Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has announced that Serie A and other sporting events in the country be suspended until April 3 to curtail the spread of coronavirus. Conte made this known on Monday while extending a series of strict quarantine measures, including a ban on public gatherings in the country.
Italy’s national Olympic committee (CONI) had earlier recommended the move after a special meeting of sporting federations was held on Monday. According to a statement released by CONI, the suspension of all sporting activities in Italy would require a government decree to impose its decision.
CONI said Italy now has the third-highest number of coronavirus cases, behind China and South Korea, which informed the action to suspend all sports in the country. The country has recorded over 9,000 confirmed cases and more than 450 deaths.
The statement added that all sporting events suspended include all matches in Italy’s highest football division, Serie A, but excluding Italian clubs or national teams participating in international competitions such as the Champions League.
The statement read: “A meeting was held today at the Foro Italico, organized by CONI president Giovanni Malagò, and attended by representatives of the Team Sports Federations, together with Secretary-General Carlo Mornati.
“After listening to the opinions of all those present (some in attendance, others via Skype), President Malagò publicly thanked the Federal Presidents and the Federations for the great cohesion and the appreciated unity of purpose expressed on such a delicate occasion for the country and in particular for the world of sport that has no precedent in history.
“Confirming that in every action and circumstance the protection of health is everyone’s top priority, at the end of the meeting, CONI unanimously established that all decisions made by individual FSNs and DSAs to date are to be considered correct and in full compliance with the rules and laws issued and currently in force.
“All team sports competitions are suspended, at all levels, until April 3, 2020. To comply with the point described above, the Government is required to issue a specific Prime Ministerial Decree which may exceed the current valid one.
“President Malagò was delegated by all to inform the President of the Council of Ministers, Giuseppe Conte, and the Minister for Youth Policies and Sport, Vincenzo Spadafora, today on the results of the meeting.
“CONI also reminds that international competitions, both for clubs and national teams, do not fall within the jurisdictional availability of the Italian National Olympic Committee and therefore cannot be regulated by today’s decisions.
“CONI has been supporting and will continue to support individual Federations for days in all the initiatives they intend to undertake with their respective international organizations (European and worldwide) in order to harmonize calendars and events also in view of the upcoming deadlines linked to the Olympic qualifications.”
Serie A management had already said all games would be played behind closed doors until 3 April. Five games were played on Sunday in empty stadiums as Juventus tops the Serie A table. It was also confirmed on Monday that Serie A side Roma’s Europa League tie at Sevilla on Thursday will be played behind closed doors.
The announcement from CONI came before Sassuolo host Brescia behind closed doors. The game carried on and Sassuolo won 3-0. It was gathered that Italy’s top-flight division has not been canceled since World War II.
Italy’s sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora, at the weekend, accused Serie A of being “irresponsible” for ignoring his calls for football to be suspended because of the outbreak.
He said it made “no sense” for football to continue when 16 million people had been placed in quarantine in northern Italy in a bid to contain the spread of the virus – but the weekend’s games all took place behind closed doors.
Parma’s fixture against SPAL on Sunday kicked off 75 minutes late as they awaited a decision on whether the match would go ahead after Spadafora’s comments.
There have been reports on Monday that the French sports ministry had decided matches in Ligue 1 – the country’s top-flight football competition – should be played behind closed doors or in front of no more than 1,000 spectators as a measure to limit the spread of the virus.