First Premier League game is called off

The Premier League have postponed Wednesday’s match between Manchester City and Arsenal after Nottingham Forest and Olympiacos owner Evangelos Marinakis tested positive for coronavirus two weeks after watching his Greek team at the Emirates Stadium.

The 52-year-old, who spends his time between Nottingham and Greece, was at Arsenal’s stadium to watch his team play in their victorious Europa League last-32 tie on February 27.

But Marinakis penned a statement on Instagram on Tuesday confirming that he has contracted the coronavirus, just 12 days after attending the match in north London.

A video posted by Marinakis on February 28 also shows the Greek owner celebrating in stands before receiving a big hug at the Emirates during Olympiacos’ win over the Gunners.

Later on in the same video, it cuts to the away dressing room where Marinakis celebrates with his Olympiacos players just moments after they knocked Arsenal out of the Europa League.

Arsenal revealed in a statement they have ‘identified that a number of players met the Olympiacos owner immediately following the game’ and have vowed to ‘strictly follow Government guidelines’.

That means those who were in close contract with Marinakis should self-isolate but they will be able to return to training on Friday, two weeks after they had contact with Marinakis. Arsenal have stated their players are ‘unavailable’ for Wednesday night’s match, which is now off.

Arsenal’s statement added: ‘The players will remain at their homes until the 14-day period expires. Four Arsenal staff, who were sitting close to Mr Marinakis during the match will also remain at home until the 14 days are complete.

‘We fully understand how disappointing this is for our supporters, in particular those who were travelling to Manchester for tonight’s match. Tickets will be valid for the match when it’s rearranged.

‘As a further precautionary measure, whilst we do not believe there was any close contact with any other Arsenal guests or staff in the directors box restaurant, we are contacting them to advise they should follow the relevant advice if there has been any such contact.

‘Everyone at Arsenal Football Club wishes Mr Marinakis a swift recovery and we look forward to the players and staff returning to work on Friday in preparation for our match at Brighton.’

Writing on Instagram, Marinakis said in his statement on Tuesday: ‘The recent virus has “visited” me and I felt obliged to let the public know.

‘I feel good as I take all the necessary measures and I discipline to the doctors’ instructions. I strongly advice (sic) all my fellow citizens to do the same.

‘I wish all a quick recovery.’

The entire Olympiacos squad and backroom staff were sent to hospital for coronavirus tests on Tuesday in light of the Marinakis news ahead of their Europa League clash with Wolves.

On Wednesday morning, Brighton confirmed that their match with Arsenal would be going ahead on Saturday.

A statement read on the Seagulls’ official website: ‘Arsenal’s match at Manchester City, due to take place at the Etihad Stadium tonight, has been postponed after a number of Gunners players have self isolated as a precaution with regard to the coronavirus.

‘The risk is considered extremely low and Saturday’s match remains scheduled to go ahead with the self-isolation period for those players ending tomorrow, as we continue to follow government and medical advice with regard to the coronavirus.’

Wolves’ appeal to have Thursday’s last-16 first leg called off was rejected by UEFA and the game will go ahead behind closed doors as the spread of coronavirus continues to affect sporting events.

It comes after the match between City and Arsenal had already been rescheduled because of the former’s participation in the Carabao Cup final.

A Premier League statement read: ‘Tonight’s (Wednesday) game between Manchester City and Arsenal has been postponed as a precautionary measure following the announcement that Evangelos Marinakis has contracted COVID-19.

‘Thirteen days ago, Olympiakos played at the Emirates Stadium in the Europa League and Mr Marinakis, the Greek club’s owner, met with several Arsenal squad members and staff.

‘Following medical advice, Arsenal FC and Manchester City FC consider it is necessary to postpone their fixture due to be played this evening to give time to fully assess the situation.

‘The Premier League has therefore agreed that tonight’s game will be rearranged.

‘We understand this will cause inconvenience and cost to fans planning to attend the game but Arsenal, Manchester City and the Premier League have agreed that the short notice of Mr Marinakis’ infection means there is no alternative but to take the time to complete a proper assessment of risk.

‘All necessary measures are being taken and the Premier League currently has no plans to postpone any other matches.’

It comes after City boss Pep Guardiola said he would rather matches were suspended than played behind closed doors in response to coronavirus.

‘If it’s a short time, one game, then fine,’ said Guardiola. ‘But, if it’s longer, it must be suspended.

‘I would not love to play matches in the Premier League, the Champions League or the cups without the people. We play for the people. If they can’t be there, it makes no sense.

‘It’s like an actor going to the theatre when nobody is there. Who are you acting for that night? There is no reason to play without the people. Football is for the people. But we are going to follow the instructions of the Government.’

Chelsea’s Champions League fixture with Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena on March 18 will be played behind closed doors, and all ticket-holders have been given a full refund. The Bavarian government has decided to ban events with more than 1,000 visitors until the end of the Easter holidays.

Manchester United also said they would refund fans who had bought tickets for their Europa League match against LASK in Austria, which will be played with no fans in attendance.

The Italian football federation said on Tuesday the Serie A season may not finish because of the outbreak of the virus in the country.

Ligue 1 games are set to be played in empty stadiums until April 15. Clubs also have the option of playing games with just 1,000 fans.

LaLiga has also banned supporters in stadiums after guidance from Spain’s health ministry and sports council. Barcelona’s Champions League tie with Napoli will also be played in an empty ground.

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