It is a very uneasy time around the globe amid the fears of a global pandemic with COVID-19 spreading across the world at an alarming rate. COVID-19, commonly known to many as coronavirus, is having a huge impact on the day to day lives of many across the world but how could it affect the English leagues?
It has already been seen in Italy that the government have had to take drastic measures to ensure the risk is limited and does not spread to more and more people. The entire country is on lockdown as a deterrent to avoid a more catastrophic spread of the coronavirus. However, in terms of football the entire Serie A and other leagues have been cancelled until 3rd April and we could see something similar in England.
The Premier League have already brought in new rules such as no handshakes before or after the game to try and reduce the risk of contamination. At grounds such as Old Trafford there were new hand sanitisers in place for fans to sanitise their hands. We have also seen clubs banning handshakes at the training ground as another option to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus.
However, the sanctions might be stepped up to the next level as fears grow bigger. Around the country there have been people stockpiling essentials with the anticipation of a lockdown similar to what has been seen in Italy. A similar lockdown situation could see similar repercussions in the footballing world.
We are now in a situation that the rearranged Manchester City vs Arsenal game will be cancelled due to Olympiakos owner Evangelos Marinakis contracting coronavirus and meeting several Arsenal players after their Champions League tie. Many of the Arsenal players are in self isolation so are unable to play against Manchester City on Wednesday.
With this being the first incident in the UK, it looks likely that the next step for the Premier League and the EFL would be to stop fans going to games and the game would be played behind closed doors with nobody watching. If the situation does develop this way than the TV broadcasting companies are willing to lift the 3pm kick off ban in this country so that fans can watch the game from their own home.
However, a behind closed doors scenario could be detrimental to smaller clubs in League One and League Two as they will have no revenue coming in and will have to refund fans who either have a season ticket or already bought tickets for the game. In some extreme circumstances, it could lead to clubs folding and them being unable to continue in the future.
An issue that could cause a lot of problems and debate will be how do the officials decide the league. Not since 1939-40 season has the league been suspended or affected as war was declared in September 1939, meaning leagues became more regional in an effort to keep people focused on the war.
In that case, even if Liverpool do manage to win their next two games and finally end their 30 year wait for a top flight trophy they may not actually be credited as champions because the league is incomplete.
It is a tough situation that the F.A, The Premier League and the EFL find themselves in and one they will have to decide on the guidance from the government but it would not be an unlikely sight if no fans were allowed into the stadiums due to a fear of more contamination of the coronavirus.