Coronavirus pandemic compels unprecedented suspension of top-level competitions

British football faces an uncertain future after top-level competitions were suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In an unprecedented peacetime move, the Football Association, the Premier League, the English Football League, FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship all agreed to call a halt to competitive action with immediate effect until early April.

Football in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales was also put on hold, while high-profile sporting events throughout the world have either been cancelled or postponed.

England’s cricket team have cut short their tour of Sri Lanka, while the year’s first golf major, the Masters, has been postponed, following the cancellation of the Players Championship event in Florida this week.

Wales v Scotland became the fourth match of the 2020 Six Nations season to be postponed, and Sunday’s Premiership Rugby Cup final between Sale and Harlequins was also called off after a member of the Quins’ support staff showed flu-like symptoms.

The London and Manchester Marathons were both postponed – the former put back from April 26 to October 4 – while upcoming Formula One races in Bahrain and Vietnam have been cancelled. Those cancellations came on the back of this weekend’s season-opening race in Australia being called off.

Friday’s suspension of football competition followed positive tests for Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta and Chelsea forward Callum Hudson-Odoi, with several other clubs reporting members of their playing and coaching staff were self-isolating as a precaution after experiencing symptoms consistent with Covid-19.

It remains to be seen what the future holds for the Premier League and the EFL, and whether those leagues will actually be completed this season.

In the EFL in particular, the inability to play further matches would have a major financial implication too, with matchday earnings a vital source of revenue.

The outcome of next Tuesday’s meeting of European governing body UEFA may provide the English and Scottish leagues with some wriggle room.

If a decision is taken to postpone Euro 2020 until the summer of 2021, it creates the possibility of domestic competitions being completed in June and even July if necessary. The Premier League clubs are due to hold another meeting next Thursday.

UEFA announced on Friday that all of next week’s Champions League and Europa League ties had been postponed, with competing teams affected by the virus itself and by travel restrictions imposed because of it.

The UEFA meeting on Tuesday will also look at how, if at all, the Champions League and Europa League competitions can be completed.

England’s international friendlies against Italy and Denmark later this month were cancelled, while the Football Association of Wales called off the match against Austria on March 27.

FIFA has recommended that all remaining international matches scheduled for March and April should be postponed indefinitely, and added that its normal rules obliging clubs to release players for such games would not apply should any games take place.

The Scottish Football Association and the Scottish Professional Football League issued a joint statement saying all football in that country was being suspended until further notice.

In Wales and Northern Ireland, the domestic and grassroots season has been put on hold until April 4 at the earliest.

In Italy, where competition has been suspended until April 3 at the earliest, a meeting will take place on March 23 to discuss what to do in the event of the season there being unable to finish.