David Freezer: Suspension due to coronavirus came as relief despite clear frustrations

Canaries fans will not be flying their flags for quite a while Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Canaries fans will not be flying their flags for quite a while Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Paul Chesterton

I’m sure I wasn’t the only person to feel relieved when the coronavirus caused suspension of English football was finally confirmed – even if it is frustrating from a football perspective.

It had to be done, the correct decision was made. Perspective about football's place in the pecking order of life ensured the health of the older and vulnerable among our society was prioritised.

As someone with a brother who relies on immunosuppressive medication to function and a grandmother in her 80s who has had health challenges, I was genuinely concerned about spending today in the company of around 27,000 other people.

There will be many people who have similar stories, of friends or relatives they are concerned about in the current Covid-19 crisis, which demands responsible behaviour and common sense from us all.

It's felt jarring how prevalent sport has been among such a fast-spreading global pandemic which has utterly dominated conversation and news headlines throughout this week.

Yet the approaching international break in football illustrates why; when fans, players, officials and media would have been flying around the globe in the name of not just Euro 2020 qualifiers but friendly games as well.

With Uefa poised to meet on Tuesday, international action between Tuesday, March 24 and Thursday, April 2 will surely be cancelled, with the extent of the pandemic already far more extensive on the continent, with the UK yet to be affected to the same tragic extents as countries such as Italy and Spain.

Canaries players Jamal Lewis and Michael McGovern are scheduled to fly to Bosnia & Herzegovina, loan midfielder Ondrej Duda to Slovakia to face Ireland and Scotland duo Grant Hanley and Kenny McLean to Glasgow to take on Israel.

That's just a small part of the international action Norwich players are facing, which simply cannot go ahead at the moment. The European Championship will surely have to be delayed by a year, particularly a tournament which is being held across a host of capital cities, rather than in one country as is traditional.

Although there are no figures available to back up this belief, I don't think it's the greatest leap to assume City's season ticket holders will have one of the highest average ages in the Premier League.

So, given the imminent action in wider society to protect the older generations, which may even stretch to limiting social interactions at the peak of the virus, would we have seen the attendance drop if today's Premier League game had gone ahead?

The average attendance at Carrow Road so far this season is 27,022 - at around 99pc of capacity. Yet given the amount of concern about the spread of Covid-19, that may well have taken a big drop against Southampton today.

Yet it's next weekend's FA Cup quarter-final which really could have tested those sensibilities, the first for 28 years, against Manchester United.

That type of tantalising tie is why the decision had to be taken away from supporters, who might just find supporting their team too tempting, even with the avoidance of hand-shakes and plenty of hand washing.

At times like these football has to fall into place. On Thursday evening the prime minister had to warn us that 'many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time', words that were not used lightly.

Social media - once again - seems to have played a part in the spread of misinformation and caused confusion among the wider population about how seriously the virus should be taken.

Covid-19 firmly has our attention now though and if that means the Euros are postponed or the Premier League season has to be concluded during the summer months, then so be it.

Let's just hope that the extreme cautionary measures being put in place meant the campaign is not concluded behind closed doors though because, as shown during some of the European games this week, that's just not football.

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