English football season in doubt, horse racing says show must go on
London (AFP) – The English Premier League looks set to suspend their season when they hold emergency talks over the new coronavirus pandemic later on Friday but jump racing’s showpiece, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, will go ahead with 70,000 spectators expected to attend.
Tens of thousands are also expected in Cardiff this weekend for Saturday’s Six Nations match between Wales and Scotland, even although the other two games were postponed.
The Premier League was thrown into chaos late on Thursday as Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi both contracted the new coronavirus, leaving at least one game postponed and other fixtures in doubt.
Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers — who has three players in self-isolation — has called for the season to be suspended on “health and ethical” grounds.
Chelsea and runaway leaders Liverpool — who are due to meet Merseyside rivals Everton on Monday — subsequently cancelled their pre-match press conferences.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had said the government was “considering the question of banning major public events such as sporting fixtures”, but was not ready to do so yet.
The EPL had originally stuck to the expert advice which had led the Prime Minister to hold fire, but once Arteta revealed he had the virus they announced they would be holding a meeting.
The English Football League (EFL) — responsible for the three tiers below the Premier League — said they would be pushing ahead with this weekend’s fixtures.
However, the EFL are thought likely to follow the lead of the Premier League should the latter, like many of their continental counterparts, suspend their league programme.
UEFA, European football’s governing body, will consider whether to postpone the ongoing Champions League and Euro 2020 at a meeting next week.
Rodgers made no bones about what he thought should happen when he spoke to the press on Thursday even before Arteta’s and Hudson-Odoi’s positive tests became public.
“Players could be going into games unsure of their team-mates or the opposition, whether they are clear or infected with the virus,” he said.
“The people responsible are now acting on it and they are having to react to whatever is thrown up, but ultimately there should be no risk taken in the public’s health. That’s key.”
– ‘Shaking hands all week’ –
As football debates the future of the season, there has been general astonishment that racing’s showpiece meeting, The Cheltenham Festival, has gone ahead in a traditional clash of the best of English and Irish thoroughbred jumpers.
About The Author