ENGLISH FOOTBALL is set to take drastic measures to ensure the season is completed despite the coronavirus outbreak – with measures potentially being implemented TODAY.
Reports on Thursday morning revealed a set of wide-reaching plans underlined by holding matches behind closed doors.
Both the Premier League and Football League will ban fans from entering stadiums with pubs also prevented from showing games.
According to The Times, the government will hold a meeting of its Cobra committee this morning where the official response to the global pandemic is expected to move from "contain" to "delay".
That will set in motion a crisis plan only allowing supporters to watch their team via live streams from their homes.
Season ticket holders and individual match ticket holders are set to be able to stream matches in the top four tiers of English football.
However broadcasters will try and avoid breaking the Saturday 3pm kick-off blackout currently enshrined in UK law, instead moving matches alongside each other in other timeslots across the weekend.
And fans of clubs in the Championship, League One and League Two can connect via the iFollow service already set up across the divisions.
With the number of coronavirus cases in the UK set to tip 500, the government will reportedly threaten to take away pub's licenses if they ignore a fresh ban on showing matches.
The prospect of fans cramming into a confined space to watch a match creates a major viral infection risk and thus match viewers are set to be restricted to watching from home.
While the Champions League matches held at Valencia and Paris Saint-Germain took place behind closed doors in midweek, concerns were raised when large crowds of ultras instead gathered outside the stadium to try and support their team.
The Premier League would be the last major division in Europe to take this measure after LaLiga, Bundesliga and Ligue 1.
Amid calls for the league to be suspended altogether, given the loss of income for smaller clubs as much as the lack of fans at matches, the focus is believed to be completing the season.
Premier League broadcasters reportedly hold large penalty clauses, adding up to hundreds of millions of pounds, should the fixture list not be fulfilled.
For Football League teams, talks with government officials have taken place to determine what compensation can be claimed if matchday income is lost.
A £30billion crisis fund was revealed by chancellor Rishi Sunak in his budget on Wednesday, but football may not find itself high up the pecking order for vital cash.
Also on the minds of football bosses is the summer's Euro 2020 tournament, kicking off 26 days after the Premier League season is due to end.
But that may also be postponed as the virus continues to spread.
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