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Coronavirus forces fan ban at Italian football games

Tuesday February 25 2020

Residents wearing respiratory mask are pictured at the entrance of the small town of Casalpusterlengo, southeast of Milan, on February 23, 2020, under the shadow of a new coronavirus outbreak, as Italy took drastic containment steps as worldwide fears over the epidemic spiralled. PHOTO | MIGUEL MEDINA | AFP

Residents wearing respiratory mask are pictured at the entrance of the small town of Casalpusterlengo, southeast of Milan, on February 23, 2020, under the shadow of a new coronavirus outbreak, as Italy took drastic containment steps as worldwide fears over the epidemic spiralled. PHOTO | MIGUEL MEDINA | AFP 

AFP
By AFP
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ROME

Upcoming matches in Italian Serie A and the Europa League will be played behind closed doors to combat the spread of coronavirus, the Italian sports minister announced on Monday evening.

"Following the demands of the sports world and knowing that the ban on sporting events open to the public remains in force in six regions of northern Italy, we have agreed to the holding of matches behind closed doors," said Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora after a meeting of the Council of Ministers.

The Europa League game between Inter Milan and Ludogorets on Thursday will be affected, but the minister did not specify which Serie A matches at the weekend would be included in the ban.

There are six games in the regions he mentioned, including the clash on Sunday evening between leader Juventus and third-placed Inter.

Italy reported its fifth death from the virus on Monday and it has the most confirmed cases in Europe.

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Napoli's Champions League match against Barcelona on Tuesday is not at risk.

The alternative to banning fans is to postpone games and Gabriele Gravina, the president of the Italian Football League made clear earlier in the day that he was opposed to that.

"We have made an official request to Health Minister Roberto Speranza to have this game played behind closed doors," Gravina told the press. "We expect a quick response, but we have been told that the outcome will be positive."

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