English Premier League postpones games after Queen Elizabeth II’s death
The English Premier League has postponed all 10 games scheduled for this coming weekend after Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest reigning monarch, died aged 96 on Thursday.
EPL officials made the decision on Friday morning despite official UK Government instructions saying it did not require it. “There is no obligation to cancel or postpone events and sporting events or to close entertainment venues during the national mourning period,” the guidance reads.
The Premier League said in a statement it had decided to pause its season “in honour”. [the queen’s] exceptional life and contribution to the nation and as a mark of respect.”
The Women’s Super League and English Football League – which govern the second through fourth divisions of the men’s game – and the rest of English football also “united” to cancel their weekend games for similar reasons. Youth games were also canceled.
Other British sports also paused on Thursday and Friday as the nation entered an official period of mourning. All horse races have been cancelled until Sunday. The BMW PGA Championship, a golf tournament that started on Thursday in Surrey, England, was suspended. A cricket match between England and South Africa has been suspended. The cycling tour of Great Britain has been cancelled.
However, there are still weekend rugby matches on Friday afternoon. Government guidelines leave decisions “at the discretion of individual organizations.”
The Premier League decision was complicated by an already reshuffled calendar, leaving little room for further disruption. The league has condensed its traditional nine-month season into roughly eight months in order to pause for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which has been pushed to an unprecedented November-December window to avoid dangerous heat. Most English top clubs will already be playing two games a week before the World Cup break.
No catch-up dates for the postponed games – including Fulham-Chelsea and Manchester City-Tottenham on Saturday; Arsenal-Everton on Sunday; and Leeds-Nottingham Forest on Monday – were yet to be announced. Some will likely not be playable until 2023.
“Further updates on Premier League games during the period of mourning will be provided in due course,” the league said.
Seven British clubs are scheduled to play again in the Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League from next Tuesday to Thursday. These competitions are run by UEFA, the governing body of European football.
The Premier League is set to resume next Friday and next weekend for now – after which players will leave their clubs for a nine-day window with their national teams. However, the schedule could be disrupted again by the Queen’s funeral, for which no date has yet been announced. Friday’s government guidelines focused more on the funeral than the immediate response:
“As a mark of respect, organizations may wish to consider canceling or postponing events or closing venues on the day of the state funeral. You are not required to do so and this is entirely at the discretion of each organization.
“If sporting events or events are planned for the day of the state funeral, organizations may wish to adjust event times so that they do not conflict with the times of the funeral service and associated processions. As a mark of respect and in keeping with the tone of national mourning, organizers may wish to observe a period of silence and/or play the national anthem at the start of events or sporting events, and players may wish to wear black armbands.
Police resources could also be an issue and have reportedly been a key concern for Premier League clubs in discussions surrounding this weekend’s games.
Official national mourning continues until the funeral. The Government has issued guidelines on flag-flying and minutes of silence, both of which are likely to be respected by the Premier League and other football leagues.
News of the Queen’s death broke late on Thursday in the first half of Arsenal’s Europa League game at FC Zurich. Arsenal players buckled on black armbands at half-time and the two teams maintained a moment of silence before the start of the second half.
Manchester United’s Europa League game against Spanish club Real Sociedad, due to start 90 minutes after the Royal Family announced it, also went ahead as planned at Old Trafford with a minute of silence before. Both teams wore black armbands and the flags in the stadium flew at half-staff. Said United The decision was made “at the direction of the FA”. [England’s soccer federation] and Uefa.”