March 6 – The English Premier League has taken the radical step of banning traditional pre-match handshakes by players in order to help prevent the spread of Covid-19, starting this weekend and until further notice.
The measure comes the day after the government asked the league “to step up its contingency planning”.
Teams will still line up as usual but the home team will walk past the away side without shaking hands.
“The Premier League fair-play handshake will not take place between players and match officials from this weekend until further notice based on medical advice,” said a statement.
“Coronavirus is spread via droplets from the nose and mouth and can be transmitted on to the hands and passed on via a handshake. Clubs and match officials will still perform the rest of the traditional walk-out protocol ahead of each fixture.”
The spread of coronavirus means it is likely Premier League matches will be played behind closed doors this month, according to one club executive.
Although England’s international friendly with Italy, scheduled for March 27 at Wembley, is still due to go ahead, Sasha Ryazantsev, the Everton chief financial officer, said banning fans from games in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus could happen – just as it has in Italy, the worst affected country in Europe.
“It would be a forced decision rather than one we would proactively engage in,” Ryazantsev told the FT Business of Football Summit in London.
“Nobody wants to play behind closed doors and I don’t think it’s inevitable that it will happen. But we feel it is quite likely it may happen in the coming weeks.”
In a stark example of changing attitudes, renowned English football pundit and former England international Gary Neville withdrew from a key speaking role at the same FT summit in compliance with a new coronavirus policy from his employers Sky Sports.
In other measures, Liverpool have announced they would not be having mascots for home games while leading Danish club Brondby said it has quarantined 13 people, including a player and an assistant coach, after coming into contact with former Denmark international Thomas Kahlenberg who has been diagnosed with the virus.
Ajax have meanwhile told assistant coach Christian Poulsen and two other members of their training staff to stay away from the club because of fears they might be infected after Poulsen came into contact with Kahlenberg at the former’s recent 40th birthday in the Netherlands.
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