When we’re talking about the spread of a pandemic that has so far killed just over 3,000 people and infected almost 90,000, and poses a risks to many, many more, it seems kind of trivial to consider the effect it might have on sport. What really matters is the safety and well-being of anyone exposed to the virus. Nonetheless, the impact on sport is already being felt. The Chinese Super League has been postponed, the Six Nations has seen some of it’s games postponed and expects several others to face the same fate, and a handful of Serie A games have been played behind closed doors. Now Dortmund may face the consequences of the virus, with the possibility of playing in front of an empty stadium in the very near future in the second leg of the Champions League knockouts against PSG.
The French government has taken steps to limit public gatherings that would risk increasing the spread of the virus domestically. France has banned all indoor gatherings of more than 5,000 people, and a number of outdoor events will also be canceled, including the Paris half-marathon. As of yet, no strict limits have been placed on outdoor events, but given that they have already started to postpone or cancel certain big events, it seems possible that this may happen. This possibility has also been discussed by Ruhr Nachrichten in a published article from earlier today.
Wegen des #Coronavirus fiel am Sonntag der Halbmarathon in Frankreichs Hauptstadt #Paris aus. Die #ChampionsLeague-Partie von Borussia #Dortmund bei #PSG ist – noch – nicht gefährdet: https://t.co/Yat1btkhDj (Foto: dpa) #BVB #PSGBVB pic.twitter.com/89vLLEiIv2— Ruhr Nachrichten BVB (@RNBVB) March 2, 2020
It seems that the game is currently planned to go ahead, but there are ongoing discussions between UEFA, the two teams, and the French authorities. Given the significance of the match, and the fact that spectators are ultimately non-essential, it seems likely that, rather than cancelling/postponing altogether, they would instead move to play the game behind closed doors.
However, PSG defender Marquinhos has called for the game to be postponed instead, arguing that it would be wrong to leave the fans out. It’s not surprising that PSG would prefer the game be postponed, as an empty stadium would certainly favor BVB more than it would PSG. Further, PSG are also dealing with a number of injuries and suspensions, so moving the Champions League tie might give them enough time for several key players to recover. Whatever the authorities choose to do, I’m sure both sides will be willing to accommodate change. Ultimately, the safety and well-being of everyone involved is far more important than the game itself.
As things currently stand, the game will go ahead as planned, and the fans will be free to attend as they wish (though it is possible it might suppress attendance). Given recent developments in France, it is possible that the situation may escalate between now and the game next Wednesday. If that is the case, we may see plans changed. Seeing teams playing behind closed doors is often a sombre event, especially when sparked by something like this. Nonetheless, I’d be surprised if they chose to postpone, given that this option is also on the table. Regardless of who it benefits competitively, and what impact it has on either team, a decision must be made that is best for everyone’s safety. If that means postponing the game, so be it.