OFFICIALS at Aldershot Town are “playing it by ear” in the wake of the deadly coronavirus which has already claimed six lives in the UK.
Fifteen cases have so far been reported in Hampshire, although health bosses have yet to announce exactly where, but the football club currently has a clean bill of health.
But with four games still to come at the EBB Stadium before the end of the season, including a derby against fierce rivals Woking on March 21, the club are taking no chances and staying diligent.
“We are just dealing with it day by day, but we have a duty to our staff, our players, our supporters, volunteers and to the public,” said Aldershot chairman Shahid Azeem.
“We are making sure that all the precautions we do take, any symptoms that we are made aware of, we report it and deal with it, but at the moment we are just observing and playing it by ear. The situation is forever changing on a daily basis so we just have to be on top of it.”
With the coronavirus believed to spread from person to person through close contact, football has come under close scrutiny from health officials who are concerned at the large numbers of people who gather in the relatively small confines of football stadiums.
And while UK football has not yet been hit to the extent of the programme in Europe, especially Italy, last night’s high-profile Premier League game between Manchester City and Arsenal was postponed.
Such moves could well filter down through the football pyramid if the health situation becomes worse, something which would have a detrimental impact on football clubs financially.
“At the moment our policy is like everybody else’s, just take all the precautions and if there any kind of symptoms we have got a process which we follow,” said Mr Azeem.
“We are dealing with it to the extent that we are dealing with ‘what if’ scenarios. We have got some major games coming up and we have got to prepare for those. If a match gets postponed last minute there are cost implications, so we need to eliminate as much risk as possible while still trying to make sure the games go ahead.”
And he added: “The information that we get from our group, the Football League and the FA obviously comes from the government, we are just trying to make sure that we are on top of it.”
The situation was brought into sharp focus when the Aldershot Garrison Sports Centre, a training facility used by the football club, was closed after a suspected case of coronavirus.
The centre was due to reopen on Wednesday.