‘Its nowhere near important enough to be risking people’s lives’ - Lambert calls for football to be suspended due to coronavirus fears
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town manager Paul Lambert was asked about football’s reaction to the coronavirus outbreak during his press conference this morning.
Major leagues throughout the world have been postponing fixtures to help stop the spread of the virus but, as things stand, games in England will be going ahead as planned.
However, following news over night that Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea's Callum Hudson-Odoi have contracted the virus, the Premier League and EFL are holding emergency meetings where it is said football acrivities will be postponed.
Lambert has called for all football to be called off, insisting the game is not important enough to be risking people's lives.
No Ipswich players have been tested for the virus at this stage, although midfielder Teddy Bishop was sent home from training with a cold earlier this week but is said to be returning today.
Below is the full transcript of the Town boss's press conference.
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PL: 'I think what's going on at the minute is crazy.
'Mikel (Arteta) and Callum (Hudson-Odoi) at Chelsea and I think there will be more to come.
'If the Premier League has a meeting and calls it off then I think everyone else has to follow. You can't play because you're risking people's lives - the game is nowhere near important enough to be risking people's lives.
'There is so much uncertainty with it. Scotland are postponing games, France, Germany too and Italy. Everyone's shutting down so why are we any different?
'We play Portsmouth in a couple of weeks and they came into contact with Mikel and Arsenal the other week. Where's it going?
So what are you doing with the players who have had colds? Self-isolating?
PL: 'No, the guys came in, were checked over and seemed ok. (Teddy) Bishop was the one who got sent away and we'll see what's happening with him.
'They're saying if you get a cold that you should stay away and not get tested. I'm like everyone else and I don't know because it's unclear where we stand on it.'
So these players have been tested for coronavirus?
PL: 'No, I'm not saying they had that. There were a couple of colds and Bishop got sent home with it but we're not saying that (he had the virus). He wasn't flu-symptom with it.'
What measures are you taking at the training ground?
PL: 'We can't shake hands, we try to open all the doors and we try to clean everything. Every time you walk by a hand sanitiser you're washing your hands. But that's only going to last so long.
'We're trying everything we can. But if it's in the air and you cough, touch your face or mouth, where are we going with it?
'Players have been asked not to sign autographs or have pictures with fans and I think you have to do that. I saw Jurgen (Klopp) up at Liverpool where people tried to touch him and he told them it wasn't a good idea because we don't know what's going on.
'Everybody's life is more important than a game of football and everyone needs to look at that. That's just my opinion.'
What about playing games behind closed doors?
PL: 'I don't agree with it, that's just my opinion. I've played behind closed doors and was part of the Scotland team that went to Monaco to play Estonia (in 1996) after they didn't turn up (for the original staging in Talinn due to a dispute over floodlights). There was no team, no fans and it wasn't great.
'The game's about the public and it always will be. It's about fans. I watched Juventus against Inter Milan and I watched PSG against Dortmund. There was nobody there. If you look at Paris St Germain against Dortmund that would normally be one of the standout ties of the Champions League.
'All you could hear was the voices or the ball being kicked and that's not football. It's about the supporters and if there's no fans I wouldn't want to play it. If we're told we have to play it then I would still think it's wrong because it would kill the smaller clubs. Without a doubt.
'Listen, if we had to play behind closed doors at home with five home games left it would have a major impact here with the revenue. An absolute disaster.
'I would suspend it, let it go forward and then take it into May or play three games a week.
'I don't think closed doors is the right way but if you've got to do it, you've got to do it. Prolonging the season is probably a better idea.'
So is it a case of waiting to see what the government and their medical advisors suggest?
PL: 'It's a global game. A worldwide game.
'Nobody knows where it is and it's impacting everybody. My parents are old and there's more important things than football which means that has to outweigh everything.
'Every other sport is doing it - the Grand Prix, the Olympics could go, Wimbledon, golf, the NBA, everything.
'What are we doing? We're still being told to play.'
Are clubs putting pressure on the EFL then?
PL: 'I'm not sure. There was a meeting with the hierarchy here yesterday and they were told to go along with what the government says for the minute.
'The Arsenal thing and the Chelsea thing could happen tomorrow somewhere else. It seems to be every time you wake up in the morning someone else has come down with it.
'Because they're fit, young guys they're not exempt from anything. The virus doesn't discriminate. It's a massive risk we're taking here.'
Particularly given the environment of football in dressing rooms and stadiums...
PL: 'Yeah, definitely. I saw an email come through the other day about when you're at stadiums to put your clothes in bags and disinfect coat hangers. What are we doing? The easiest thing is to suspend it. It's crazy and the uncertainty is massive.'
This must have impacted your preparation for the game? The uncertainty can't have helped?
PL: 'I think everyone's in the same boat. What happened over night has escalated everything after the government came out and said what they said.
'With Mikel and Calum at Arsenal and Chelsea, then Portsmouth, Nottingham Forest and Millwall have had contact with those teams not long ago.
'We don't know. Bart (Bialkowski, now of Millwall) was here during the week and Millwall played Notts Forest last Friday. There's a knock-on effect.
'We have young kids training here at night time with their parents so the traffic that comes through the building every day and every night is vast. I don't know what's happening.'