ROME (Reuters) - Four Serie A soccer matches, plus a women’s rugby international, were postponed on Sunday because of an outbreak of the coronavirus in northern Italy.
The Italian government had ordered the Inter Milan v Sampdoria, Atalanta v Sassuolo and Verona v Cagliari fixtures to be called off on Saturday with no indication of when the games might be rescheduled.
On Sunday, Torino’s match at home to Parma was also called off, the club said, while the women’s Six Nations rugby union international between Italy and Scotland, due to be played in Legnano in the Lombardy region, was also postponed, Scottish Rugby said.
That left only two Serie A matches on Sunday — Genoa against Lazio in Genoa and AS Roma against Lecce in Rome.
Italy is tackling the worst outbreak of coronavirus recorded in Europe, with three people dying in the north since Friday and more than 150 infected.
Looking to prevent the spread of the disease, the government has banned public events in the worst-affected areas and shut schools and universities. The Lombardy region includes Milan while Turin is around 150 kilometres away in Piedmont.
Giovanni Malago, the head of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI), admitted it would be difficult to reschedule matches but said that was a secondary problem compared to public health.
“The health of the athletes and all citizens absolutely come first,” he told Sky Sport Italia. “The world of sport must not go its own way, it must takes its lead from the authorities starting with the government.”
Malago said the idea of Inter playing their match behind closed doors at San Siro had been considered but “there were problems connected to 70,000 people who have already bought tickets and potential public order problems if some still decided to go to the stadium”.
Inter Milan, who are third in Serie A, are due to host Bulgarian side Ludogorets Razgrad in a Europa League round-of-16 second leg on Thursday, a match that was also reported to be at risk.
The Gazzetta dello Sport said the match could be played behind closed doors.
Napoli are due to host Barcelona in a Champions League round-of-16 first-leg tie on Tuesday but there has been no suggestion of that match being under threat.
The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) said on Sunday that it had set up a task force to analyse the situation.
Reporting by Crispian Balmer and Brian Homewood,; Editing by Ed Osmond and Clare Fallon