ROME: All sport in Italy, including England’s men’s and women’s Rugby Six Nations matches and all Serie A football matches, will be played behind closed doors until April 3 in an effort to contain coronavirus.
Italy is the worst-hit European country with some 3,090 cases and 107 deaths and the latest extended measures were ordered by the government on Wednesday night.
The midweek Italian Cup semi-finals between Juventus and AC Milan and Napoli and Inter Milan had already been postponed.
England men’s and women’s sides play Italy in the Six Nations on 14 and 15 March.
The issue will be discussed at a meeting on Thursday by the Six Nations organisers and the individual countries – and the matches in Italy could be postponed rather than being played behind closed doors.
The decree, announced by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, affects all areas of the country, including those places were the virus has not been found.
It also states that sporting clubs and organisations are responsible for checking their players and staff for coronavirus.
A government statement read:
There will be no sporting events with the presence of the public in order to prevent further contagion opportunities.
Sports events and competitions of all kinds and disciplines, held in every place, both public and private, are suspended; however it is permitted to carry out the aforementioned events and competitions behind closed doors, or outdoors without the presence of the public.
In all such cases, the associations and sports clubs, by means of their medical staff, are required to carry out the appropriate checks to contain the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus among athletes, technicians, managers and all accompanying persons who participate.
In Serie A many matches, including Juventus v Inter Milan last weekend, have been postponed rather than being played without fans.
However, after a meeting of club and Serie A representatives earlier on Wednesday, Inter chief executive Giuseppe Marotta said that playing without fans could be the only way of finishing the Serie A season.
“Playing behind closed doors could be the only way to complete the championship in the light of the emergency and the restrictions that the government is rightly adopting,” he said as he left the meeting.
Juventus are also scheduled to play Lyon on March 17 in Turin in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.
Last Thursday, Inter Milan’s Europa League victory over Ludogorets was played behind closed doors at San Siro Stadium.
Last week Ireland’s men’s and women’s Six Nations games against Italy in Dublin on 7 and 8 March were postponed because of coronavirus.