Serie A, all sport in Italy expected to be halted due to coronavirus


Gab Marcotti explains Serie A’s coronavirus precautions after the Italian government increased restrictions.

All sports in Italy were expected to be halted on Monday because of the coronavirus outbreak, including games in Serie A and preparatory events for the Tokyo Olympics.

The Italian Olympic Committee, which oversees all sporting events in the country, said in a statement that the suspension will last until April 3 and that it would request a government decree to impose its decision.

Events around the world have been affected by the spreading virus, including Champions League matches and Japan’s professional baseball season. Late Sunday, one of the biggest tennis tournaments in the world was postponed.

In Italy, about 16 million people have been put under a widespread lockdown in the northern part of the country.

Italy’s top football division had resumed on Sunday with five games played in empty stadiums. Twelve rounds remain, with eight-time defending champion Juventus holding a one-point lead over Lazio.

Serie A has not been canceled since World War II.

The announcement from the Italian Olympic Committee, which is known as CONI, came shortly before Sassuolo were scheduled to host Brescia in a football match.

CONI said its decision does not include international competition “for clubs or national teams,” since it does not govern those. Juventus, Napoli and Atalanta are each competing in the Champions League, while Inter Milan and Roma are still in the Europa League.

Earlier, the Italian swimming federation said it was withdrawing its teams from international events and canceled an Olympic qualifying meet scheduled for next week in Riccione.

The Tokyo Games are scheduled to begin in 4½ months. More than 300 Italian athletes qualified for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

In France, police said that the Champions League match between Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund at Parc des Princes will be played without fans.

It is the second of the four matches in the competition this week to be played in an empty stadium. Spanish authorities previously recommended restrictions on games involving teams from areas in Italy with high numbers of virus cases and said the Valencia-Atalanta match on Tuesday will take place without fans in attendance.

Leipzig’s match against Tottenham on Tuesday and Liverpool’s home game against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday are expected to be played with fans.

Wednesday’s game in Paris will be the first match with no fans at the Parc des Princes in 10 years. The last time that happened, in March 2010, the decision was made following crowd trouble during a match between PSG and French rival Marseille.

PSG, which lost the first leg 2-1, said it took note of the decision and said the club remains “fully mobilised to organise the match in the best possible conditions.”

In the French league, the match between Lyon and visiting Reims on Friday will also be played without fans.

France has banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people. The country reported 1,126 cases of the virus as of Sunday, up 19% from the day before and the second-largest number of cases in Europe after Italy. So far, 19 people in France have died.

The virus also forced the postponement of the Six Nations rugby match between France and Ireland. French sports minister Roxana Maracineanu said the decision to postpone was taken after discussions with tournament organisers and the French rugby federation.

The game was due to take place on Saturday at the Stade de France. A new date has yet to be announced.

In Germany, it will be up to local authorities to decide whether fans can attend matches this weekend in the top two divisions, the league’s organisers said.

Last weekend’s Bundesliga matches went ahead as planned with fans, though Borussia Monchengladbach refunded tickets for supporters from an area affected by the virus after asking them not to attend the game.

Local authorities in the Swiss city of Basel refused permission for the city’s football team to host Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League on March 19. UEFA has not yet confirmed a venue for the match.

Even the flame-lighting ceremony for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is being affected. Spectators will be kept away from the event in Ancient Olympia on Thursday, the Greek Olympic committee has said. Only 100 accredited guests will be allowed to attend.

Also, World Cup qualifying games in Asia were formally postponed until at least September, FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation said on Monday, but matches could still go ahead on schedule if all relevant parties agree.

Japanese officials earlier postponed the start of the 12-team professional baseball league season. The season was to open on March 20. Japan’s professional league had been playing its preseason games without fans because of the virus.

“I personally believe that we have no choice but to postpone at this stage,” Japanese league commissioner Atsushi Saito said.

The announcement to cancel the tennis tournament in Indian Wells, California, came after many players were already in the desert practicing. Qualifying matches were to begin Monday, with women’s main draw matches starting on Wednesday and the men’s draw beginning on Thursday.

“We’re here and still deciding what’s next,” Rafael Nadal wrote on Twitter. “So sad for all that is happening around the world with this situation. Hopefully soon solutions from the authorities. Stay all well and safe.”

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