A senior Everton director has admitted that the coronavirus outbreak is likely to “force” Premier League matches to be played behind closed doors.
Sasha Ryazantsev, Everton’s chief financial officer, suggested the decision for matches to go ahead in empty stadiums could become unavoidable for English clubs and governing bodies.
West Ham and Newcastle have banned handshakes at their respective training grounds, while Wolves players are not allowed to sign autographs or take selfies with fans.
The spread of the virus has already seen Italy’s government issued a decree stating that all outdoor sporting events, including Serie A matches, must be played behind closed doors until 3 April.
“But the whole situation goes far beyond the world of sport. Of course, nobody wants to play behind closed doors and I don’t think it’s inevitable at the moment that it will happen. But we feel it is quite likely it may happen in the coming weeks.”
Sports correspondent Martha Kelner said: “The Premier League is prepared for the possibility that Public Health England will advise that some fixtures this season will have to be played behind closed doors, as has been the case in other European leagues like Italy and Morocco.
“It is understood that the preference in the case of advice that the season is postponed or played behind closed doors would be that it continues without fans permitted inside stadiums.”
More to follow with this story after the Meeting takes place on Monday.