Craig Salmon’s Soapbox: Steps MUST be taken in sport to deal with coronavirus crisis

Pep Guardiola would like to see the football season suspended or games postponed rather than fixtures going ahead without any fans in the stadium.

By Craig Salmon
Wednesday, 11th March 2020, 5:00 pm

The Manchester City manager was responding to questions about the outbreak of coronavirus and its subsequent impact, not just on football and sport, but life in general.

As arguably Man’s biggest recreational activity the world over, sport poses one of the greatest risks to human health.

What other activity brings so many people together in such a confined space on a regular basis?

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Valencia’s Geoffrey Kondogbia (right) with Atalanta’s Josip Ilicic during Tuesday night’s Champions League tie played in an empty stadium because of the coronavirus outbreak

Such is the ease with which coronavirus seems to spread then any stadium packed full of supporters could – and will – provide a platform for the disease to multiply.

I don’t think at any point in my lifetime have I experienced anything like the past few weeks. I am old enough to remember the Cold War, I’ve lived through some of the most heinous of terrorist atrocities and witnessed some terrible acts of nature.

But the outbreak of coronavirus – which has killed many thousands of people in the world – threatens to destabilise western civilisation like I have never seen before.

Italy – just a few thousand miles away from the UK – has seen the virus really take hold with thousands of people becoming infected and many dying as a result.

The Italian prime minister has demanded a lockdown of the nation and Serie A – one of the greatest football leagues in the world – has been ordered to play its fixtures behind closed doors for the foreseeable future.

I don’t think I have witnessed anything quite as bizarre as seeing Cristiano Ronaldo and his Juventus team-mates playing Inter Milan in front of rows and rows of empty seats.

And we saw last night the first postponement of an English game when City’s game against Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium was called off as a precautionary 
measure.

Several of the Gunners players came into contact with Olympiakos owner Evangelos Marinakis, who has contracted coronavirus, when the two clubs met each other in the Europa League.

I feel it is only a matter of time before the disease will have a major impact on football in this country and other sporting events.

Despite the words of the great late Liverpool manager Bill Shankly, football is not more serious than life and death, and even though we are entering unprecedented times, the health of the people must become paramount over everything else.

If playing games behind closed doors or suspending the season is the only way forward then so be it.

The most important thing is to control the disease so that it is no longer a threat to life.

And once that is done then we can deal with the consequences of the disruption it has caused to the sporting calendar.