“This is more than football” – Premier League bosses back behind-closed-doors games

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Premier League managers appear to be coming to terms with the prospect of finishing the season behind closed doors as coronavirus measures are discussed this week.

The outbreak of coronavirus has now reached pandemic levels, and this has prompted the suspension of a number of leagues across football and other sports.

LaLiga, Serie A and MLS are among those to have suspended activity, while games will be played behind closed doors in the Bundesliga and Ligue 1, which has also been the case on a game-by-game basis elsewhere.

UEFA are currently reviewing whether to suspend the Champions League and Europa League, and announced on Thursday that Man City vs. Real Madrid and Juventus vs. Lyon had both been postponed.

Real Madrid and Juventus players are currently in self-isolation, with Juve defender Daniele Rugani having tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday, as further cases emerge by the hour.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 1, 2020: Empty red seats pictured before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Southampton FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The likelihood is that the Premier League will soon go behind closed doors, though there is also the threat that games could be postponed.

A group of Arsenal players are in quarantine, which led to their rescheduled clash with Man City being postponed, but their meeting with Brighton on Saturday is expected to go ahead.

Speaking ahead of that tie, Brighton manager Graham Potter said “there’s no meaning to having football games, Premier League, without supporters,” but “the bigger picture is we’re in the middle of a pandemic.”

“That’s in a normal situation, and we’re not in that situation now,” he continued.

Brendan Rodgers, Leicester ((Mike Egerton/PA))

Meanwhile, Brendan Rodgers revealed that three Leicester players are in self-isolation after showing “symptoms and signs,” and insisted “this is more than football.”

“This is players and their families and children, so any risks that are there for their health and everyone else’s, we have to mitigate against that,” Rodgers said.

The obvious solution, if games are to go ahead, would be to restrict access in a ‘behind closed doors’ setup, and giving his view on Thursday, Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl backed this approach.

“I think it’s for sure not the same sport if you want, when you play like that it feels more like a training game,” he said.

“But if we can manage to end the league with playing behind closed doors then it would help I think for the competition, it’s important.”

He added: “All we have to do in the moment is to do everything possible to make sure that the virus is not spreading so quickly. This is the goal we all have.

“And if it helps to play without supporters or anything else we have to do this and deal with it.”

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - Thursday, August 16, 2018: Burnley's manager Sean Dyche during the UEFA Europa League Third Qualifying Round 2nd Leg match between Burnley FC and ?stanbul Ba?ak?ehir at Turf Moor. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Sean Dyche took a sensible angle ahead of Burnley‘s trip to Man City, echoing Rodgers’ “more than football” stance as he weighed up the priorities of himself and his players.

“I know where football is in my life, let alone the grand scheme of life,” he explained.

“If this is deemed a worldwide situation then football, all of a sudden, disappears slightly into the distance.

“But currently we can’t control it and we certainly control the decisions that are made, we just have to be as professional as we can during this period and go with whatever is decided.

“It’s not ideal, of course, but we know that health is more important than anything.”

His conclusion is fitting, as those involved will see either suspension or behind-closed-doors games as “not ideal,” but the consensus seems that the latter would be preferred.

More developments are expected in the near future, with the possibility of the European Championship being delayed until 2021 allowing for the Premier League to postpone fixtures as the season stretches into the summer.

To mark the end of the 30-year wait for a league title, the ‘Liverpool Mishmash’ poster is available to order exclusively on This Is Anfield — the history of the Reds in one image!

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