EFL: No immediate plans to delay games after Forest owner contracts coronavirus

Evangelos Marinakis said he was now following the advice of doctors regarding self-isolation.

By Press Association Published: 10 March 2020 - 8.37pm

UK

Football

World

The English Football League has no immediate plans to postpone any fixtures despite Nottingham Forest’s majority owner Evangelos Marinakis contracting coronavirus.

The Greek businessman – also owner of Olympiacos, who are due to play Wolves behind closed doors in the Europa League on Thursday – attended Friday night’s Sky Bet Championship match against Millwall, where he reportedly met with the first-team squad.

He revealed on Instagram on Tuesday morning that he was now following the advice of doctors regarding self-isolation.

Marinakis said: “The recent virus has ‘visited’ me and I felt obliged to let the public know.”

A club statement said he was diagnosed after first showing symptoms on his return to Greece on Monday afternoon, adding he did not show any symptoms while he was in Nottingham last week.

The EFL said it was working closely with Forest to see if any steps needed to be taken following the news, but its statement confirmed matches across the three divisions would continue as normal for the time being.

An EFL spokesman said: “The League is in dialogue to fully ascertain the set of circumstances that existed when Mr Marinakis visited the club last week and in conjunction with the club will make a determination on what measures are to be taken – if any – when full details are known.

“The Government guidance remains unchanged on the position of EFL matches taking place as scheduled”
- EFL statement

“We understand the club is taking the appropriate steps to mitigate risk in line with relevant guidance provided by the health authorities. The Government guidance remains unchanged on the position of EFL matches taking place as scheduled.”

Marinakis had also been in England just under two weeks ago to see Olympiacos shock Arsenal by knocking them out of the Europa League at the Emirates Stadium, with the Gunners insisting there has been no suggestion anyone at the club has fallen ill as a result.

“Our home match with Olympiacos in the Europa League was played on Thursday 27th February and none of our staff who came into contact with him on that matchday have reported any symptoms since,” they said in a statement released to the PA news agency.

Olympiacos beat Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium two weeks ago to set up their Europa League tie with Wolves.
Olympiacos beat Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium two weeks ago to set up their Europa League tie with Wolves. (John Walton/PA)

“We continue to follow strict protocols with regard to coronavirus. We’re following the Government health guidelines and have additional procedures in place to protect our players and staff. This has included regular deep cleaning of areas used by players at Emirates Stadium and our training centre.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Greek Super League leaders were still planning on hosting Wolves, but the Premier League club have asked UEFA to postpone the fixture, PA understands.

A decision on the last-16 tie is expected in the next 24 hours, with Wolves reluctant to travel to Athens given Marinakis’ diagnosis.

The Greek government has enforced a two-week suspension of spectators attending sporting events due to the outbreak of Covid-19, with the game due to be played behind closed doors.

Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo told Sky Sports: “I don’t agree with playing football behind closed doors. If we have to go there, we will go, but we don’t agree.”

The match is just one of a host of Europa and Champions League ties due to take place without spectators.

Manchester United’s Europa League last-16 first leg at Austrian side LASK on Thursday and the second leg of Chelsea’s Champions League last-16 clash away to Bayern Munich on Wednesday, March 18 will both be played behind closed doors.

So too will the second leg of Rangers’ Europa League tie at Bayer Leverkusen on Thursday, March 19.

Linfield, the reigning champions of Northern Ireland, confirmed on Tuesday evening that a member of their squad had tested positive for coronavirus.

“This club is taking advice from the relevant authorities and will provide an update when we have further details,” the Danske Bank Premiership leaders announced on their website.

The Irish FA added in a statement: “Having been made aware that an individual, who recently used some of the facilities at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park, has subsequently tested positive for Covid-19, the Irish FA has taken the decision to conduct a deep clean of the premises with immediate effect as a precautionary measure.

“We have instructed staff members to work from home for the next 48 hours and will continue to update them, as well as our partners based at the stadium, regularly.”

On the international front, the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2020 play-off semi-final against Slovakia in Bratislava on March 26 will be played behind closed doors.

“We did not receive a single request from national associations to postpone the tournament (Euro 2020)”
- UEFA spokesperson

The Bosnia and Herzegovina federation has confirmed ticket sales for this month’s Euro 2020 play-off match with Northern Ireland, which were set to go on sale on Wednesday, have been suspended.

England’s friendly against Italy at Wembley on March 27, though, is still set to go ahead as normal, with the Football Association continuing to follow Government advice. However, Italy’s match against Germany in Nuremberg four days later will be played behind closed doors, the German FA has confirmed.

France will also play this month’s friendlies at home to Ukraine and Finland behind closed doors.

Despite the disruption being caused to football across Europe, UEFA said it had received no requests to postpone Euro 2020, which gets under way in Rome on June 12.

A UEFA spokesperson said: “We did not receive a single request from national associations to postpone the tournament.”

At least the next two rounds of Spanish LaLiga matches will be played behind closed doors following updated advice from the Spanish authorities.

Games across the French leagues will be played behind closed doors until April 15, while the 25th round of fixtures in Portugal’s top-two leagues will also take place in front of empty stands.

Italy’s Serie A was one of the first leagues to be suspended following the outbreak and Italian Football Federation president Gabriele Gravina has suggested the title may not be awarded to any team if this season’s fixtures cannot be completed.

“Without any order of priority, a hypothesis could be the non-assignment of the title of champions of Italy and consequent communication to UEFA of the teams qualified for the European cups,” the Italian governing body announced.

Cristiano Ronaldo's Juventus are currently top of Serie A.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus are currently top of Serie A. (Martin Rickett/PA)

“Another would be to go by the standings at the moment of suspension; third and last hypothesis, to play only the play-offs for the title of champions of Italy and the play-offs for relegation to Serie B.”

The outbreak of the virus has also hit rugby league’s Super League, with Catalans Dragons’ match at home to Leeds Rhinos on March 14 to be played behind closed doors, although the French club are unhappy at the decision taken by the Rugby Football League.

Catalans chairman Bernard Guasch said in a statement: “We strongly regret this decision which will hugely impact the finances of the club with revenues already anticipated in our annual budget.”