Coronavirus leads to calls for Serie A suspension as risk of Euro 2020 impact grows

On Sunday morning, Italian players' union president Damiano Tommasi tweeted that he had written to the country's prime minister Giuseppe Conte, as well as heads of the league and the FA, asking for all football in the country to be stopped amid the impact of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus.

"The teams to be cheering on right now are performing in our hospitals and wherever there is an emergency," Tommasi wrote.

His comment followed Saturday night's measures from the Italian government, which effectively put a quarter of the population under quarantine. In the short term, Sunday's Serie A games went ahead behind closed doors, although the first of the day -- Parma vs. SPAL -- was delayed for 75 minutes.

The plan is for games in empty stadiums to continue at least until April 3, but a meeting to discuss the situation has been scheduled for Tuesday.

For the head of a players' union to take such a strong stance is bound to have repercussions. You can play games without fans, but doing so without players is more difficult (Mario Balotelli was among those to back the suspension call). And while Tommasi did not mention the word "strike," there is a key issue here, given the government has told some 16 million people not to travel except for essential work or medical reasons.

Six Serie A teams -- Milan, Inter, Atalanta, Brescia, Parma and Sassuolo -- are based in the affected areas, which raises the question: Is playing football -- professional football -- an essential reason to travel?

From a business vantage point, the answer is yes. Serie A, like most pro leagues, is basically an unscripted reality TV show. Most of its audience -- and revenue -- derives from people watching on their screens, with advertisers and sponsors paying for those eyeballs. Shut it down and you lose that, just as you have already lost gate receipts from match-going fans.

The same amounts to most other businesses, which also lose money when they go under quarantine. In many lines of work, you can telecommute, you can videoconference, you can postpone certain meetings and decisions, but it all comes at a cost. And there are jobs where you simply cannot stop, whether running an assembly line in a factory or driving a truck. What is essential and what is not?

Switzerland, just across the border, has suspended its league. What would happen, in practical terms, if Italy did the same?

The obvious answer is that there would be a fixture pile-up that would either cut the season short -- opening a hornet's nest in terms of awarding titles, European places and determining relegation and promotion -- or extend it into June. The latter only becomes an option if Euro 2020, which is scheduled to begin on June 12, is moved. For that to happen, the situation would have to degenerate across Europe; it is not something authorities are ruling out.

Germany reached 800 cases of confirmed infections on Saturday, roughly the same number that Italy had when matches began to be postponed eight days ago. France is at nearly 1,000 and PSG's game at Strasbourg on Saturday was postponed. Neither of which means both countries were wrong to go ahead with matches -- decisions are made based on concentration of cases and patterns of infection -- but it does mean that the possibility of suspensions elsewhere is real.

Not to mention what happens if players are infected. Four from the Danish league have been quarantined after meeting with Thomas Kahlenberg, a former player who tested positive. In Holland, members of Ajax's coaching staff are also in quarantine, including former Danish international Christian Poulsen.

UEFA have said they will follow government advice, and they have little choice. Euro 2020 will be staged across 12 countries. Playing behind closed doors has been mooted, but that would come at an estimated cost of half a billion Euros in lost ticket sales, hotel and travel cancellations. Moreover, it assumes local governments permit such a scenario; if even a couple of cities shut down, a logistical nightmare would result.

Even before that, there is the question of European club competitions. Five Italian clubs -- Juventus, Napoli, Roma, Inter and Atalanta -- are still involved in the Champions League or Europa League, with the latter two in the quarantine zone. It is difficult to see a situation whereby some clubs continue with their league programmes and others do not.

Therefore, an extension of domestic leagues and subsequent Euros postponement cannot be ruled out; UEFA ultimately are beholden to their members. But when would it be played?

The first instinct would be shifting it to June 2021. That would require permission from FIFA at a time when relations between the two bodies are at a low. It would also affect events already scheduled at that time, including the UEFA Nations League, World Cup qualifiers around the world and the FIFA Club World Cup in China.

All of that would come at a cost, both political and economic, and is a further reason why all of sport is stuck between a rock and a hard place, and could be for some time.