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UK government gives green light to Premier League and Cheltenham – for now

Crisis meeting in Downing Street over coronavirus ends with sporting bodies told to press ahead with events.

Even Covid-19 can't stop Liverpool's march to the title.
Even Covid-19 can't stop Liverpool's march to the title.
Image: Adam Davy

THE UK GOVERNMENT met the organisers of Britain’s leading sports bodies yesterday, amid fears the coronavirus outbreak will lead to a shutdown of major sporting events.

In the aftermath of the Irish government’s decision to postpone Ireland’s Six Nations match against Italy on Saturday, there was an expectation that other matches and meetings across the British Isles would be hit.

Instead, the top brass from the FA, Premier League, Cheltenham Festival and event organisers met officials from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and were advised that for now, no sporting events should be postponed or cancelled.

This may change as the crisis develops but the British department of health are conscious that hundreds of thousands of people travel through transport hubs such as airports, train stations and bus terminals on a daily basis, yet they are not being asked to close.

Accordingly, plans for the Cheltenham Festival have not been affected. Similarly, Liverpool’s chase for their first Premier League title since 1990 will be uninterrupted.

It had been reported by the Daily Telegraph that a premature end to this season – because of the Covid-19 outbreak – could prevent Liverpool being crowned champions. Yet this possibility is now considered much less likely on the back of yesterday’s Whitehall summit between sporting bigwigs and government officials. 

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Meanwhile, in Scotland, the Scottish Football Association and Scottish Professional Football League issued a joint statement to say that the pre-match custom of players shaking hands has been banned while this crisis is ongoing.

“It was agreed that with immediate effect we would seek to suspend the traditional practice of shaking hands between opponents and match officials prior to and following matches,” the statement read.

“This is keeping with the Scottish government’s circulated guidance on appropriate steps to reduce person-to-person contact and the resultant spread of the infection, and will remain in effect until further notice.”

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Garry Doyle

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