Pre-match fair-play handshakes have been banned at all forthcoming Premier League matches until further notice due to concerns about the Coronavirus outbreak.
Traditionally, the two sets of players line up on the pitch after coming out of the tunnel before the home team walks past the away team, shaking each other’s hands as they go.
However, with a number of sporting bodies across the globe taking action to slow the spread of Coronavirus — including Serie A games being postponed and Uefa Europa League matches being played behind closed doors — the Premier League has now taken the decision to ban handshakes.
OFFICIAL: Atalanta have confirmed their Champions League match against Valencia will be played behind closed doors. pic.twitter.com/pOXOzS6cTL
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) March 5, 2020
Why have the Premier League banned handshakes?
According to a Premier League statement, the decision to ban pre-match fair-play handshakes has been taken based on medical advice.
“The Premier League fair-play handshake will not take place between players and match officials from this weekend until further notice based on medical advice,” the statement on the Premier League’s official website read.
The Premier League fair-play handshake will not take place between players and match officials from this weekend until further notice based on medical advice
— Premier League (@premierleague) March 5, 2020
“Coronavirus is spread via droplets from the nose and mouth and can be transmitted on to the hands and passed on via a handshake.
“Clubs and match officials will still perform the rest of the traditional walk-out protocol ahead of each fixture.
“On entering the field of play, the two teams will continue to line up, accompanied by the Premier League music, then players from the home team will walk past their opposition without shaking their hands.”
Certain fixtures in England’s lower leagues have already seen teams decline taking part in pre-match handshakes.
What measures are Premier League clubs taking to slow the spread of Coronavirus?
Despite the Premier League only just taking the decision to ban pre-match handshakes, clubs across the English top-flight have been taking action to slow the spread of Coronavirus.
The likes of Newcastle United and West Ham United — despite taking part in pre-match handshakes during that time — have banned handshakes on their own training grounds.
“There’s a ritual here that everybody shakes hands with everybody as soon as we see each other every morning – we’ve stopped that on the advice of the doctor,” said Newcastle manager Steve Bruce in February.
“We’re like everybody else. Thankfully, we’ve got a superb doctor here and he will keep us informed of what we have to do.
“We’re like everybody else, we’re glued to the TV for where it’s going to go next and let’s hope it doesn’t get any worse in this country.”
Meanwhile, Liverpool have now decided not to have any mascots present on the pitch during matchdays.
Could further measures be taken by the Premier League?
Coronavirus is causing widespread disruption in leagues and sports across Europe, most notably in Italy, while the Swiss top-flight has also been suspended until mid-March at the earliest.
OFFICIAL: All sporting events in Italy will be played behind closed doors until April 3rd due to Coronavirus concerns. pic.twitter.com/Ntz7TrQdY3
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) March 4, 2020
And Everton chief executive Sasha Ryazantsev believes the Premier League could opt for a similar course of action, which could also include playing games behind closed doors, with the number of infected in England now believed to be in the region of 160.
“It would be a forced decision rather than one we would proactively engage in,” said Ryazantsev at the FT Business of Football Summit in London.
“But the whole situation goes far beyond the world of sport. Nobody wants to play behind closed doors and I don’t think it’s inevitable that it will happen. But we feel it is quite likely it may happen in the coming weeks.”