UPDATE: The Gallagher Premiership has been suspended for a period of five weeks, becoming the latest major sports league to postpone games in response to the spread of the coronavirus.
Premiership bosses held emergency talks on Monday as the number of COVID-19 cases in the UK continues to rise.
At that meeting, a decision was made to postpone all games until the weekend of April 24-26, according to a report by Mail Online. They also report that the decision will be officially announced on Tuesday morning.
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The suspension of the league will cover four rounds of Premiership fixtures as well as the weekend of April 3-5, which is when the European club quarter-finals are due to be played. However it is widely expected that those fixtures will also be postponed or cancelled.
In an open message to fans from the Premiersip said: “We are sorry to tell our fans that we will be postponing our season for five weeks, in line with today’s advice of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, which confirmed that the Government would no longer support mass gatherings.
“The safety of our fans and staff is our first priority, and we would like to wish all of those who are affected our heartfelt best wishes and a very speedy recovery.”
“We’ll continue to work closely with DCMS and Public Health England, and to follow the advice of medical experts, and work with our clubs to help them to support their own wider communities at this time.”
“We are working together with our broadcast partner BT Sport to create exclusive rugby content in the coming weeks. More news on that to follow.”
The coronavirus outbreak has decimated the sporting schedule and left major doubts over some of 2020’s biggest events, with the Tokyo Olympics and European Football Championships both under threat.
Rugby has also been hit in recent days, with the Guinness PRO14 and France’s Top14 announcing their decisions to suspend their leagues as COVID-19 continues to sweep across Europe.
SANZAAR made the decision to suspend the 2020 Super Rugby tournament at the conclusion of last weekend’s matches for the foreseeable future.
In all cases, it is possible that the period of suspension may need to be extended for a longer period, should COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
While the Premiership have yet to officially announce any decision to suspend the league, the Premiership Rugby Cup final between Sale and Harlequins on Sunday was postponed following an individual on staff developing symptoms consistent with coronavirus.
With so much uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 virus, there is also a chance that some leagues will be forced to cancel the conclusion of their seasons entirely, should postponements stretch further into the year.
It is expected that this year’s Six Nations, which has seen a number of games postponed, will not be completed until October.
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