THE Premier League may be forced to hold emergency crisis talks to decide whether Liverpool can be crowned champions if coronavirus wipes out the end of the season.
There is a growing threat the illness could wreck sporting events around the globe as health chiefs battle to contain the spread of the disease.
Huge public gatherings, such as football matches and concerts, may have to be called off in the worst-case scenario in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
If worst-case scenario safety measures were imposed it is thought they could stay in place for as long as two months leaving the Premier League unable to complete the season.
The Reds are currently just 12 points away from clinching their first title since 1990, and only nine points away should Manchester City to lose a game.
While there is no suggestion the campaign will be axed, there is no contingency plan in the league's own regulations which addresses what would happen if the season suddenly had to be scrapped before it is completed.
It could mean stakeholders – the 20 top flight clubs – and the Premier League Board having emergency talks to thrash out whether to effectively wipe out the current campaign or use points gained up until the moment it was suspended to decide on finishing positions.
In effect, that would leave the clubs having to decide whether or not to award the Premier League title this year or not.
The Premier League is waiting to hear from the Government before deciding if any action may be necessary.
The fact there is nothing in the rules dealing with the suspension of a season in the event of major events – such as war or illness – actually gives bosses wiggle room to take fairer decisions.
For example, should the campaign have been suspended after only three matches, then it would likely see them adopt a far different position to if a competition was stopped with only four games remaining.
Should it come to it, Liverpool's incredible lead at the top is such that it would be hard to argue they don't deserve to be crowned champions.
Liverpool are currently 22 points clear of nearest-rivals Manchester City in the standings as they aim to win their first Premier League crown.
The arguments would more likely come when it came to deciding who should qualify for the European places and who would be relegated.
An easy approach would be to confirm the positions of the table at the point of the competition's suspension, meaning the three sides in the bottom places would suffer the drop.
But the problem could be that some sides may have games in hand on others, leading to accusations that would not be a fair outcome.
Currently West Ham, Watford and Norwich occupy the bottom three places.
The league are currently relaxed about the situation, with suspension only the doomsday scenario and a long way off at present.
But they will be guided by whatever decisions the UK Government takes in order to prevent an epidemic in this country.
So far, more than 80,000 people in almost 50 countries have been infected with coronavirus – with around 2,800 killed.
Today a male passenger on the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined off Tokyo has become the first British person to die of the disease.
Formula One races, including Grands Prix in Australia, Vietnam, Bahrain and China, are already at risk.
Even the Olympic Games – set to be held in Tokyo, Japan, this summer – could be cancelled due to the deadly illness.
This summer's Euro 2020 tournament, hosted across the entire continent, is also in jeopardy.
Arsenal, meanwhile, have banned journalists who are suffering from a cough from attending press conferences.
The Swiss government have even cancelled all events set to involve 1,000 or more people in a bid to quell the spread, with football fixtures called off this weekend.
Bookies were paying out as early as November on Jurgen Klopp's side winning the league, such has been their dominance in 2019-20.
Klopp himself called coronavirus a "society problem" rather than a football problem.
The German claimed: "We take it really seriously but we cannot avoid everything. It's not a football problem, it's a society problem."
Newcastle have today imposed a ban on their own players shaking hands with others in an attempt to prevent any cross contamination within their club.
But Prem bosses still have no plans to order the pre-match handshakes between opposition players be halted as we go into the latest round of matches.
DEADLY SPREAD: Coronavirus cases in the UK
ANOTHER two cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the UK – barely a month since the deadly bug first reached our shores.
The first cases were diagnosed on January 31 when a student and relative were tested positive in York.
The victims were quarantined in Newcastle as UK authorities vowed they would control the virus' spread.
However, by February 6 another patient was diagnosed with coronavirus.
The Brit – businessman Steve Walsh – contracted the bug in Singapore before travelling to the French Alps for a holiday before returning to his home in Hove, East Sussex.
He became known as a superspreader by unwittingly infecting a number of other Brits in France with him.
Mr Walsh, who since recovered, then infected another five people who were treated in the UK.
By February, another patient was taken to Guy's and St Thomas' after contracting coronavirus in China – bringing the total to nine.
Another four cases were recorded just a week later after being flown back to the UK from the plague cruise ship, the Diamond Princess.
The group had been quarantined in Arrowe Park but were quickly moved to a treatment centre.
And yesterday, Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty confirmed another two patients had tested positive.
The virus was passed on in Italy and Tenerife and the patients have been transferred to specialist NHS infection centres in Royal Liverpool Hospital and the Royal Free Hospital, London.
In Japan, the J-League has been suspended until March 15 after health bosses ordered a stop to major public gatherings.
And matches in Serie A have already been called off involving clubs in the affected areas of Italy, which appears to be the centre of the European outbreak of the virus at present.
And Euro 2020 is quickly coming in for scrutiny, with Uefa admitting they are in a state of limbo due to growing fears over coronavirus.
Italy – the most-affected European country at present – is due to host the tournament curtain-raiser in Rome.
There are already 650 confirmed cases in the nation, with a Serie C player testing positive for the disease – as his side, Pianese, cancelled training.
But the virus is spreading across the continent at a rapid pace and with the tournament being held across several countries, bosses are fearful.
Uefa executive committee member Michelle Uva said: "We are at the waiting stage.
"We are monitoring country by country, and football must follow the orders of the individual countries.
"The sporting path will only be closed if the situation gets worse."
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