey and Russia where somehow business is carrying on as usual. Hudson-Odoi isn’t also the only top-flight level player to have caught the virus with Valencia’s Ezequiel Garay, Juventus’ Italian international Daniele Rugani and former Southampton forward Manolo Gabbiadini all testing positive.
What have footballers had to say about the suspension?
Footballers from all around the world have been very supportive of the suspension and some players such as Derby County’s Wayne Rooney have said it should have happened sooner. Speaking in The Sunday Times, the former Manchester United and England player said footballers were “being treated as guinea pigs”.
Rooney said: “The rest of sport – tennis, Formula 1, rugby, golf, football in other countries – was closing down and we were being told to carry on. I think a lot of footballers were wondering, ‘Is it something to do with money being involved in this?’. Why did we wait until Friday? Why did it take Mikel Arteta [Arsenal manager] to get ill for the game in England to do the right thing?
Continuing: “After the emergency meeting, at last, the right decision was made – until then it almost felt like footballers in England were being treated like guinea pigs. I know how I feel. If any of my family get infected through me because I’ve had to play when it’s not safe, and they get seriously ill, I’d have to think hard about ever playing again. I would never forgive the authorities.”
Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk has talked out about his disappointment regarding the very real possibility that Liverpool might not get to celebrate their Premier League victory with their fans. Speaking following the team’s defeat to Atletico Madrid on Wednesday, the Dutch defender said: “If we won it in an empty stadium and the fans weren’t there, I’d be gutted for them. Obviously, if there are no fans at Anfield, then it will be a bit of a blow – no one wants to play games without the fans.
However, Van Dijk can see the bigger picture, adding: “Until a decision is made on how we go on from here, then we just have to deal with it. But when it happens, we are still bringing the title to our fans, definitely. We all have to be sensible and deal with it with common sense. If the authorities make that judgement, we just have to deal with it and accept it.”
Lionel Messi has also taken to Instagram to offer his thoughts on the situation accompanied by a picture of him with his children Mateo and Ciro.
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Son días complicados para todo el mundo. Vivimos preocupados por lo que está ocurriendo y queremos ayudar poniéndonos en el lugar de aquellos que peor lo están pasando, o bien porque les afectó directamente a ellos o sus familiares y amigos, o porque están trabajando en primera línea para combatirlo en hospitales y centros de salud. Quiero enviarles mucha fuerza a todos ellos. La salud debe ser siempre lo primero. Es un momento excepcional y hay que seguir las indicaciones tanto de las organizaciones sanitarias como de las autoridades públicas. Sólo así podremos combatirlo de manera efectiva. Es el momento de ser responsable y quedarse en casa, además es perfecto para disfrutar ese tiempo con los tuyos que no siempre se puede tener. Un abrazo y ojalá consigamos darle vuelta a esta situación cuanto antes. #QuedateEnCasa #StayAtHome
The caption reads: “These are complicated days for us all. We are worried about what is happening and we want to help by putting ourselves in the place of those who are having the worst of it, either because it has directly affected them, their family, or friends, or because they are working on the front line to hospitals and medical centers. I wish them all plenty of strength. Health must always be the key priority. This is an exceptional situation and the instructions of both healthcare bodies and public authorities must be followed. This is the only way we can combat the situation effectively. Now is the time to be responsible and to stay at home. It is also the perfect time to spend time with your loved ones, something we do not always have …..Hugs to everyone and hopefully we can turn this situation around as soon as possible.”
What happens next?
As it stands nobody is sure about what the future holds and what possible knock-on effects this could possibly have on this summer’s European Championships which looks to be in severe doubt. There is talk that Uefa is set to either suspend the competition to December or it could even take place next summer.
If the season is suspended then it remains unclear on what will happen in terms of relegation and promotion as there is still a vast amount of the season left. Some voices have called for no teams to be promoted or relegated meanwhile others have called for West Brom and Leeds both starting the next campaign in the Premier League making it a 22 team league with no clubs being sent down. This method of dealing with the outbreak is what reportedly is due to be shortly announced by the Bundesliga and could be the best resolution for all European leagues.
Another question which people are asking is, who gets awarded the title? In England and France where Liverpool and PSG are so far ahead of their rivals that it would be difficult to complain at them being given the trophy even if they don’t kick another ball this season. But what about the other leagues around Europe?
For the rest of the major leagues around Europe, the best thing to do would likely be to not award the title it to anyone as they are so tight. Take Italy for example, where Juventus lead Lazio by just one point with 12 games means the most likely outcome is that no team is awarded the Scudetto this season which is a devastating scenario for Lazio who haven’t won the title in 20 years and must have felt they had a real chance before the league’s suspension.
The same story goes in Germany as well as in Spain where Barcelona are only two points ahead of Real Madrid which would make it hard to accept the Catalan giants being awarded La Liga when there is no guarantee they would top the league.
It’s hard to foresee what exact conclusion each authority will come to but it could lead to heartache for fans of teams such as Lazio or RB Leipzig who could miss out on seeing their teams win their respective titles when they have both put up such a strong fight so far this campaign.