Footballers’ union backs players concerned about risks posed by virus

Champions League match between Valencia and Atalanta was played in an empty stadium. (AP pic)

ZURICH: The global footballers’ union FIFPRO will support players who ask for training sessions, matches or competitions to be postponed over the coronavirus outbreak, it said on Wednesday.

Football has been affected around the world with competitions postponed altogether in some countries like China, Japan, South Korea and Italy, and matches played without spectators in others, such as France and Spain.

“We ask that employers and competition organisers respect the wishes of players to take short-term precautionary measures including suspending training or competitions,” FIFPRO said in a statement.

“We support the players and their associations who have requested a suspension or postponement of football activities in their countries or regions.”

The Spanish players’ union has already asked for La Liga to be postponed rather than matches being played without fans.

FIFPRO added that international matches posed special risks.

Some internationals have been postponed, such as the Asian World Cup qualifiers scheduled for this month, while others such as the Euro 2020 playoffs are still due to be played.

Uefa competitions like the Champions League and Europa League are going ahead with games played in empty stadiums in high-risk zones.

“Cross-border travel and attendance at games create a high risk, affecting everyone from spectators and players to match officials and club staff,” said FIFPRO.

“To provide a reliable and clear course of action which puts people and public health first we ask authorities and competition organisers to take transparent, reasonable and consistent decisions across the football industry based on government advice.”

It also warned that small and medium-sized clubs would be hardest hit financially by cancellations and empty stadiums and said federations should be prepared to help them out.

“The football industry should consider extraordinary solidarity measures to protect the industry and support clubs in need through, for example, financial assistance or advanced payments,” it said.