Manchester City’s Premier League fixture at home to Arsenal has been postponed after it emerged that players and officials of the Gunners have had contact with Olympiakos owner Evangelos Marinakis who announced on Tuesday that he has contracted the coronavirus.
The game was already postponed on account of City reaching the League Cup final against Aston Villa earlier this month and will now be pushed back again.
It is the first Premier League fixture to be postponed because of coronavirus and throws uncertainty over Arsenal’s remaining league fixtures.
“Manchester City’s Premier League fixture at home to Arsenal has been postponed,” the City said in a statement.
“The decision to postpone tonight’s game has been taken as a precautionary measure on medical advice, after it emerged that personnel from Arsenal FC have come into contact with the Olympiacos owner, Evangelos Marinakis, who has been named as a positive case of COVID-19.”
Marinakis who also owns English Championship side, Nottingham Forest, was present at the Emirates as Olympiakos knocked out Arsenal in the Europa League and is believed to have come into contact with an unspecified number of Arsenal’s players and staff during the game 13 days ago.
Arsenal said they had “identified that a number of players met the Olympiacos owner immediately following the game”.
The club said the risk of those players developing COVID-19 was “extremely low”, but added that affected players and staff would follow Government guidelines and self-isolate for 14 days.
A statement from Arsenal read: “The medical advice we have received puts the risk of them developing COVID-19 at extremely low.
“However, we are strictly following the Government guidelines which recommend that anyone coming into close contact with someone with the virus should self-isolate at home for 14 days from the last time they had contact.
“As a result, the players are unavailable for tonight’s match against Manchester City and the Premier League has decided the game should be postponed.
“The players will remain at their homes until the 14-day period expires. Four Arsenal staff, who were sitting close to Mr Marinakis during the match will also remain at home until the 14 days are complete.”
It is unclear whether the game against Brighton on the weekend will also be affected as it was not mentioned when the players began to isolate, despite 13 days between the contact with Marinakis.
The Premier League said the postponement was linked directly to Marinakis’s infection, and there were currently no plans to postpone other matches.
A statement from the league read: “Following medical advice, Arsenal FC and Manchester City FC consider it is necessary to postpone their fixture due to be played this evening to give time to fully assess the situation.
“The Premier League has therefore agreed that tonight’s game will be rearranged.
“We understand this will cause inconvenience and cost to fans planning to attend the game but Arsenal, Manchester City and the Premier League have agreed that the short notice of Mr Marinakis’ infection means there is no alternative but to take the time to complete a proper assessment of risk.”
The coronavirus has already disrupted two of Europe’s top five leagues with the Italian Serie A halted temporarily till 3 April at least and games in the Spanish and French top two divisions set to be played without fans to curb the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, UEFA has rejected Wolverhampton Wanderers’ request to postpone Thursday’s Europa League last 16, 1st leg clash against Olympiakos after it emerged that owner Marinakis had tested positive for COVID-19.
The match had already been fixed to be played behind closed doors at the Greek club’s Karaiskakis Stadium based on Greece government policy that enforced a temporary suspension of spectators attending sporting events to limit the spread of the virus.
Wolves issued a statement saying the trip posed unnecessary risks to their “players, staff, supporters and the families of all who travel, at such critical and uncertain times”.
The English Premier League club added that they respected UEFA’s decision and would travel to Greece for the fixture.
If the fixture goes ahead, Wolves players will come into contact with Olympiakos players who have come in contact with their owner. Wolves will then play against West Ham on Monday despite potentially acting as carriers of the disease.
Manchester United have also been impacted as the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie at LASK on Thursday will also be played behind closed doors because of coronavirus concerns as will Chelsea’s Champions League last-16 tie at Bayern Munich on 18 March.