Italian football disaster mooted amid coronavirus crisis

The coronavirus crisis could be set to wreak even more chaos on Italy, according to the country’s football chiefs.

The Italian football federation (FIGC) admitted on Tuesday that the Serie A season might not finish because of the outbreak of the deadly virus.

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The FIGC confirmed in a statement that Serie A would stop until at least April 3 following a government decree issued on Monday and said that its president Gabriele Gravina had put forward several alternatives in case the championship could not be concluded.

One possibility would be to have play-offs to decide the title and relegation to Serie B, the statement said.

A second would be to declare the current standings to be final - which would result in Juventus winning the title - and a third would be to not have a champion side this season.

The last time that Serie A finished without a champion was in the 2004/05 season when Juventus were stripped of the title in the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal and it was not re-assigned.

Italy's Serie A may not be able to finish this season due to the coronavirus crisis. Pic: Getty

Serie A was previously decided by a playoff in 1964 when Bologna beat Inter Milan after the two finished level on points.

Even if Serie A were able to resume on April 4, which is far from certain under the current circumstances, it would have to play 12 rounds of matches, plus several postponed games, by May 24, an almost impossible task given the number of midweek dates reserved for European competition.

Gravina said he had therefore also proposed extending the season until May 31.

Italy in lockdown over coronavirus crisis

Serie A has already been forced to play its matches behind closed doors or postpone them amid the growing coronavirus threat.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Monday announced the suspension until April 3 of all sporting events in the country, including the top-flight Serie A football league, as Italy grapples with the coronavirus crisis.

The final Serie A game before government announcement saw Sassuolo beat Brescia 3-0 behind closed doors in Reggio Emilia on Monday.

After scoring his opening goal Sassuolo striker Francesco Caputo held up a handwritten message on piece of paper, urging fans: "Everything will be fine. Stay at home."

A few hours later the Prime Minister used similar words as he announced a countrywide lockdown.

"I am going to sign a decree that can be summarised as follows: I stay at home," Conte announced in a dramatic evening television address.

‘No reason why matches and sporting events should continue’

The unprecedented measures limiting travel and banning public gatherings across the country of more than 60 million people came after 97 more deaths took Italy's toll to 463.

The measures include the closure of schools, universities and the suspension of sports competitions.

Two Portuguese passengers struggle to find a way to leave Venice after the lockdown was implemented. Source: Getty

"There is no reason why matches and sporting events should continue and I am thinking of the football championship," said Conte.

"I'm sorry but all the fans must take note of it, we will not even allow gyms to be used for sports activities," he added.

The decree allows the possibility of organising matches under international jurisdiction behind closed doors, such as ties in UEFA's Champions League and Europa League.

The situation has been echoed in sports around the world, with Indian Wells tennis officials forced to cancel the American event in consultation with health experts.

Even in Australia, the AFL has made preparations to play matches behind closed doors in the event the spread of the virus gets worse.

The AFL is preparing to play games without fans due to the global coronavirus outbreak but round one of the premiership season will go ahead as planned.

League chief executive Gillon McLachlan spoke to reporters on Tuesday after the Victorian government warned that large gatherings will likely be impacted in the future as measures are taken to stop the spread of the virus.

"If mass gatherings are suspended we will play games in stadiums with no crowds," McLachlan said.

"We are also working on other protocols to protect not only players and staff but also members and supporters."

With agencies