FOOTBALL is in crisis as high-profile coronavirus cases swept across the sport.
In a statement after an emergency Cobra meeting Prime Minister Boris Johnson has revealed sporting events could be banned – as Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta reveals he tested POSITIVE for coronavirus.
⚠️ Read our Coronavirus in Sport live blog for the latest news, updates and cancellations
Less than an hour before Arteta's announcement, Premier League and Football League bosses said they would GO AHEAD with fixtures, despite the number of new cases in football.
But then in a dramatic U-turn in light of Arteta's statement, football bosses said an emergency meeting would be held on Friday morning.
It read: "In light of Arsenal’s announcement tonight confirming that their first team coach Mikel Arteta has tested positive for COVID-19, the Premier League will convene an emergency club meeting tomorrow morning regarding future fixtures."
And after the massive news, Brighton and Hove Albion announced that their game with the Gunners on Saturday would be called OFF.
In the early hours of Friday morning there was yet another twist, as Chelsea announced teenage star Callum Hudson-Odoi had also tested positive for coronavirus.
The 19-year-old became the first Premier League player to return a positive test.
Dozens of football and sports leagues across Europe and the world announced they would suspend fixtures, with many already playing behind closed doors.
Man City's Champions League game with Real Madrid has been postponed after the Spanish side were quarantined, while dozens more games across Europe are being played without fans.
LaLiga, Ligue 1, Eredivisie, the Primeira Liga, MLS and the Turkish Super Lig have all now been SUSPENDED – as well as several other major sports leagues in Europe and the US.
Euro 2020 is also on the brink of being delayed a year with Euro bigwigs to meet in a crisis summit next week, with this season's Champions League and Europa League also to be discussed.
On a dramatic Thursday in football:
- Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta tests positive for coronavirus
- In the early hours of Friday morning, Chelsea announce Callum Hudson-Odoi is the first player to test positive
- Premier League chiefs say all fixtures will go ahead – before U-turn
- An emergency meeting will now take place on Friday morning to decide whether games are on or off
- Brighton later announce their game with Arsenal on Saturday is OFF
- EFL chiefs say lower divisions also set to be played
- Leagues across Europe follow Serie A's lead and suspend all games until further notice
- Brendan Rodgers confirms three Leicester City players are showing symptoms
- Euro 2020 on the brink with crisis talks to take place next week
- Champions League and Europa League also under threat
- Prime Minister Boris Johnson says banning all sporting events is under consideration
- Chelsea players told to stay away from the training ground
- Man City's Champions League game with Real Madrid postponed
- Fifa announced eight South American World Cup qualifiers due to take place this month have been hit
But initially, football chiefs in the UK have decided to plough ahead with games this weekend.
An earlier statement from the Premier League read: "Following the latest update from Government issued this afternoon, all Premier League matches will go ahead as scheduled this weekend."
SunSport also revealed how Man City star Benjamin Mendy has been tested after a close family member fell ill at his home.
In an announcement on the Arsenal website at around 10.30pm, Arteta said: "This is really disappointing but I took the test after feeling poorly. I will be at work as soon as I’m allowed."
Earlier on Thursday, Chelsea axed training after a member of staff showed signs of the deadly virus and Brendan Rodgers confirmed THREE of his Leicester City players had symptoms.
At least three other players were also suspected of having Covid-19.
Speaking at an emergency Cobra meeting on Thursday, Prime Minister Johnson said: "We are considering the question of banning major public events such as sporting fixtures.
“The scientific advice is that this will have little effect on the spread but there's also the issue of the burden such events can place on public services.”
Earlier, Foxes boss Brendan Rodgers today confirmed three of his team are displaying signs of the deadly disease and have been isolated from the rest of the squad.
In a statement, the club said: "In recent days, all three players presented with extremely mild illness and were advised by Club medical staff, consistent with current government guidance, to stay home."
It added: "Their symptoms were consistent with common seasonal illness and a seven-day period of self-isolation was appropriate as a precaution."
Another unnamed Premier League side are also said to have a trio showing symptoms with the whole squad due to be tested today.
BLUES HAVE THE BLUES
Chelsea have also been hit by the crisis, with players told to stay away from training today after a member of staff complained of coronavirus symptoms.
The Athletic report the situation developed on Wednesday night and a decision was made early Thursday morning to cancel today’s session.
Their Cobham base is being deep cleaned today as a precautionary measure.
Training is scheduled to go ahead as usual on Friday.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE CHOPPED
Meanwhile, Man City's Champions League tie with Real Madrid has been postponed.
The Spanish side were quarantined after their training HQ was put in lockdown after a Real Madrid basketball player tested positive for the deadly bug.
The Round of 16 tie between Juventus and Lyon has also been chopped.
The Italian side are currently quarantined after Daniele Rugani tested positive for the virus.
One of the affected Leicester players first showed symptoms earlier this week and was immediately self-isolated.
But after appearing to improve, he is said to have relapsed since.
Rodgers said: "We've had a few players that have shown symptoms and signs (of coronavirus).
"We’ve followed procedures and (as a precaution) they have been kept away from the squad."
Asked about the effect of the outbreak on Premier League football, the Foxes boss added: "Of course, from a football perspective, it would be a shame, but the public’s health is the most important aspect in all of this.
"Working in football, it’s about having that agility to move with what’s happening in football.
"We’re guided by football and federations. We have to press on with our work and prepare as normal.
"The game is all about the players and the fans.
"If you have one of those not there, it’s obviously not the same."
Leicester's game at Watford on Saturday lunch time will certainly be called off if the results come back positive.
But the news puts even greater pressure on English football authorities to suspend all matches in line with their European counterparts.
It seems almost inevitable games will be cancelled or postponed once a player case is confirmed but Premier League chiefs are yet to act.
Some Premier League clubs are said to be hopeful the government intervenes today so the League's hand is forced.
The next step in combating the spread of the bug is to play games behind closed doors.
But there is a growing belief among Prem teams that English football is falling behind the rest of Europe in halting the outbreak.
Players are also said to be concerned by the rapid spread with many unwilling to play on in current conditions.
Last night, it was confirmed Juventus star Daniele Rugani has got the disease and has been quarantined.
The Serie A giants are based in one of the worst-affected regions of Italy which is now on total lockdown due to the spread of the killer bug.
And Rugani picked up the virus after Juve were exposed to an infected Serie C team.
After Spanish giants Real Madrid announced their squad was entering self isolation, LaLiga responded by suspending the competition for the next two matchdays.
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