The Premier League will be suspended until April 3 because of the coronavirus.
The decision followed an emergency meeting on Friday morning, after announcements that Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta and Chelsea winger and England international Callum Hudson-Odoi had tested positive for the coronavirus.
"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," a Premier League statement said.
"Above all, we wish Mikel Arteta and Callum Hudson-Odoi speedy recoveries, and everyone else affected by COVID-19," said Premier League chief executive Richard Masters, referring to the disease caused by the coronavirus.
"In this unprecedented situation, we are working closely with our clubs, Government, The FA, and EFL and can reassure everyone the health and welfare of players, staff and supporters are our priority."
Arteta tweeted on Friday afternoon to thank people for their support. "Feeling better already," the Arsenal manager said. He welcome the Premier League's decision.
Jürgen Klopp, the manager of league leaders Liverpool, also backed the decision. "If it’s a choice between football and the good of the wider society, it’s no contest. Really, it isn’t," he said in a message published on the club's website.
The Premier League’s announcement came after most major football leagues across Europe were suspended, while in the US major competitions have already shut down. UEFA announced Friday all Champions League and Europa League fixtures were postponed.
In the Premier League, three members of Leicester’s team have been put in a period of precautionary self-isolation, the 2016 league winners said in a statement. On Friday, Everton announced that the entire team was undertaking the same measures after a player reported symptoms consistent with the coronavirus. Manchester City defender Benjamin Mendy was also self-isolating after a family member fell ill.
Less than 24 hours ago all Premier League games with the exception of Arsenal’s fixture against Brighton & Hove Albion were scheduled to go ahead, in line with the most recent government advice that there was little benefit to banning mass gatherings.
But as the coronavirus has spread throughout Europe, one by one its top football divisions have in recent days been suspended or gone behind closed doors.
Serie A — Italy’s top division — was suspended three days ago when the entire country was put in lockdown. The suspension will last until at least April 3. Football matches were already being played behind closed doors when the suspension was announced, initially in northern Italy, the area most hit by the outbreak. The measures were later extended to the whole country.
Two Serie A footballers, Juventus defender Daniele Rugani and Sampdoria striker Manolo Gabbiadini, have tested positive for the coronavirus. Juventus said: "121 people, including football players, staff members, directors, entourage, and Juventus employees are observing a period of voluntary home isolation."
According to Gazzetta dello Sport, Italy’s authoritative sports newspaper, the Italian league is hoping that the end of the season can simply be delayed. But various options are being explored should this not be possible: organising playoffs and play-outs to determine the league winner and relegation spots, not assigning a title at all this season or doing so on the basis of the current standings. This last scenario would see Juventus, who hold a one-point lead over Lazio, “win” the league. Lazio have already beaten Juventus twice this season.
La Liga was suspended for at least two matches after a Real Madrid basketball player, who shares training facilities with the football club, tested positive for the coronavirus.
Both the football and basketball teams were immediately quarantined, a club statement said.
As a result, Real Madrid’s Champions League tie against Manchester City had already been postponed even before UEFA’s announcement. Europa League ties between Sevilla and Roma, and Getafe and Inter Milan had also been postponed due to the measures introduced in Spain and Italy.
The DLF had initially said that this weekend’s games would go ahead as scheduled but behind closed doors, in line with government recommendations that have advised against mass gatherings of more than 1,000 people.
The Bundesliga 2. Division match between Hannover 96 and SG Dynamo Dresden was cancelled after two Hannover 96 players, Timo Hübers and Jannes Horn, tested positive for the coronavirus.
The DFL statement said that the plan was to complete the season by the summer.
The French top division Ligue 1 was suspended “until further notice” on Friday morning in response to measures put in place by President Emmanuel Macron yesterday.
Macron said the spread of the coronavirus was France's worst health crisis in a century and announced that schools and universities would close from next week. The French president also banned meetings of more than 1,000 people.
"We are just at the beginning of this crisis," Macron said.
Football matches in the country were previously scheduled to be held behind closed doors, which had created surreal scenes during the midweek Champions League clash between PSG and Borussia Dortmund as thousands of fans gathered outside the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris.
UEFA has yet to say whether this summer’s European Championships will go ahead as planned. Media reports have suggested that the tournament could be postponed by one year. Bosnia-Herzegovina has asked that its playoff semifinal against Northern Ireland be rescheduled.
Elsewhere in Europe, the Dutch Eredivisie has been suspended until the end of the month, while the top league in Portugal was fully halted until further notice just a few hours after it was announced that matches would be played behind closed doors. Top divisions in Belgium, Austria, Denmark, Romania, and Switzerland have all been suspended. All matches in Poland were suspended until the end of the month it was decided on Friday morning, while the board of the Greek Super League was due to meet on Friday evening. The remainder of the Scottish season was postponed indefinitely.