The prospect of Ireland’s Euro 2020 play-off against Slovakia taking place behind closed doors in Bratislava appears to have moved a step closer.
The Slovakian Football Association has said it will take guidance from the country’s health authorities about how best to host the match in the face of the growing threat posed by the coronavirus.
However, no final decision about if, when and how the game might take place has yet been made, with the FAI saying that they will update supporters and staff as soon as there are any developments to report.
The Association has said that it is in communication with the Slovakian FA and local authorities regarding the fixture and is also engaged in talks with UEFA and the Irish Embassy in Slovakia.
In a statement, the FAI said: “As of today, Monday, the game is scheduled to go ahead as planned but talks will continue involving all parties. The Slovakian FA are in constant communication with their Government and health officials and will inform us immediately of any update.
”The FAI will continue to heed the advice of the Irish Government and UEFA in relation to this game and will relay any news around the fixtures to supporters and staff as soon as it becomes available.” Some 2,200 Irish fans have tickets for the game which is due to take place on March 26.
Youth games have already been cancelled in Slovakia and further restrictions on sports events are expected. Secondary schools and primary schools in the Bratislava region have been closed, as have the country’s two largest universities, both of which are in the capital.
According to reports in Sarajevo, following a meeting on Monday between the Bosnian government and the country’s football association, there are no plans to postpone or move behind closed doors Bosnia’s play-off game against Northern Ireland, scheduled to take place in Zenica, on March 26.
Mick McCarthy’s team, if successful against Slovakia, would be due to play the winners of that game, either in Belfast or Zenica, five days later on March 31st with a place at the Euro 2020 finals at stake.
Meanwhile, the Bulgarian Football Union has announced it is suspending ticket sales for its Euro 2020 playoff semi-final between Bulgaria and Hungary which is also scheduled for March 26.
On Sunday, Bulgaria reported its first cases of the coronavirus and the BFU said that all Bulgarian league matches in the next two rounds will be played in empty stadiums.
The BFU also suspended ticket sales the 2021 European Under-21 Championship qualifier between Bulgaria and Estonia on March 29.
“The BFU maintains constant contact with the state authorities and UEFA and is ready to react promptly in the event of a change in situation,” the BFU said in a statement.
Similarly, the Romanian Football Federation has decided that all league matches will be played behind closed doors until further notice, and ticket sales for the 2021 European Under-21 Championship qualifier between Romania and Denmark on 31 March are suspended.
And, as the coronavirus spreads around the world, the Asian qualifiers for the Qatar World Cup in 2022, due to be played on 23-31 March and 1-9 June, have been postponed.
At home, the FAI have issued a directive to all affiliates instructing them that players are not to shake hands with their opponents or match officials at all games under Association’s jurisdiction.
The decision, following on from a UEFA directive for their competitions, comes into effect immediately and will remain until further notice across all games in the Republic of Ireland.
According to the FAI: “The decision has been taken in line with recommendations made by the World Health Organisation to minimise potential transmission of COVID-19.” The Association added that its medical team “remain in communication with the Department of Health and will follow all government recommendations regarding coronavirus.”
- The HSE have developed an information pack on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. Read it here
- Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus who has been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days should isolate themselves from other people - this means going into a different, well-ventilated room alone, with a phone; phone their GP, or emergency department - if this is not possible, phone 112 or 999 and in a medical emergency (if you have severe symptoms) phone 112 or 999