The Premier League have had discussions about the future of this season amid the spread of the coronavirus and are monitoring the situation. However, they have not yet decided what will happen with the standings, therefore refusing to rule out whether or not Liverpool will be denied the title.
Liverpool only need four more wins to be crowned English champions for the first time since 1990 thanks to a 22-point advantage over second-placed Manchester City.
That means if both teams win all of their upcoming matches, Liverpool can officially win the league at home to Crystal Palace on Saturday March 21.
But there is a worry the campaign could be curtailed by the outbreak of COVID-19, as the coronavirus has been named by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
It has been suggested the UK government could order the cancellation of sporting events for more than two months – which would deny the possibility of matches simply being played at a later date.
Crisis talks would then presumably have to be held to determine whether or not the campaign as it stands would still be recognised or whether the season would be written off as a whole.
The Daily Telegraph reported that Liverpool would not necessarily be guaranteed the status of champions if the season was brought to a premature end.
The three relegation-threatened teams could also survive the drop, with no regulations in place in the Premier League Handbook to react to such a scenario, while there would be uncertainty around the European qualification spots.
The Liverpool Echo contacted the Premier League and were told that the governing body would consider all options if the season had to be brought to an early end.
It is claimed there are a vast range of potential solutions and that it is still a hypothetical scenario as things stand.
However, the Premier League’s powerbrokers have held discussions as leagues across Europe begin to react to the quickly-spreading virus.
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They are following the latest advice from the country’s government and the Premier League Board will have to make a decision on the final standings of the current campaign if it becomes necessary that the season is halted.
The news follows the Serie A announcing that five matches this weekend – including Juventus vs Inter Milan – will be held behind closed doors.
Inter’s Europa League last-32 second-leg against Ludogorets at the San Siro on Thursday night had to be played behind closed doors.
There have been more than 400 cases of the coronavirus in Italy, with 11 towns under quarantine and 14 people having died.
Worldwide, the epidemic has claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people while there have been almost 84,000 cases reported across over 40 countries since the outbreak began in China late last year.
Speaking about the virus on Friday, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said: “We take it really seriously, but we cannot avoid everything, that’s how it is and in the end it’s not a football problem, it’s a society problem, that we all have in common.
“I think everybody’s thinking about it in the moment, and hopefully the much-smarter people than us find a medicine for it. Because that’s obviously the biggest problem in the moment, that makes a big difference to other diseases.
“We don’t have that yet, but everybody is working hard on that, and then hopefully it will settle.
“But in the moment we deal with it like all other people, we take it serious, we don’t do some things we maybe usually would do, but that’s the same for us when the flu is going around, we cannot do anything different to that.
“And I think, really, in the moment everybody takes it seriously.
“We do that as well, so far we haven’t told everybody not to shake hands, but we don’t force anybody to shake hands, we have all the disinfection areas here where you can wash and disinfect our hands.
Nearly 37,000 of those have recovered and been discharged from care.
The first Briton to die from the illness was confirmed as a man quarantined on a cruise ship in Japan, with six on board the Diamond Princess ship having died.
As of Friday evening, 19 people in the UK were diagnosed with the coronavirus.
Elsewhere in the sporting world, Formula One has been hit with the Chinese Grand Prix postponed, while the opening races in Australia, Bahrain and Vietnman could also be affected.
A Six Nations clash between Ireland and Italy was cancelled on Wednesday while England’s clash in Rome later this month is also under threat.
Tips to avoid the coronavirus
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or a hand sanitising gel
- Carry a hand sanitiser with you to make frequent cleaning of hands easy
- Always wash your hands before you eat
- Be especially careful in busy airports and other public transport systems about touching things and then touching your face
- Carry disposable tissues with you, cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze and dispose of the tissue carefully (catch it, bin it, kill it)
- Do not share snacks from packets or bowls that others are dipping their fingers into
- Avoid shaking hands or cheek kissing if you suspect viruses are circulating
- Regularly clean, not just your hands, but commonly used surfaces and devices you touch or handle
The final two stages of the UAE Tour were cancelled by cycling’s governing body over two suspected cases of coronavirus.
It is unknown as of yet whether this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo and Euro 2020 will go ahead as a result of the potential pandemic.
WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has meanwhile raised the risk assessment of coronavirus at a global level to “very high” – the highest possible level.
Another WHO official said: “If this was influenza we would probably have called this a pandemic by now.
“But what we’ve seen with this virus is that [containment measures work] and to declare a pandemic it’s unhelpful to do that when you’re still trying to contain a disease.”
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