All football in the UAE, including the Arabian Gulf League, will be played behind closed doors from this week forward to limit the impact of the coronavirus, it was announced on Wednesday.
The decision was announced by the UAE Football Association. In a statement, the UAE FA said: "It was decided that all football competitions in UAE will be played without the presence of spectators as follows: President’s Cup / first division league / second division league / youth competitions / futsal competitions / beach soccer / women’s competitions, effective immediately and until further notice."
Earlier, the Pro League Committee (PLC), the body that organises the league, made a similar move with this week’s fixtures – Round 18 of 26 – the first to be affected. The matches, highlighted by leaders Shabab Al Ahli Dubai’s derby against Al Nasr, take place on Thursday and Friday.
"In keeping with the principles of public safety, the UAE Pro League is coordinating with the relevant authorities in the country regarding the current health situation, preventive and precautionary measures taken by the various entities," the PLC said in a statement. "Furthermore, it was decided to suspend fan attendance in all its competitions until further notice, for the safety of the public."
The coronavirus continues to impact significantly Asian football, with the Asian Champions League group stages extended and the subsequent knockout rounds pushed back until August.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) is expected to meet with Fifa in Zurich on Thursday to determine the fate of the upcoming World Cup qualifiers. With matches originally to be played later this month and the second phase of qualification supposed to conclude in June, the expectation is that those fixtures will be postponed also.
The UAE were scheduled to host Malaysia in Dubai on March 26 and then take on Indonesia away five days later. The national team, now managed by Ivan Jovanovic, would then have played Thailand and Vietnam, the group leaders, in June.
Currently the UAE sit fourth in the group, five points off the top, although they do have a game in hand. Only the pool winners are guaranteed to progress to the next round.
Other UAE sporting events continue to feel the effect of the outbreak, with this weekend’s The Ladies Open at Yas Links Abu Dhabi postponed. The tournament, run in partnership with the Ladies European Tour, features both amateur and professional golfers.
A statement on the event’s social media account read: “As a precautionary and proactive measure, in conjunction with the local authorities, the decision has been made to postpone The Ladies Open at Yas Links Abu Dhabi until further notice.
“This decision is to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of players, guests and visitors.”