Pep Guardiola says football should be suspended rather than behind closed doors due to coronavirus

Scott Polacek Manchester City FC Leave a Comment

Pep Guardiola would rather matches were suspended than played behind closed doors in response to coronavirus.

The Manchester City manager, whose team face Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night, believes it is a matter of time before matches are affected in the UK.

But Guardiola warned that suspending the season makes more sense than staging games without fans — likening empty stadiums to theatres with no spectators.

Pep Guardiola would prefer the authorities to suspend competitions due to coronavirus

Pep Guardiola would prefer the authorities to suspend competitions due to coronavirus

The outbreak is continuing to cause havoc, with fans in Italy prevented from attending games

The outbreak of coronavirus is continuing to cause havoc across European football calendar

‘If it’s a short time, one game, then fine,’ said Guardiola. ‘But, if it’s longer, it must be suspended.

‘I would not love to play matches in the Premier League, the Champions League or the cups without the people. We play for the people. If they can’t be there, it makes no sense.

‘It’s like an actor going to the theatre when nobody is there. Who are you acting for that night? There is no reason to play without the people. Football is for the people. But we are going to follow the instructions of the Government.’

Sportsmail's map shows how the coronavirus has affected football in European countries

Chelsea’s Champions League fixture with Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena on March 18 will be played behind closed doors, and all ticket-holders have been given a full refund. The Bavarian government has decided to ban events with more than 1,000 visitors until the end of the Easter holidays.

Manchester United also said they would refund fans who had bought tickets for their Europa League match against LASK in Austria, which will be played with no fans in attendance.

The Italian football federation said on Tuesday the Serie A season may not finish because of the outbreak of the virus in the country.

One possibility they mentioned was to have play-offs to decide the champions and relegation to Serie B. 

A second would be to declare the current standings as final — which would result in Juventus winning the title by one point from Lazio, despite the fact the teams were scheduled to play each other once more in a potential title decider. Thirdly, Italy may not declare champions this season.

Premier League matches have so far been unaffected but European cancellations and decisions to place games behind closed doors has increased pressure on chiefs in England

Premier League matches have so far been unaffected but European cancellations and decisions to place games behind closed doors has increased pressure on chiefs in England

Guardiola is looking forward to facing his ex-assistant Mikel Arteta on Wednesday night

Guardiola is looking forward to facing his ex-assistant Mikel Arteta on Wednesday night

The Champions League could also be affected. Barcelona’s date with Napoli will be played at an empty Nou Camp, and City’s home second leg against Real Madrid could be behind closed doors.

‘If UEFA say we have to play without spectators, then we’ll play,’ added Guardiola. ‘Health is the most important thing.’

The next two rounds of Spain’s LaLiga will be played without fans, and all French games in the top two tiers will be played behind closed doors until April 15.

Everton have made the decision to close their Finch Farm training base to visitors. The first-team squad and management continue to go about their business but those who are not required to be on the premises have been asked to stay away as a precautionary measure.

Elsewhere, a Linfield player has tested positive for the virus, the Irish Premiership club confirmed.

And Michael O’Neill believes his Northern Ireland side could benefit if their scheduled Euro 2020 play-off semi-final away to Bosnia and Herzegovina is played behind closed doors later this month.

The Bosnian Football Federation postponed ticket sales for the match due to ongoing fears over the spread of coronavirus, suggesting the match is likely to take place without fans if it goes ahead as scheduled at all.

Having experienced a partisan Bosnian home crowd when Northern Ireland lost 2-0 in Sarajevo in the Nations League in October 2018, O’Neill admitted the lack of a crowd in Zenica on March 26 could help his side. 

‘While it was a small stadium, the atmosphere was very intimidating, very patriotic,’ said O’Neill, also boss of Stoke City. ‘From that point of view, for our sake, it is slightly to our advantage.’

HOW CORONAVIRUS HAS HIT THE WORLD OF SPORT SO FAR

2020 OLYMPIC GAMES 

In doubt 

The scale of the outbreak in Japan saw senior International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound describe the disease as ‘the new war’ threatening Tokyo 2020 and he warned the Games may have to be cancelled if the virus was still around by May.

Olympic organisers told athletes to train as normal with no decision on cancellation

Olympic organisers told athletes to train as normal with no decision on cancellation

The Japanese government later insisted Pound’s comments were not the IOC’s official stance but there remains doubts over whether the summer showcase can still go ahead with health concerns.

Athletes have been told to keep training and the plan remains to hold the Games in Japan as planned but training for around 80,000 volunteers has been delayed for at least two months- it was due to begin on February 22.

The iconic start to Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic Games will be held without spectators as it was announced the traditional torch-lighting ceremony will take place with no fans in attendance.

The Greek Olympic Committee announced Monday that the torch-lighting ceremony – the symbolic start of each Olympic Games – will be staged at a scaled-down, behind-closed-doors event due to the ongoing fears over the spread of coronavirus in the region.

The Committee announced the Olympic torch will be lit during a smaller-scale ceremony in ancient Olympia on Thursday, March 12 before heading off on a seven-day relay, ending in an official handover ceremony in Greece on March 19.

ATHLETICS

Cancelled

World Athletics Indoor Championships (March 13-15 in Nanjing) is off until 2021.

The World Athletics Indoor Championships in Nanjing, China, has been postponed due to concerns over the danger of the coronavirus and its ability to spread

The World Athletics Indoor Championships in Nanjing, China, has been postponed due to concerns over the danger of the coronavirus and its ability to spread

North Korea cancelled the Pyongyang Marathon scheduled for April after imposing a border lockdown due to the level of outbreak in South Korea.

The Seoul Marathon is cancelled in a bid to protect runners following the mass outbreak in South Korea.

The Paris half-marathon is canceled and the French government also decided to ban all indoor public gatherings of more than 5,000 people.

The race involving some 44,000 competitors was scheduled for Sunday (March 1) in the French capital city. Organizers said the race will be postponed to a date yet to be determined. 

The Barcelona marathon scheduled for March 15 has been postponed until October to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Barcelona’s city hall said in a statement.

In doubt

A mixed relay Olympic triathlon qualification event scheduled for Chengdu, China in May is moved to Valencia, pending an outbreak in Spain.

BADMINTON

Cancelled

German Open (March 3-8), Vietnam Open (March 24-29) and Polish Open (March 26-29), all Olympic qualifying events, are cancelled due to ‘strict health protection’.

BOXING

Cancelled

Olympic boxing qualifiers to be staged in Wuhan were cancelled by the International Olympic Committee, and now are relocated to occur in Amman from March 3-11

The IBF title fight between Daniele Scardina and Andrew Francillette in Milan on February 28 was postponed by Matchroom due to restrictions in Italy following the outbreak.

The Japanese boxing commission cancelled all fight cards scheduled for March on government advice to suspend all pending sporting fixtures. They will not be rescheduled.

CRICKET

Impacted

England players will not be shaking hands on their tour of Sri Lanka and will use fist bumps instead.

CYCLING

In doubt

Danish cyclist Michael Morkov has been cleared to race at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships after being kept in isolation over fears of an outbreak of coronavirus.

Morkov, 34, had travelled to Berlin on Thursday after contesting the first four stages of the UAE Tour, the final two stages of which were then cancelled after two members of staff on the race were suspected of having the disease.

Riders and staff on the UAE Tour have been in lockdown since but, after the Abu Dhabi Department of Health issued a statement on Saturday saying 167 tests had come back negative, the UCI said Morkov was free to race as normal.

Danish cyclist Michael Morkov was tested for coronavirus after being put in isolation

Danish cyclist Michael Morkov was tested for coronavirus after being put in isolation

FOOTBALL

Cancelled

All domestic fixtures at all levels are postponed by the Chinese Football Association as the season is pushed back due to the scale of the outbreak in China.

Asian Champions League matches involving Guangzhou Evergrande, Shanghai Shenhua and Shanghai SIPG are postponed until April.

The start of the Korean K-League season is postponed. The four teams in the AFC Champions League are playing their matches behind closed doors.

Japan’s J-League postponed all domestic games until the middle of March.

Inter Milan’s game against Sampdoria was one of four Serie A games cancelled last weekend due to affected regions in Italy leading to advice from the prime minister to call off sporting events.

Serie A then announced on Saturday that five of the weekend’s fixtures, including the title showdown between Juventus and Inter Milan, have been cancelled.  

The Coppa Italia match between Napoli and Inter Milan on Thursday became the latest fixture to be called off, when it was postponed indefinitely. It was the 12th game to be postponed since the crisis began and the third involving Inter.

Ludogorets players were taking no chances after the coronavirus outbreak in Italy

Ludogorets players were taking no chances after the coronavirus outbreak in Italy

An update from sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora later confirmed all the upcoming Serie A fixtures for the weekend commencing March 7,8, would be played behind closed doors. And with the country on lockdown, it was later announced that all sport, including Serie A games, would be suspended until at least April 3 to contain the virus.

In France, the Ligue 1 game between RC Strasbourg and champions Paris St Germain was postponed on Friday.

It was the first Ligue 1 game to be postponed, with Strasbourg’s Alsace region one of the worst hit by the coronavirus in France, where 613 cases and nine deaths have been reported.

The Premier League clash between Manchester City and Arsenal, scheduled for March 11, was postponed as a ‘precautionary measure’ after Olympiacos owner Evangelos Marinakis tested positive for coronavirus weeks after watching his Greek team play at the Emirates Stadium.

Impacted

The home leg of the Chinese women’s national team’s Olympic qualification play-off against South Korea set for March is switched to Sydney. The squad are held in quarantine upon their arrival in Australia for January’s qualifying group stage due to fears of virus carriers.

Inter Milan’s Europa League match against Ludogorets on February 27 will be played behind closed doors. Only TV rights-holders are allowed to attend as media as the club look to secure the San Siro. Ludogorets players arrived in Italy wearing face masks.

Serie A announced five matches on February 28-March 1 will be played behind closed doors, including Juventus v Inter Milan in Turin, a huge match between title rivals.

Ligue 1 followed suit with games set to be played in empty stadiums until April 15. Clubs also have the option of playing games with just 1,000 fans.

LaLiga became the latest team to ban supporters in stadiums after guidance from Spain’s health ministry and sports council. Barcelona’s Champions League tie with Napoli will also be played in an empty ground.

Olympiakos' owner Evangelos Marinakis has tested positive for the coronavirus

Olympiakos’ owner Evangelos Marinakis has tested positive for the coronavirus

Manchester United clash at Austrian side Lask will be behind closed doors, with United expected to hand out refunds after they sold 900 tickets for the Europa League game. 

Newcastle United have banned their players from shaking hands with each other amid coronavirus fears.

Three players from third-division Italian football club US Pianese have tested positive for coronavirus, the Tuscany side confirmed on Friday. 

Olympiakos owner Evangelos Marinakis, who also owns Nottingham Forest, has tested positive for the coronavirus. Forest players may have to self-isolate if they came into contact with Marinakis.

In doubt

Thursday’s Europa League clash between Olympiakos on Wolves is set to take place behind closed doors after an order by the government in Greece, but Wolves have asked UEFA to delay the fixture.

England’s friendly against Italy at Wembley in March is now in doubt as the FA holds crisis talks following the outbreak in northern Italy.

Israel has warned citizens to avoid all international travel, which raises questions whether supporters or players will travel to Scotland for their Euro 2020 play-off match on March 26. 

Growing concerns that some matches at Euro 2020 could be called off if the coronavirus outbreak gets worse between now and the summer. The tournament is set to be multi-city. UEFA admit they are in a ‘waiting stage’ and must follow the orders of the individual countries involved. However, FA Chairman Greg Clarke has stated that he expects the tournament to go ahead.

Premier League games are ‘likely’ to be played behind closed doors ‘in the coming weeks’ over coronavirus fears, Everton board member Sasha Ryazantsev has warned, in line with the action taken in Serie A. 

FORMULA ONE

Cancelled

The Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai on April 19 is postponed with no decision over whether it will be reinserted into the 2020 calendar for later in the season.

Impacted 

The Bahrain Grand Prix, scheduled for March 20-22, is to take place behind closed doors.

The Chinese GP was first to be cancelled and other races could yet follow that lead

The Chinese GP was first to be cancelled and other races could yet follow that lead

In doubt

The Australian Grand Prix will go ahead despite an emergency response plan being enacted across the country to deal with the virus. The chief executive of the tourism council says that Victoria cannot afford for the event to be cancelled. 

There are growing concerns over whether the inaugural Vietnam Grand Prix (scheduled to take place in Hanoi on April 5) will go ahead.

GOLF

Cancelled

The Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific golf championship, slated to take place from February 12-15 in Thailand, was postponed and has been rescheduled for October.

The Honda LPGA Thailand event in Pattaya, Thailand scheduled for February 20-23 along with the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore, scheduled to start on February 27, were both postponed

The PGA Tour Series-China postponed two qualifying tournaments and delayed the start of its 2020 campaign by two months, cutting the number of regular season events down from 14 to 10.

The decision was made to cancel the LPGA Blue Bay tournament in China, with the event at Hainan Island (due to start on March 5) seen as dangerous to players’ health

The European Tour postponed the Maybank Championship (April 16-19 in Kuala Lumpur) and Volvo China Open (April 23-26 in Shenzhen).

Impacted

Lorenzo Gagli and Edoardo Molinari were withdrawn from the Oman Open on medical grounds after Gagli showed symptoms of the virus. He shared a hotel room with Molinari and he was told to self-isolate. They were later reinstated to the tournament after testing negative for the virus.

HORSE RACING

Impacted

The Japan Racing Association revealed that ‘government-sanctioned races’ will go behind closed doors.

Two race meetings in France next week are to take place behind closed doors in a response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Monday’s jumps card and the Wednesday fixture on the Flat at Compiegne will have no paying customers, with the order coming from the mayor of the town and the president of the Compiegne Racing Society.

In doubt

Cheltenham festival is in doubt as organisers set up a steering group to consider the danger posed by the virus, just 13 days prior to the prestigious Gold Cup event

The Cheltenham Festival is set to go ahead despite travel disruption caused by the virus

The Cheltenham Festival is set to go ahead despite travel disruption caused by the virus

RUGBY

Cancelled

Scotland Women’s Six Nations match with Italy on February 23 is postponed due to an outbreak in the Milan area.

And the Women’s match between Wales and Scotland in the Six Nations on March 15 is also off after one Scottish player tested positive for the virus. 

Ireland’s Six Nations meeting with Italy on March 7 is postponed.

Ospreys and Ulster’s Pro14 trips to play in Italy on February 29 are postponed. Ospreys were due to play Zebre in Parma with Treviso the venue for Ulster’s game against Benetton.

Ireland's Six Nations encounter with Italy on March 7 has been postponed

Ireland’s Six Nations encounter with Italy on March 7 has been postponed

The Italian Rugby Federation suspended its National Championship and youth games for February 28-March 1.

Hong Kong Rugby Sevens is postponed, which is a blow to Olympic preparations for Team GB.

England’s final Six Nations game against Italy is off ‘with the intention to reschedule it at a later date’. The same applies to the corresponding women’s and U20s fixtures. All were due to be played on March 13-15.

Meanwhile, France’s Six Nations clash with Ireland on March 14 has been pushed back with the French government taking measures against sporting events. 

In doubt

Scottish rugby announced preparations ‘continue as normal’ as they discuss with French rugby whether to proceed with their Six Nations match on March 8 following a second coronavirus death in France.

All of Italy’s remaining Six Nations fixtures – they are due to host England in their final game on March 14 – are in serious doubt given the scale of the outbreak in Italy.

Fears of the virus spreading then prompted ITV to abandon plans to send commentators and pundits out to Rome for England’s game against Italy in Rome.

TENNIS

Cancelled

The BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells in California, set to start on March 9, was postponed at the eleventh hour.  It came after a confirmed case of the coronavirus in the nearby Coachella Valley.

The final of an ATP Challenger event in Bergamo, Italy, between Enzo Couacaud and Illya Marchenko of Ukraine is cancelled. Both players received ranking points and prize money for getting to the final. They were denied the opportunity to play behind closed doors.

China forfeited a Davis Cup tie because the men’s team were unable to travel to Romania for the March 6-7 playoff.

WTA event Xi’an Open (set for April 13-19) is cancelled due to fears over player safety. WTA announced they are assessing their schedule with a number of events set for China in the second half of the season.

Impacted

Japan’s home Davis Cup tie against Ecuador next week is now set to be played behind closed doors.

Players will be banned from handing their towels to ball-kids at next week’s BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, organisers said on Friday.

In doubt

WTA event Kunming Open is considered for cancellation after Xi’an Open was called off. It is due to start on April 27.

OTHER SPORTS

Cancelled 

MotoGP have cancelled their first two races of the season in Qatar and Thailand. Moto2 and Moto3 will though run in Qatar though as they were already based at the track for pre-season testing.

Cycling’s United Arab Emirates Tour has been cancelled with Chris Froome tested for coronavirus and Mark Cavendish put into lockdown in his hotel room. 

South Korean baseball league cancelled all 50 pre-season game which were slated to take place from March 14-24. It is the first time since the leagues inception in 1982 that an entire set of exhibition matches are off. 

The first-stage draw for the Table Tennis World Championships, scheduled for South Korea from March 22-29, is postponed.

A beach volleyball tournament, due to be held in Yangzhou from April 22-26, is postponed until after the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

World Short track speed skating championship in Seoul is cancelled.

Next month’s World Triathlon Series event in Abu Dhabi was postponed on Saturday as a precautionary measure.

The event was due to take place from March 5 to March 7 in the city, which has reported new cases of the virus.

Event organisers said they still hoped to reschedule the event to take place later in March or April. 

The Women’s World Ice Hockey Championships, scheduled for Canada later this month, have been cancelled.

The championships were set to begin on March 31 and continue until April 10 with games in Halifax and Truro, Canada. 

All 72 pre-season baseball games in Japan are to take place behind closed doors

All 72 pre-season baseball games in Japan are to take place behind closed doors

Impacted

The Japanese professional baseball league made the decision to play their 72 pre-season games behind closed doors until March 15. Baseball is among the most popular sports in Japan. 

In an aid to decrease risks of exposure to the virus, the NBA have told players to avoid taking items such as pens, markers, balls and jerseys from autograph seekers. 

In doubt

The South Korean baseball league regular season is in doubt ahead of the first round of matches on March 28. An emergency meeting has been called.   

Doubts remain as the Asian weightlifting championships, scheduled for March, are relocated from Kazakhstan to neighbouring Uzbekistan. They could still be postponed.

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