Coronavirus: Mikel Arteta tests positive and Australian Grand Prix cancelled
Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta has tested positive for coronavirus and the Australian Grand Prix has been cancelled.
They are among the latest dramatic developments as the Covid-19 pandemic causes ever-greater problems in the sporting world.
Arsenal confirmed in Thursday evening their Spanish head coach had contracted the virus and the entire Gunners first-team squad would be placed into self-isolation. Brighton confirmed soon afterwards this weekend’s fixture against Arsenal at the Amex Stadium had been postponed.
It was only moments earlier that the Premier League, acting on Government advice, had said that all this weekend’s fixtures would be played as scheduled and without being forced behind closed doors. It was later confirmed an emergency meeting would be held on Friday morning to discuss the rapidly-changing situation.
Arsenal managing director Vinai Venkatesham said: “Our thoughts are with Mikel, who is disappointed but in good spirits.
“We are in active dialogue with all the relevant people to manage this situation appropriately, and we look forward to getting back to training and playing as soon as medical advice allows.”
The Australian Grand Prix, which was due to take place in Melbourne on Sunday, was called off after a member of the McLaren team tested positive. The team 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.”
A number of other high-profile sporting events around the world have also fallen victim but widescale cancellations are not yet occurring in the United Kingdom.
On Thursday Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the country is 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.
Mr Johnson said: “We are considering banning major public events like sporting fixtures.
“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.
European football’s governing body, UEFA, will give major consideration to delaying this summer’s Euro 2020 tournament until next year. UEFA has called a meeting of its 55 member associations next week to discuss options for all its competitions and all options are on the table.
Already next week’s Manchester City v Real Madrid and Juventus v Lyon Champions League matches have been postponed. City have confirmed one of their first-team players is self-isolating while the whole Real squad have been quarantined as a precautionary measure after a member of the club’s basketball team tested positive. Leicester City have also confirmed three of their players are in self-isolation on medical advice.
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.
The Danish football federation has said it expects its country’s friendly against England at Wembley on March 31 also to go.
In Ireland, all horse racing will take place behind closed doors until March 29.
A number of Scottish sporting events are set to be postponed or played behind closed doors. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she would recommend the cancellation of gatherings of more than 500 people from Monday.
That would mean Sunday’s Old Firm clash between Rangers and Celtic in the Ladbrokes Premiership fixtures could go ahead as planned.
The Guinness PRO14 – which features Scottish, Welsh, Irish, Italian and South African clubs – has also been suspended for an unspecified period of time.
In the United States, Major League Soccer, Major League Baseball, the NBA and NHL have all paused their programmes. Basketball’s world governing body FIBA is suspending all its competitions from Friday while EuroLeague and NCAA basketball are also stopped.
Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert has apologised for his behaviour after learning he has tested positive for the virus. Gobert had touched reporters’ equipment as he joked that he was not scared to catch Covid-19.
Gobert wrote: “The first and most important thing is I would like to publicly apologise to the people I may have endangered. At the time, I had no idea I was even infected. I was careless and make no excuse.”
In tennis the ATP and WTA Tours have both suspended all their professional tournaments until mid-April. In golf, the Players Championship will be played without spectators from Friday and the ANA Inspiration, the first major of the year, is among five women’s tournaments to be cancelled.
The Great Britain men’s and women’s hockey teams will not be travelling to South Africa for a warm-weather training camp to prepare for the Olympics next week.
The International Olympic Committee, however, said it remains “fully committed” to holding the Tokyo 2020 Games on schedule, starting on July 24.
Other positive tests for coronavirus include former Southampton forward Manolo Gabbiadini and Colombian cyclist Fernando Gaviria.