FIFA president Gianni Infantino calls for calm over coronavirus outbreak
FIFA president Gianni Infantino has urged football authorities “not to panic” over the coronavirus outbreak as sport responds to growing concerns.
Addressing UEFA’s member associations at the governing body’s Congress meeting in Amsterdam, Infantino called for both calm and a united approach to the issue.
He said: “Some of you have had to take important decisions in this respect. Every competition organiser has to study it of course and has to take decisions.
“It is important to consider all the information from the authorities, but it’s also important not to panic.
“Those who have to take decisions, like happened in Switzerland, will take decisions and then be able to move forward.
“Someone said to me football can be an antidote to coronavirus. I wouldn’t go that far, but sometimes football is an antidote to many other illnesses like discrimination and racism, and this is a fight we need to fight all together.”
The Swiss government last week banned public events at which more than 1,000 people were expected to be in attendance, with the Swiss Football Association suspending league matches until March 23.
Dominique Blanc, the federation’s president, asked at UEFA Congress whether special dispensation could be given to play matches on Champions League and Europa League dates if necessary and whether financial aid may be available to cover the costs of the cancellations.
Blanc said: “We are in a position that could shake professional football to its foundations.”
UEFA general secretary Theodore Theodoridis said: “We have anticipated this, and yesterday we had a productive meeting with European Leagues regarding situations like this.
“We have established a working group to find the best possible solutions, and apply common sense. Whatever issue there is will be addressed.”
Elsewhere, the Scottish Football Association has confirmed that national team manager Steve Clarke will not travel to the Nations League draw in Amsterdam on Tuesday evening because of the outbreak.
The SFA has decided Clarke, whose side is scheduled to face Israel in a Euro 2020 play-off semi-final at Hampden Park on March 26, would be too difficult to replace and should not be exposed to “unnecessary risk”.
A spokesman said: “On the back of the first response meeting, it was determined by the group that the national coach attending was an unnecessary risk.”
The SFA will instead be represented at the draw by chief executive Ian Maxwell and president Rod Petrie.
Meanwhile, a wheelchair rugby test event ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games has been cancelled as a result of the spread of the illness.
The Tokyo 2020 organising committee announced on Tuesday that the Japan Para Wheelchair Rugby Championships, which had been due to take place between March 12 and 15, had been called off by the Japan Para Sports Association.
The International Olympic Committee’s executive board is meeting in Lausanne this week with coronavirus sure to be on the agenda amid fears it could impact this summer’s Games.
Motorsport has also been hit with three members of the Renault Sport Academy – F2 driver Christian Lundgaard, Caio Collet and 16-year-old Hadrien David – continuing winter training at their hotel in Tenerife after they and academy director Mia Sharizman were held in quarantine following a positive coronavirus diagnosis for another guest.
A statement on the Renault F1 Team’s official Twitter account said: “Local health authorities have conducted checks and none are demonstrating any sign of the virus.
“Everyone is fit and continuing training within the hotel facilities. They would like to express their gratitude to the hotel for its support to make them feel as comfortable as possible. Stay motivated guys and see you soon.”
Organisers of the London Marathon have confirmed they are monitoring the situation ahead of next month’s race.
Event director Hugh Brasher said: “We are monitoring closely the developments relating to the spread of coronavirus and noting the updates and advice given by the UK Government, the World Health Organisation and other UK public bodies.
“With just under eight weeks to go before the event on Sunday 26 April, we will continue to monitor the situation.”