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Coronavirus ‘likely’ to force Premier League matches behind closed doors – NewsASAP
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Coronavirus ‘likely’ to force Premier League matches behind closed doors

While no decision on crowds has been made yet, the top-flight authorities have moved to dispense with pre-match handshakes

The coronavirus outbreak is likely to force Premier League clubs to play fixtures without the presence of fans, according to Everton chief financial officer Sasha Ryazantsev. 

More than 100 cases have now been confirmed in the United Kingdom, with the virus claiming its first fatal victim on Thursday. 

Other nations have moved to restrict sporting activities in a bid to stem the spread, with Italy prominent among them. 

Several Serie A matches, including the Derby d’Italia between Inter and Juventus, have been postponed due to the disease, while the league has since announced all games will be played behind closed doors until at least April

While no similar measure has yet been taken in the Premier League, Ryazantsev would not be surprised to see authorities act in a similar manner.

“It would be a forced decision rather than one we would proactively engage in,” Ryazantsev told the FT Business of Football Summit in London.

“But the whole situation goes far beyond the world of sport. Nobody wants to play behind closed doors and I don’t think it’s inevitable that it will happen.

“But we feel it is quite likely it may happen in the coming weeks.”

One tradition that has been dispensed with due to coronavirus is the handshake prior to kick-off. 

A Premier League statement released on Thursday explained that, while players, staff and match officials would continue to walk out together before matches, there would be no physical contact. 

“For health reasons there will be no shaking of hands between players ahead of Premier League matches,” the governing body affirmed.

“The Premier League fair-play handshake will not take place between players and match officials from this weekend until further notice based on medical advice.

“Coronavirus is spread via droplets from the nose and mouth and can be transmitted on to the hands and passed on via a handshake.

“Clubs and match officials will still perform the rest of the traditional walk-out protocol ahead of each fixture.

“On entering the field of play, the two teams will continue to line up, accompanied by the Premier League music, then players from the home team will walk past their opposition without shaking their hands.”

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