Belarus keep men’s league open but suspend women’s kick off

April 16 – Belarus, the only country in Europe where men’s professional football is still being played before spectators, has announced it is  postponing the start of its women’s Premier League amid fears that several players have been exposed to Covid-19.

The women’s league was due to start its 2020 season today but the Belarus FA said  it is now “suspended until further notice” because several players had contact with “possible carriers” of the coronavirus.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has opposed strict lockdown measures and men’s football will carry on.

“There is no basis to close down the championship,” Sports and Tourism Minister Sergei Kovalchuk said of the men’s league in an interview broadcast Wednesday by the state Belarus 5 TV channel.

He was speaking before the announcement that the women’s league was suspended.

Despite men’s games continuing, attendances have plummeted in recent weeks as many fans choose to stay away with boycotts organised at the majority of the 16 top-tier clubs.

“Nowadays, the number of fans has shrunk by more than 70%,” Kovalchuk said. “No one is forcing anyone to go to the stadium. You can go, or not go.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged Belarus to implement tighter measures but this week Lukashenko said that nobody would die from the coronavirus in Belarus.

The country has reported 3,728 cases with 36 deaths yet Lukashenko says the fatalities were the result of pre-existing health conditions.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1601081294labto1601081294ofdlr1601081294owedi1601081294sni@w1601081294ahsra1601081294w.wer1601081294dna1601081294