ROME (Reuters) - The President of Italy’s players’ union (AIC) has called for soccer to be stopped in the country amid reports that the entire region of Lombardy will be locked down as part of efforts to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.
The Italian government has ordered all sporting competitions to be played behind closed doors until April 3 in a bid to control the spread of the disease, which has killed around 200 people in the country.
And tough new measures are expected to be approved on Saturday that will tell people not to enter or leave Lombardy, home to around 10 million people, as well as 11 provinces in four other regions.
Damiano Tommasi, head of the players’ union, responded to the news on Twitter by posting a link to the story and issuing a plea to stop games from going ahead.
He wrote: “Let’s stop the league!! Do we need anything else? Stop football!!”
Tommasi also issued a statement on the AIC website earlier in the day outlining his concerns for players’ welfare.
“There is a risk for players and we must take all precautions for the security of those who play: on the pitch you certainly can’t stay at a distance of one meter away.
“But every measure must be taken to guarantee the safety of everyone at the stadium, including staff and personnel, to reduce the risks.
“There are those among the players who are happy to continue, others who express their concerns.
“There are many foreign players too and it’s obvious their families will be worried watching what’s happening in Italy.”
Earlier on Saturday, President of the Italian Football Federation Gabriele Gravina refused to rule out the suspension of Serie A if a player tests positive for the coronavirus.
“We have to be realistic, the real risk exists and, in those circumstances, we would take all necessary measures to guarantee the protection of our athletes, and then consider what impact it could have on sporting competition,” Gravina told Rai.
When asked if the league could be suspended altogether, he said: “We can’t rule anything out, but neither should we come up with hypotheses that we can’t predict.”
Serie A fixtures will resume in empty stadiums this weekend after several games were suspended over the last two rounds.
Six fixtures postponed last weekend will be played on Sunday and Monday behind closed doors, including a top-of-the-table clash between Juventus and Inter Milan in Turin.
Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie, editing by Ed Osmond and Nick Zieminski