In the wake of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infecting some high profile figures, the English Premier League announced in a statement on Friday morning that the 2019-20 season would be suspended. The announcement followed a meeting of the league's shareholders that saw a unanimous agreement to the suspension. The shareholders currently intend for the league to return on April 4 at the earliest, with medical advice and conditions at the time being determining factors in any decision.
Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters spoke of the united front that English football had shown in the face of the pandemic.
"In this unprecedented situation, we are working closely with our clubs, Government, The FA and EFL and can reassure everyone the health and welfare of players, staff and supporters are our priority."
The statement by the Premier League was released alongside a statement from the English Football Association, the latter body announcing that the EFL, FA Women's Super League, FA Women's Championship, and England's national football team would be suspending their matches until April 3 at the earliest. Based on current circumstances, the Premier League intends to reschedule all of the missed contests once it is determined safe to do so.
This is a shift from the Premier League -- and the rest of English football's -- original plan to play all games on their scheduled dates behind closed doors, as was reported on March 12 by Express.The major factor in the decision to suspend the league was the positive COVID-19 diagnoses of Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea player Callum Hudson-Odoi, as reported by BBC. The 19-year-old Hudson-Odoi sent a video message to his followers soon after his diagnosis was made public.
"As you may be aware I had the virus for the last couple of days which I have recovered from. I am following the health guidelines and self-isolating myself from everybody for the week. I hope to see everybody soon and hopefully will be back on the pitch very soon."
The entire teams of Arsenal and Chelsea are undergoing self-isolation. Everton's team is also in self-isolation after playing against Chelsea on March 8. Other England-based soccer players currently undergoing the isolation process include Manchester City's Benjamin Mendy as well as three unnamed Leicester City players. Masters sent his regards to all those impacted by the spread of the disease in the Premier League's statement.
"Above all, we wish Mikel Arteta and Callum Hudson-Odoi speedy recoveries, and everyone else affected by COVID-19."
Liverpool is currently leading the Premier League by 25 points, needing six more to clinch their first title in the Premier League era -- and their first top-flight English title since 1990.