Italy cancels all sport but UK told to play on
Posted: Tue, 10 Mar 2020 14:07
ITALY last night suspended all domestic sporting action until April 3, with Serie A halted indefinitely, in a bid to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
Just hours after organisers of the United Kingdom's biggest sporting events were told not to 'panic' by the government at a meeting to discuss the issue which concluded there was no need yet to cancel events, Italy took drastic action.
After a meeting between representatives from all Italian team sports federations, the National Olympic Committee (Coni) said in a statement the government should intensify its measures against the virus.
'Health protection is the top priority for everyone,' the statement said.
It added there was a unanimous agreement sporting activity at every level should be suspended until April 3. However, the statement noted international competitions, for both clubs and national teams, do not fall within Coni's jurisdiction and so can't be influenced by its decision.
This includes Uefa tournaments such as the Champions League, which sees Italy's Serie A leaders Juventus set to host France's Lyon in a game a week today, and also the Europa League, in which Inter Milan and AS Roma have home matches scheduled against Spain's Getafe (this Thursday) and Sevilla (March 19) respectively.
The Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte confirmed last night Serie A will be suspended until further notice.
The government had already ordered that all sporting events, including Serie A matches, must be played behind closed doors to avoid crowds of people that could boost the contagion.
Earlier, the France v Ireland Six Nations match became the latest major sporting fixture to be postponed. The game was due to be played in Paris on Saturday but will now not go ahead on the advice of the French government.
As it stands, Wales v Scotland is the only game in the final round of the Six Nations due to go ahead after Italy v England was postponed last week.
Sports governing bodies attended a meeting with broadcasters and government officials to discuss contingency plans.
Rugby Football Union chief executive Bill Sweeney said there was 'no medical rationale' as things stood to postpone sporting fixtures within the UK, or to play them behind closed doors. 'The basic message coming out of today is let's not panic, let's monitor the situation and carry on as normal,' he said.
Premier League executive director Bill Bush was asked about the prospect of matches being played behind closed doors and added: 'I am not going to comment on things that are speculative. You are better off waiting for the Cobra meeting to finish. This wasn't that kind of meeting.' Steve Elworthy, the director of special projects at the England and Wales Cricket Board, said: 'We are starting to think about contingency planning. It is still business as usual in our world.'
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said: 'At the moment, the advice is clear from the chief medical officer, there isn't a need to cancel such events.' Asked about holding games behind closed doors, as has been the case in Italy, he said: 'That is an option in the future but at this point there is no need for events to be cancelled. We are very cognisant of the impact the cancelling of events may have both in terms of the economic and social impact.'