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English Premier League season ‘extended indefinitely’ as players train in self-isolation

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By Callum Keown


Getty Images
Arsenal’s manager, Mikel Arteta, tested positive for coronavirus.

The English Premier League has been suspended until at least the end of April as the coronavirus spreads across the U.K. and players train at home in self-isolation.

The league was first postponed last week until April 3, but the suspension was extended on Thursday as the virus continues to spread.

The Football Association has agreed to extend the season “indefinitely,” and the country’s football leagues issued a joint statement committing to finish the 2019–20 season “as soon as it is safe and possible to do so.” It comes despite calls for the season to be declared null and void, most notably from Karren Brady, vice chairman of the Premier League club West Ham, whose side sits just above relegation. Such a move would mean Liverpool’s 30-year wait to win the league would continue, despite its 25-point lead.

The European Championships, due to take place in June, have been moved to 2021, allowing time for domestic leagues to be completed later this year.

Players across the league have been training in self-isolation at home — and finding other ways to keep busy — while some clubs have returned to training with no contact.

The league was initially suspended on March 13 after Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea player Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive for the coronavirus.

Following Arteta’s diagnosis, the entire Arsenal first-team squad and coaching staff went into self-isolation and the Premier League called an emergency meeting. The league was then suspended until at least April 3 along with the English Football League and international fixtures.

Hudson-Odoi was the first Premier League player to test positive for the virus, and the Chelsea squad also went into full isolation. Everton also said its players and coaches have been put in isolation after a player reported symptoms, and Bournemouth players are also self-isolating. Betting stocks have been over the prospect of a delay or cancellation to the season. Ladbrokes owner GVC /zigman2/quotes/207493593/delayed UK:GVC -0.75% has slumped 63% so far this year, while William Hill /zigman2/quotes/201135907/delayed UK:WMH +7.23% has dropped 80.5%.

Read: With sporting events under threat, the worst is yet to come for Adidas and Puma

Italy’s Serie A has already been suspended play until at least April 3 following a government decree, while Spain’s La Liga has been postponed for two weeks after Real Madrid players were ordered into quarantine. Major League Soccer in the U.S. has pushed back to May 10 its targeted season-resumption date, while the National Basketball Association season has also been halted. Golf’s Masters tournament in Augusta, Ga., has also been suspended. The Kentucky Derby was moved to September from May.

The top English soccer league had been one of the few sporting competitions in Europe unaffected by the coronavirus pandemic.

That changed on Friday as the virus continued to spread through the English game. Two entire teams are now in self-isolation for a two-week period, and Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers said three of his players have shown possible symptoms.

Arsenal said it was working to trace any other people who have come into close contact with Arteta in recent days.

Raul Sanllehi, head of football at the club, said: “Mikel and the full first-team squad, players and staff, will be fully supported, and we look forward to getting back to training and playing as soon as medical advice allows. Obviously Mikel’s full recovery is the priority now for us all.”

Arsenal’s game with Manchester City — due to take place earlier this week — was postponed after Olympiacos owner Evangelos Marinakis tested positive for the virus. The Greek team had played at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium less than two weeks before. However, Arteta is not believed to have had any contact with Marinakis.

/zigman2/quotes/207493593/delayed
UK : U.K.: London
686.00 p
-5.20 -0.75%
Volume: 1.64M
Aug. 4, 2020 4:35p
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2.57%
Market Cap
£4.03 billion
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UK : U.K.: London
117.15 p
+7.90 +7.23%
Volume: 5.64M
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P/E Ratio
N/A
Dividend Yield
8.88%
Market Cap
£1.15 billion
Rev. per Employee
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Callum Keown is a Barron's Group reporter for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. He writes for MarketWatch, Barron’s, Penta and Financial News.

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