Premier League suspended until April 3; UEFA postpone European ties

Leigh Copson:
Empty Football Stadium Stand

The Premier League and English Football League have suspended all games until at least April 3 less, than an hour after UEFA confirmed the postponement of next week's Champions League and Europa League fixtures.

The suspension of games in the English football ladder appeared almost inevitable over the past 24 hours as more and more clubs hit the headlines amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has ravaged professional sport across the globe.

Arsenal, Chelsea, Leicester City, Everton and Bournemouth have all had either their entire squad or at least members of the squad go into self-isolation over the past couple of days, and that left Premier League officials with little option but to put the 2019/20 campaign on hold.

“Following a meeting of Shareholders today, it was unanimously decided to suspend the Premier League with the intention of returning on April 4, subject to medical advice and conditions at the time,” read a joint statement released by the Premier League, FA, EFL and WSL.

“Despite the challenges, it is the Premier League’s aim to reschedule the displaced fixtures, including those played by Academy sides, when it is safe to do so. In this fast-moving environment, further updates will be provided when appropriate.”

“Above all, we wish [Arsenal manager] Mikel Arteta and [Chelsea player] Callum Hudson-Odoi speedy recoveries, and everyone else affected by COVID-19,” added Premier League chief executive Richard Masters.

“In this unprecedented situation, we are working closely with our clubs, Government, The FA and EFL and can reassure everyone the health and welfare of players, staff and supporters are our priority.”

Up in Scotland, Sunday’s Old Firm clash between Rangers and Celtic at Ibrox is going ahead with supporters being allowed to attend after the Scottish government delayed imposing new rulings over gatherings until Monday, but UEFA has taken the matter into its own hands when it comes to next week’s Champions League and Europa League fixtures.

On Thursday it was confirmed that Manchester City’s clash with Real Madrid would have to be postponed after the Spanish squad went into isolation, and that postponement has now been extended to all ties as UEFA tries to play its part in minimising potential exposure to the illness.

“In the light of developments due to the spread of COVID-19 in Europe and related decisions made by different governments, all UEFA club competitions matches scheduled next week are postponed,” read a statement.

“This includes the remaining UEFA Champions League, Round of 16 second leg matches scheduled on 17 and 18 March 2020; all UEFA Europa League, Round of 16 second leg matches scheduled on 19 March 2020; all UEFA Youth League, quarter-final matches scheduled on 17 and 18 March 2020.

“Further decisions on when these matches take place will be communicated in due course.

“As a consequence of the postponements, the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League quarter-final draws scheduled for 20 March have also been postponed.

“UEFA yesterday invited representatives of its 55 member associations, together with the boards of the European Club Association and the European Leagues and a representative of FIFPro, to a video conference meeting on Tuesday 17 March to discuss European football’s response to the outbreak.”