As the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the globe, European football leagues have been severely impacted and continue to grapple with the fallout from an escalating crisis that threatens to derail their season.
Contrasting measures have been deployed by a number of Europe’s top football leagues in a bid to salvage the season and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
While some have suspended football completely in compliance with various domestic governments’ directives banning large gatherings, others have chosen to bar fans from attending matches.
Italy – Europe’s worst-hit country with more than 9,000 people infected and 463 deaths – banned all sports events until 3 April as part of a government-ordered lockdown of the country’s 60m citizens.
Consequently, Serie A has been temporarily suspended and there are now doubts about whether the season will even be completed.
Spain’s La Liga announced that the next two rounds of fixtures would be played behind closed doors after the country recorded a dramatic rise in coronavirus cases.
The French League followed suit, announcing that all Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 matches will be played without fans until April 15.
Germany’s Bundesliga is also being impacted and the fixture between Borussia Moenchengladbach and Cologne on Wednesday (today) is set to be the first in a empty stadium.
Saturday’s eagerly-anticipated derby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04, will also to go ahead without a crowd.
In Portugal, this weekend’s games will go ahead but behind closed doors. The Swiss League is on hold until 23 March.
England has also had its first disruption due to coronavirus after the Premier League postponed tonight’s fixture between Manchester City and Arsenal after it emerged that an unspecified number of Arsenal players and officials come in contact with Olympiakos owner Evangelos Marinakis who has tested positive for coronavirus.
Marinakis who also owns English Championship side, Nottingham Forest, was at the Emirates when the Greek club knocked out the Gunners on 27 February.
The Premier League, however, says other fixtures will hold as normal, for now, with the government saying on Monday there was “no rationale” to suspend the league or bar fans from stadiums.
Several high-profile European interclub games will also be played in empty stadiums, with Valencia’s 4-3 loss to Atalanta in Tuesday’s Champions League last 16, second leg played in an empty Mestalla.
Other games in the competition including Paris St Germain versus Borussia Dortmund and Barcelona’s Champions League last 16, second leg against Napoli, scheduled for the Nou Camp on March 18— will also be played behind closed doors.
In the Europa League Austrian club LASK said no fans will be allowed to watch their match with Manchester United on Thursday.
Olympiakos’s home clash with Wolverhampton Wanderers will go ahead behind closed doors despite the Greek club’s owner Evangelos Marinakis contracting coronavirus.