Amid coronavirus outbreak, Italy’s sporting events to take place in empty stadiums

March 4, 2020

Italian officials on Wednesday said all sporting events for the next month will take place in empty stadiums in an effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

The measure is expected to result in the Italian soccer league resuming in full this weekend after the calendar was pushed back a week.

The seats are empty as a precaution against the coronavirus at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy, during the Europa League round of 32 second leg soccer match between Inter Milan and Ludogorets.
(UEFA via AP)

Italy is the epicenter of Europe’s coronavirus outbreak. More than 100 people have died and more than 3,000 have been infected with COVID-19.

The Italian government’s new decree mandates that all sporting events throughout the country must take place behind closed doors until April 3. Schools and universities have been ordered to close until March 15.

Premier Giuseppe Conte posted a five-minute video on his Facebook page, reassuring people and saying that the decree was a way of assuring “responsible behavior.”

He said banning crowds at sporting events would help “prevent further opportunities of infection.”

The Italian soccer league’s governing body has yet to release a revised schedule, but reports say the six Serie A soccer matches that were postponed last week will now be played this weekend.

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Inter’s match against Sampdoria was one of four matches postponed the previous weekend. And the club’s president Steven Zhang is facing disciplinary action for insulting Serie A president Paolo Dal Pino in an Instagram post reacting to the way the Italian league is handling the fallout from the virus outbreak.

Inter chief executive Giuseppe Marotta also publicly criticized the league but tempers appeared to have cooled by Wednesday.

“Playing in empty stadiums could be the only way to keep the league going until the end in light of the restrictions that the government is rightly indicating,” Inter chief executive Giuseppe Marotta said after a meeting at the Serie A headquarters in Rome, but before the decree was announced.

Four Serie A matches went ahead last weekend with fans present as they were taking place in areas that had not been affected by measures to control the outbreak.

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A decree on Sunday extended the suspension of all sporting events in the regions of Veneto, Emilia-Romagna and Lombardy – the epicenter of Italy’s outbreak.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.