The Premier League will hold an emergency meeting on Friday, with the Arsenal and Chelsea first-team squads in self-isolation after positive coronavirus tests for Gunners manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi.
This weekend’s programme is now in jeopardy after Arsenal confirmed Arteta had contracted Covid-19 before Chelsea reported Hudson-Odoi’s case hours later.
The Gunners’ trip to Brighton on Saturday was immediately postponed and further games appear certain to follow, while in golf, the US PGA on Thursday called off the Players Championship at Sawgrass after the first round, as well as its scheduled tournaments for the next three weeks.
The Premier League could follow the NBA in suspending its season, with US basketball officials clarifying on Thursday the league will be halted for at least 30 days.
Leicester (three) and Manchester City (one) also have players in self-isolation and the Premier League, who earlier on Thursday said games would go ahead as planned, said it would “convene an emergency club meeting regarding fixtures”.
The English Football League announced it too would be holding a meeting on Friday morning, with an EFL spokesman saying: “The EFL board will meet this morning to make a decision on this weekend’s fixtures and beyond.”
In a video message on his official Twitter feed, Hudson-Odoi said he had the virus for “the last couple of days” and recovered, and was “self-isolating myself from everybody for the week”.
Meanwhile, Liverpool cancelled their scheduled press conference ahead of Monday’s clash with Everton.
Leeds Rhinos on Friday announced they were not travelling to Spain for Saturday’s match against Catalans Dragons on medical grounds, with a member of their squad self-isolating after showing symptoms of possible coronavirus.
A number of high-profile sporting events around the world have already been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic with Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix becoming a casualty on Thursday night.
The race, which was due to take place in Melbourne on Sunday, was called off after a member of the McLaren team tested positive.
McLaren had already decided to withdraw but, following a meeting of race organisers and team bosses, the race was cancelled.
A statement from the sport’s governing body, the FIA, read: “Those discussions concluded with a majority view of the teams that the race should not go ahead. The FIA and Formula 1, with the full support of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation have therefore taken the decision that all Formula 1 activity for the Australian Grand Prix is cancelled.”
F1 bosses have discussed suspending the start of the new season until June.
Although next weekend’s behind-closed-doors race in Bahrain is yet to be formally called off, it is understood that the view of the sport’s travelling circus is to delay the campaign until the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, pencilled in for June 7, at the earliest.
As it stands, the season is due to end in Abu Dhabi on November 29, but the PA news agency now understands that the race could be pushed back until December in a rejigged calendar. There may be no room for the races in Monaco, Bahrain and Spain, and there are no plans for the round in Melbourne to be rescheduled.
“The scale of this is massive,” said F1 motorsport boss Ross Brawn. “We want to try and build the Formula One season back up, but we have to be realistic when that can start again.”
It is understood the teams voted 7-3 in favour of Sunday’s race being cancelled, with Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes team changing their mind after originally calling for it to go ahead.
Hamilton said on Instagram: “The reality is, this is really serious with people dying every day. Lots of people [are] ill and even if they are not ill, many people [are] being affected financially and emotionally. This decision will save lives.”
A number of other high-profile sporting events around the world have also fallen victim.
However, widespread cancellations are not yet occurring in the UK.
On Thursday prime minister Boris Johnson said the country was now moving into the next stage of its planning to combat the pandemic – the delay phase. However, he said that does not yet include cancelling sports events.
“We are considering banning major public events like sporting fixtures,” he said.
“The scientific advice is this has little effect on the spread – but it does place a burden on other public services.”
Elsewhere it has been a different story with some Champions League games, ATP tennis events and most major American sport stopped.
UEFA will also give major consideration to delaying this summer’s Euro 2020 tournament until next year. European football’s governing body has called a meeting of its 55 member associations next week to discuss the matter.
Already next week’s Manchester City v Real Madrid and Juventus v Lyon Champions League matches have been postponed. The entire Real squad is in self-isolation, while a Juventus player has tested positive.
The Football Association of Ireland has announced all football activity under its jurisdiction has been suspended until March 29 and Wales’ friendly against the United States on March 30 is off.
All Irish horse racing will take place behind closed doors until March 29 and, in Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she would recommend the cancellation of gatherings of more than 500 people.
In rugby union, the Guinness PRO14, which features Scottish, Welsh, Irish, Italian and South African clubs, has also been suspended.
In tennis the ATP Tour has announced a six-week suspension of activity. Aside from the men’s Players Championship abandonment the ANA Inspiration – the first women’s major of the year – is among five LPGA tournaments cancelled.
Major League Soccer, Major League Baseball, the NBA and NHL have all been paused in the United States. Other FIBA, NCAA and EuroLeague basketball games are also affected.
Other positive tests for coronavirus include former Southampton forward Manolo Gabbiadini and Colombian cyclist Fernando Gaviria.