FIFA calls for Premier League cancellation

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FIFA’S medical chief is calling for the Premier League season to be cancelled.

Michel D’Hooghe compared the deadly coronavirus pandemic to World War Two and insists football should not resume until September — with the start of NEXT season.

The Belgian’s demands were described as “sensible” by Brighton striker Glenn Murray. And they are a huge blow for hopes of a summer restart.

D’Hooghe warned: “The world is not ready for competitive football. It is not a matter of money — it is a matter of life and death.

“If there is one moment where absolute priority should be given to health and medicine, it is this.

“That is why I ask everybody to be very careful before starting competitions again.

“I will be happy if we can have nothing before the start of next season.

“If they could start the 2020-21 in September they could eventually avoid a second attack from the virus.”

D’Hooghe’s stark warning came as France became the first of Europe’s big five leagues to officially end their season.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe confirmed there would be NO return of professional sport until September.

D’Hooghe, head of Fifa’s medical committee and a former member of the game’s ruling executive committee, slammed any plans for behind-closed-doors matches.

He told Sky Sports: “It is a terrible responsibility at the moment — the most dramatic situation we have lived in since the Second World War.

“You cannot play in the Premier League when players have to remain two metres apart.

“Have you ever tried playing football in a mask? This does not avoid social distancing.

“Players are together on the field, in the dressing room.

“Of course, you could say, ‘Let’s play behind closed doors’.

“But even then, you will see groups of fans coming secretly together in rooms just to support their team anyway.

“Testing is an important point but you have to repeat them.

“If one of the players becomes positive, you have to put the whole group into quarantine.

“Is that a solution for a normal competition?

“Football has to be patient. It has to listen to the authorities and respect the basic health rules.”

More than 24,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the UK.

And D’Hooghe’s comments were echoed by Prem star Murray, who said: “We need to remember that when we talk about football.

“It’s really important to my life and other people’s lives. But more important is our country’s health.

“We must be sensible in our decision to restart the Premier League.

“Football reopens a lot of other avenues — stewards, security, bus drivers, physios, doctors, ambulances. It’s not just a squad of 25.

“It’s going to be a hell of a lot of people which could put people at risk.”

And World Players Association chief Brandan Schwab added: “There is a lot of pressure from leagues to resume.

“But the players can only agree to that if their interests will be protected, where they are not being rushed.”

Prem chiefs are desperate to complete the remaining 92 matches of this season — but clubs want guarantees over their players’ safety.

There is a fear from some Prem boards that the Government is pushing them into rushing back too early, with a June 8 return date being discussed.

French PM Philippe confirmed: “The 2019-20 season of professional sports, including football, is not able to return.”

Ligue 1 chiefs are reluctant to declare the season null and void.

They are set to decide issues such as relegation either on points per game, or the standings after the 27th or 19th fixture rounds.

That would not change the current top four, with Paris Saint-Germain, Marseille and Rennes in the Champions League.

But the cancellation of one of Europe’s ‘Big Five’ leagues may make it harder for the Prem to get a green light to restart.