Arsenal have confirmed manager Mikel Arteta last night tested positive for coronavirus – prompting the Premier League to organise an emergency meeting this morning.
The Premier League and EFL both released statements yesterday evening that fixtures would take place as normal this weekend, including Stoke City’s trip to Reading.
That comes despite Manchester City’s match against Arsenal being postponed in mid-week and matches around Europe either taking place behind closed doors or suspended.
But the situation is proving fluid and the confirmation that Arteta has contracted the disease, shortly after the Premier League press release, has seen high profile figures urge authorities to take a firmer stance.
Gary Neville posted on Twitter: “Hey Premier League/EFL you are making a right mess of this one!
“It needed a PL manager to contract the virus for them to act! Embarrassing leadership from the Premier League.”
Gary Lineker wrote: “Get well soon Mikel Arteta.
“Football is not that important.
“How can it not be (an indefinite suspension of the season)? They would only be delaying the inevitable and quite likely exacerbating the situation.”
Jon Walters said: “Mikel Arteta tested positive for coronavirus. Perhaps the Premier League will listen and suspend matches now!”
Reports late last night suggested that Premier League fixtures would be suspended.
Revealed: How much playing behind closed doors could cost Stoke City
Wolves last night played one of the biggest game in their recent history behind closed doors in Athens, drawing with Olympiakos.
But, if the football authorities go down that route in this country, how much would it cost – particularly lower league clubs whose pockets are already not deep enough?
Stoke pulled in £6.398m in gate receipts for 25 home games in 2018/19, which works out at about £255,000 per game.
They do have around 19,000 season ticket holders, however, who have already paid for entry to league matches up front. There are five matches remaining at the bet365 Stadium this term as Michael O’Neill tries to keep the club in the Championship.
Government adviser explains yesterday’s decision
The UK’s chief scientific advisor Sir Patrick Vallance has explained why, yesterday, the decision was taken not to ban Premier League and EFL matches.
The government announced on Thursday they were moving into the ‘delay’ phase of their plan to combat the outbreak but have not ordered for matches to be suspended, or for games to be played behind closed doors.
Elsewhere in Europe, similar action has already been taken for Italy’s Serie A and Spain’s La Liga, while both France’s Ligue 1 and Germany’s Bundesliga will be played behind closed doors.