The Premier League has been officially suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A Premier League statement read: “Following a meeting of shareholders today, it was unanimously decided to suspend the Premier League with the intention of returning on 4 April, subject to medical advice and conditions at the time.”
The decision was made on Friday morning after an emergency meeting of the league announced last night, less than an hour after it was confirmed that the forthcoming weekend fixtures would be going ahead as scheduled. The announcement came after the EFL confirmed that all forms of professional football in England would be postponed until April 3.
“The FA, Premier League, EFL and Barclays FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship have collectively agreed to postpone the professional game in England until 3 April at the earliest,” the EFL statement read.
“This action, which will be kept under constant review, has been taken due to the increasing numbers of Clubs taking steps to isolate their players and staff because of the COVID-19 virus.
“The postponements include all matches in the Championship, League One and League Two, as well as all Academy and youth team fixtures.
“In addition, Clubs are being advised to suspend indefinitely all non-essential activities which include, but are not limited to, player appearances, training ground visits and fan meetings.
“Whilst the EFL Board has continued to take the advice and guidance offered by the Government and its health advisors, emerging developments mean now is the time to implement football’s contingency plans in response to the crisis.
“A further update on these plans will be given post an EFL Board Meeting next week.
“This decision has not been taken lightly, but the EFL must prioritise the health and well-being of players, staff and supporters while also acknowledging the Government’s national efforts in tackling this outbreak.”
The initial statement from the Premier League was released just after 9:30pm GMT on Thursday, but 46 minutes later came the announcement from Arsenal that manager Mikel Arteta had tested positive for Covid-19, resulting in the Spaniard and his full first-team squad and coaching staff going into self-isolation, along with other staff from the Gunners’ London Colney training ground and Hale End Academy.
Then, in the early hours of Friday morning, Chelsea revealed that forward Callum Hudson-Odoi had also tested positive for coronavirus, resulting in the club’s whole first-team squad, coaching team and a number of backroom staff self-isolating in line with Government guidelines.
On Thursday, Leicester also confirmed that three of their players were self-isolating for seven days after presenting with extremely mild symptoms that they were advised by NHS 111 were consistent with common seasonal illness.
An unnamed Manchester City player – understood to be defender Benjamin Mendy – is also in quarantine as a precaution after being tested for Covid-19 as a result of a family member suffering symptoms of “a respiratory illness”.
The second leg of City’s Champions League, last-16 tie against Real Madrid on Tuesday had already been postponed after the Madrid squad entered self-isolation following confirmation that one of the club’s basketball players – with whom the football team share training facilities – tested positive for coronavirus.