The Premier League is expected to announce a suspension later Friday with a number of clubs confirming they have been affected by the new coronavirus. Photo: Reuters
The Premier League is expected to announce a suspension later Friday with a number of clubs confirming they have been affected by the new coronavirus. Photo: Reuters

Premier League holding emergency meeting amid coronavirus fears

By Simon Cambers Time of article published Mar 13, 2020

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LONDON The Premier League is expected to announce a suspension later Friday with a number of clubs confirming they have been affected by the new coronavirus.

The 20 clubs are due to hold a meeting by telephone to discuss growing concern that matches should be cancelled to protect the spread of the virus.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta announced late Thursday that he has tested positive for the virus while Chelsea's Callum Hudson-Odoi became the first player to officially test positive.

Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers said Thursday that three of their players were self-isolating.

On Friday, Everton said their entire first-team squad is now in self-isolation after one player reported coronavirus symptoms.

And Watford manager Nigel Pearson said Friday that one of their players is awaiting test results, prompting them to cancel their training session on Thursday.

The Premier League had initially said on Thursday evening that all this weekend's fixtures would go ahead but announced an hour later that they would hold an emergency meeting.

Arsenal's clash with Brighton is now off and the matches involving Everton, who are due to host leaders Liverpool on Monday, Chelsea and Watford are now doubtful.

Chelsea put out a statement in the early hours of Friday confirming that Hudson-Odoi became the first player to officially be affected, with the whole first-team squad going into self-isolation.

"Callum displayed symptoms similar to a mild cold on Monday morning and has not been at the training ground since then as a precaution," Chelsea said.

"However, his test came in positive this evening and he will undergo a period of self-isolation."

Arsenal said their entire first-team squad would self-isolate following Arteta's test result.

The north London club said in a statement it would not be able to fulfil many of their remaining fixtures this season.

"This is really disappointing but I took the test after feeling poorly," Arteta said on the club's website. "I will be at work as soon as I'm allowed."

Arsenal's mid-week match with Manchester City had already been postponed because some of the north London club's players had been in contact with the owner of Greek club Olympiakos, who tested positive for the virus.

Earlier Thursday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had said sports fixtures could be postponed or cancelled in future, but not at this stage, suggesting that doing so would not make a significant difference.

Watford manager Pearson said he had not been reassured by Johnson's words.

"I don't think we had any great leadership last night, listening to the prime minister," he said. 

"I was totally underwhelmed by the lack of leadership and clear message in terms of what was said in that press conference. 

"We are trying to be proactive ourselves and hopefully the Premier League will make strong decisions based on what is right for everybody in the game."

Pearson said Watford were focused on the "interests of the people who work here and their wider families."

"We are talking about sport versus the well-being of people here.

"We don't have anybody with a positive result, but I think in the current climate it's pretty inevitable we will have contact with someone who either has the virus or who has recovered from it.

"In the meantime we will continue to be vigilant and do what is the right thing for the well-being of everyone who works for this football club."

dpa

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