Coronavirus: Man City v Arsenal called off over Covid-19 fears

11 March 2020, 07:46

The Arsenal vs Manchester City match has been called off
The Arsenal vs Manchester City match has been called off. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Manchester City's Premier League clash with Arsenal has been postponed as a "precautionary measure" over coronavirus fears, but other matches are going ahead.

The move comes after Nottingham Forest and Olympiacos owner Evangelos Marinakis announced he had been infected with the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Mr Marinakis met with Arsenal staff and players during the Europa League tie at the Emirates Stadium.

On Wednesday football bosses issued a statement confirming the match was called off. However, the planned Wolves-Olympiacos match will still go ahead, which has sparked concern from the West Midlands club who said it could "poses unnecessary risks to our players, staff, supporters and the families of all who travel, at such critical and uncertain times."

Read more: Coronavirus symptoms - What are they and what is the risk of Covid-19 in the UK?

The Premier League said: "Tonight's game between Manchester City and Arsenal has been postponed as a precautionary measure following the announcement yesterday that Evangelos Marinakis has contracted COVID-19.

"Thirteen days ago, Olympiakos played at the Emirates Stadium in the Europa League and Mr Marinakis, the Greek club's owner, met with several Arsenal squad members and staff.

Read more: Coronavirus: Beard sanitiser sales spike after NHS urged staff to shave

"Following medical advice, Arsenal FC and Manchester City FC consider it is necessary to postpone their fixture due to be played this evening to give time to fully assess the situation.

"The Premier League has therefore agreed that tonight's game will be rearranged.

"We understand this will cause inconvenience and cost to fans planning to attend the game but Arsenal, Manchester City and the Premier League have agreed that the short notice of Mr Marinakis' infection means there is no alternative but to take the time to complete a proper assessment of risk.

"All necessary measures are being taken and the Premier League currently has no plans to postpone any other matches."

Read more: Coronavirus UK: Do surgical face masks work to avoid virus symptoms?

Read more: How long does Covid-19 live on surfaces? Is post from China safe?

A number of Arsenal players are now self-isolating for 14 days after meeting with Mr Marinakis. The team confirmed none of the players who had met the infected man were displaying any symptoms but would not be available to play Wednesday's game.

An Arsenal spokesperson said: "We have been taking medical advice and tracing any individuals who had what the (Government) guidelines define as close contact with him at the game 13 days ago.

"As a result of this exercise we identified that a number of players met the Olympiacos owner immediately following the game.

"The medical advice we have received puts the risk of them developing Covid-19 at extremely low. However, we are strictly following the Government guidelines which recommend that anyone coming into close contact with someone with the virus should self-isolate at home for 14 days from the last time they had contact."

Read more: Coronavirus: What is a pandemic and how is one declared?

A Forest statement said Marinakis had shown no symptoms when in Nottingham last week, during which time he attended the club's home game against Millwall on Friday night and reportedly met with the first-team squad.

Confirming matches across its three divisions would continue as normal for the time being, an EFL statement said: "The League is in dialogue to fully ascertain the set of circumstances that existed when Mr Marinakis visited (Forest) last week and in conjunction with the club will make a determination on what measures are to be taken - if any - when full details are known."

Wolves, meanwhile, are angry that UEFA denied their appeal to postpone their scheduled Europa League last-16 first leg tie at Olympiacos after Marinakis announced his diagnosis.

UEFA said instead the game would go ahead behind closed doors, a scene becoming more common in sport in various countries.

Wolves will respect UEFA's decision and play their no-spectators match in Athens, but urged the governing body to "consider alternative options moving forwards, as this will not be the last fixture to be affected by coronavirus".

"Our position is that the trip poses unnecessary risks to our players, staff, supporters and the families of all who travel, at such critical and uncertain times," the Wolves statement read, adding the club was also concerned for their opponents' mental and physical wellbeing.

The Wolves-Olympiacos match is one of many European ties that will take place without spectators.

Manchester United's Europa League last-16 first leg at Austrian side LASK on Thursday and the second leg of Chelsea's Champions League last-16 clash away to Bayern Munich on Wednesday, March 18 are among them.

So too the second leg of Rangers' Europa League tie at Bayer Leverkusen on Thursday, March 19.

On the international front, the Republic of Ireland's Euro 2020 play-off semi-final against Slovakia in Bratislava on March 26 will be played behind closed doors.

The Bosnia and Herzegovina federation has confirmed ticket sales for this month's Euro 2020 play-off match with Northern Ireland, which were set to go on sale on Wednesday, have been suspended.

England's friendly against Italy at Wembley on March 27 is set to go ahead as normal, but Italy's match against Germany in Nuremberg four days later will be played behind closed doors.

France will also play this month's friendlies at home to Ukraine and Finland without spectators.

At least the next two rounds of LaLiga matches will be played without fans while games across the French leagues will be played behind closed doors until April 15, as will the 25th round of fixtures in Portugal's top-two leagues.

Italy's Serie A was one of the first leagues to be suspended following the outbreak.

The Italian Football Federation admitted the season may not be completed, which would leave the options of not having champions this season, making the current standings final or scheduling play-offs to determine the title winners and relegated clubs.

UEFA said it had received no requests from national associations to postpone Euro 2020, which starts in Rome on June 12.