Coronavirus outbreak: Plans for soccer events being evaluated in conjunction with health authorities

As a new week begins, soccer leagues and organizations are again tackling with the short- and long-term impact of the spread of the coronavirus.

Sporting events are of particular concern because they are public gatherings, where the virus can be spread among a large group of people who then disperse. Soccer presents additional concerns because of its international aspect and the travel involved.

It's the fear of travel and being confined in small enclosed areas that is driving businesses and individual to restrict or reconsider domestic and international travel.

Because cases can be mild with few symptoms or similar to the common cold, many carrying the virus are unaware they have it and see no reason to stay home. Testing for the virus is not yet even widely available in the United States as kits are just being sent by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to state and local labs. Only when the testing starts this week will authorities begin to learn just how widespread the virus has spread in various localities.

MLS kicked off its 2020 season without incident this weekend. The defending champion Seattle Sounders drew more than 40,000 fans on Sunday for their 2-1 win over Chicago at CenturyLink Field, where extra hand-sanitizer stations were installed and sanitary wipes made available to fans.

The first coronavirus-related death was only reported on Saturday, a second on Sunday and four more on Monday, bringing to six the number of U.S. deaths, all in the Seattle area. Three residents of a skilled nursing facility in suburban Kirkland were among those who died.

In a statement, the Sounders said that the safety and well-being of their fans were of the upmost priority and they were in real-time communication with regional health authorities and Major League Soccer. The league in turn has formed a task force to oversee the situation and coordinate its response while working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Public Health Agency of Canada, other sports organizations and its own clubs.

U.S. Soccer is also holding the SheBelieves Cup over the next two weeks at venues in Florida, New Jersey and Texas. The annual tournament is slated to begin in Orlando on Thursday, where the U.S. women will face England. Spain and Japan have also sent teams to the tournament. U.S. Soccer is working with the medical staffs of the four teams to monitor the health of their players and also coordinating with the CDC.

The U.S. men are slated to play two games in Europe at the end of March: the Netherlands on March 26 in Eindhoven and Wales on March 30 in Cardiff. U.S. Soccer is working with the State Department, as it always does on international trips, but also with FIFA and the Dutch and Welsh federations.

European governments are starting to limit or ban public gatherings in an attempt to slow down the spread of the virus.

In Switzerland, there have been only 24 cases, but a ban on public gatherings of more than 1,000 people has been put in place until March 15. Swiss pro league authorities in turn postponed league play until March 23.

The Relevent Sports Group has already taken the step of canceling all International Champions Cup matches in Asia this summer because of the coronavirus outbreak. Plans remain unchanged for the United States, where a reduced ICC schedule is expected due to the unavailability of players having participated in Euro 2020.

Big events in the United States and around the world are being closely monitored. There is a petition for organizers of South by Southwest, the Austin event with film, music festivals and conferences that attracts hundreds of thousands of attendees each year, to cancel the 2020 event. Already major firms like Twitter and Facebook have pulled out because of mandatory global business travel restrictions.

Euro 2020 presents a huge challenge for UEFA, which has chosen to play the 24-team tournament in 12 stadiums in 12 countries. On top of that, qualifying isn't finished. The window at the end of March will decide the final four participants under the new format adopted to include the UEFA Nations League in the Euro qualifying process.

At UEFA's annual congress on Monday in Amsterdam, efforts were made to downplay a sense of panic.

Those who spoke on the issue all responded that soccer federations across Europe will rely on guidance from their respective governments and health authorities.

Photo: Leonardo Prieto/Actionplus/Icon Sportswire

10 comments about "Coronavirus outbreak: Plans for soccer events being evaluated in conjunction with health authorities".
  1. R2 Dad, March 3, 2020 at 3:57 p.m.

    The CDC & Surgeon General insist we don't need to wear masks unless you have been exposed and want to contain your own spittle. Panic shoppers have ignored the scientists, because they are too busy panic-shopping ahead of Virus Armageddon/March Madness.

    The state of Hawaii is out of toiletpaper, except for the few hoarders anticipating an extended stay on the loo. 

    In related news, idiot americans have stopped drinking Corona beer, because reasons.

    Can't we just resume our regular programming, people? It's the flu, not the zombie apocalypse. Wash your hands. Stay home if you start experiencing symptoms. Don't share food with your children or any other dumbarse habits that can spread the virus. Flu season should start tapering in 8 weeks.

  2. Paul Cox replied, March 4, 2020 at 7:05 a.m.

    It's the flu, not the zombie apocalypse.

    Except for the part where it's 10X to 20X more deadly than the flu if you get it, sure, it's just like the flu.

  3. R2 Dad replied, March 4, 2020 at 11:18 a.m.

    Sources, Chicken Little? I thought not.

    "Overall, per the CDC, the death rate of those who have been infected with the flu this flu season is 0.05%. According to the research conducted by the Chinese CDC, the case-fatality rate of novel coronavirus in China is 2.3%."

    It's actually worse that 20X, but the numbers are so small:

    "While we don't have yearly estimates for coronavirus fatalities yet, the WHO's newest Situation Report, published on February 25, says that out of the 80,239 confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide, the illness has resulted in 2,700 deaths—2,666 of which have occurred in China."

    More people are dying from car accidents (102 per day), riding bikes (2 per day) and being pedestrians (16 per day), yet each and every morning a couple hundred million americans do it anyway. Crazy, right?

  4. Bob Ashpole replied, March 4, 2020 at 2:23 p.m.

    R2 Dad: You called him "Chicken Little" but then go on to say that he is understating the the fatality rate of this coronavirus. There is no call for namecalling.

    The cases in the US are understated because 1) Trump is blocking the federal health officials from releasing information and 2) up to now, very little testing was done partially because the US Government initially used a faulty test.

    The fact that 9 deaths have happened so far indicates to the rest of us that infections are being underreported, which is not reason to ignore the disease.

    The "community" cases also indicate that there was an undetected source of the disease, which is troublesome when public health officials are trying to slow down the spread by quarantine.

    If the President placed the Public Welfare above his election campaign, I would not be as worried. I expect everyone else would be relieved if this epidemic was limited to only 50,000 deaths, but it isn't going to be that low unless Publich Health officials are able to communicate freely with the public and state officials. Cancelling public assemblies over the next few months is a prudent step. I suspect fans in Washington State are expecting it. 

  5. R2 Dad replied, March 4, 2020 at 7:33 p.m.

    Bob you are a buzzkill. What's a little banter on the interwebs? Are we supposed to roll up into the fetal position until summer? 

  6. Bob Ashpole, March 4, 2020 at 4:56 a.m.

    R2 Dad, there are always streams of private communications, that I will call gossip, that are overly influential in how people think. It used to spread by emails. Now it spreads through messages on social media. This gossip spreads stories that people want to believe, which is why those particular stories are chosen to spread.

    If you started a rumor that wearing "hats" made of aluminum foil would protect against the coronavirus, you would see hoarding of foil.

  7. R2 Dad, March 5, 2020 at 5:30 p.m.

    Oh, humanity, your creativity knows no bounds. More bad theories from non-scientists. I guess I should return all that tequila, Listerine and Detto:

  8. R2 Dad, March 6, 2020 at 1:48 p.m.

    In China, alleged misinformation about how the virus spreads has led to multiple deaths of beloved pet dogs and cats. throwing them out the window of their apartment buildings to their deaths.
    "The looming threat of a pandemic brings out the worst in people. The xenophobia and racism we've seen during the coronavirus outbreak is simply a knee-jerk reaction to a fear of the unknown."

  9. R2 Dad, March 8, 2020 at 2:47 p.m.

    Wait--it gets better. Genius from New Zealand, who previously blamed earthquakes on gay people, claims the virus is due to "airborne demons":

  10. R2 Dad, March 9, 2020 at 1:20 a.m.

    A helpful cartoon:

    ...and a family that believes rules are for other, lesser people:

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