London (AFP) – The suspension of football matches in England, Scotland and Wales until at least April 3 due to the new coronavirus pandemic was announced on Friday.
There have been 798 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United Kingdom, with ten deaths announced, but health officials fear there could be many more thousands infected.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi are among those to have tested positive for the virus.
Financial ramifications will be felt across the board with the potential for the Premier League to lose out on millions through penalties in television rights clauses if the season cannot be completed.
The situation outside the elite could be even more grave with lower league clubs desperately in need of the gate receipts from matches to be able to meet their bills.
AFP Sport picks out some of the reaction from an unprecedented array of measures:
— Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, whose side’s cruise towards a first Premier League title in 30 years has been put on hold:
“Today, football and football matches really aren’t important at all.
“Of course, we don’t want to play in front of an empty stadium and we don’t want games or competitions suspended, but if doing so helps one individual stay healthy – just one – we do it no questions asked.
“If it’s a choice between football and the good of the wider society, it’s no contest.”
— Liverpool fan group Spirit of Shankly on the prospect of games behind closed doors, if and when the Premier League can recommence:
“In the weeks ahead it is likely difficult decisions will need to made about how this season’s football competitions are to be concluded. As supporters – the most important stakeholder group in the game – we hope to be fully involved in any dialogue and decision making with the football authorities on these matters.”
— Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward:
“While it is disappointing to see the season paused, we recognise there are bigger considerations as part of the need to help slow the spread of coronavirus.”
— Watford manager Nigel Pearson on the British government’s decision not to ban gatherings of large groups of people, including football matches:
“I don’t think we had any great leadership last night, listening to the prime minister. I was totally underwhelmed by the lack of leadership and clear message.”
— Peter Coates, the chairman of Stoke City, fears some clubs finances could run dry:
“I don’t think the financial implications will hit the Premier League hard because their income comes from media and broadcasting, so they have a cushion against this.
“For the rest of football, it’s quite different as they rely on gate receipts and commercial activities, with a very small part coming from the media.
“This will have serious financial implications, with some clubs possibly running out of money.”
— Gary Sweet, Luton Town chief executive, told talkSPORT Radio he wants the Premier League to help out those in the lower leagues:
“It will hit us hard financially but a longer suspension is almost impossible. There is only one way distribution can happen and that’s from top to bottom.”
— Brian Caldwell, Shrewsbury Town chief executive, told the BBC the financial fall-out could be ruinous for some clubs:
“We’ve got five home games left, you are probably looking at £200,000-£250,000 ($250,000-313,000) would be lost by not having the income from not just tickets but bars, hospitality, programming income and everything else that we at this level all rely on.
“It could have a devastating effect on some clubs potentially having that loss of income.”
— Darragh MacAnthony, owner of Peterborough United, told talkSPORT he wanted all of football to rally round and help out financially:
“There is going to be financial shortfalls for many clubs, cashflow issues.
“I would guesstimate the average League One and Two club is probably going to need a loan of £300,000 to £400,000 each.
“There’s enough money in football. We need to come together and make sure nobody goes under because of this virus.”
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