Despite government statements earlier in the day that suggested there were no plans to move football games behind closed doors in England as has happened elsewhere in Europe as nations struggle to contain the coronavirus, it appears that will in fact happen.
According to The Times, the announcement could be made on Thursday—and in any case is likely before the weekend’s round of games as part of a plan to contain the virus that will go into effect when confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United Kingdom pass 500.
Currently, there are 460 confirmed cases. The proposed move would be taken in part to ensure that the season can continue and to avoid a suspension as has happened in Italy, where Juventus centre half Daniele Rugani today tested positive for the virus.
In addition to moving Premier League matches behind closed doors, lower league matches will similarly be played without fans in attendance, and match and season ticket holders of those clubs will be allowed to stream those otherwise untelevised games.
Meanwhile, for the Premier League, any games scheduled for a 3PM kickoff on a Saturday would be moved outside of the traditional blackout window and broadcasters would be allowed to air multiple matches at other times on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday.
Further, pubs will be barred from televising football in an effort to avoid crowds gathering to watch. As of now, the plan is for only players, coaches, team officials, broadcasters, and journalists to be allowed to enter the stadiums when matches are occurring.
Elsewhere, the NBA has suspended their season due to coronavirus fears after a player tested positive, and outside the sporting world Italy has closed all non-essential businesses and the United States has moved to suspend travel from Europe for 30 days.