UAE FA extend suspension of football season amid coronavirus crisis

The latest measure covers the Arabian Gulf League, which has been shut down since March 15

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , March 14  – 2020 :-  Arabian Gulf League football match between Al Jazira v Al Ain held without spectators at Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. (Pawan Singh / The National) For Sports. Story by John
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The Football Association has announced an extension to the postponement of all competition that falls under its auspices, in a bid to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

The FA confirmed the widening of the suspension on Sunday and stated that the precaution would be in place "until further notice". The latest measure covers the 2019/20 Arabian Gulf League, which has been shut down since March 15.

The FA had originally suspended all football activity in the country for a period of four weeks from March 15, but said it had taken its most recent decision in line with the relevant authorities. A statement released on Sunday said the governing body would continue to “evaluate and review” the situation.

“The UAE Football Association had followed up with the latest health developments related to the coronavirus epidemic and the efforts made by the authorities to limit its spread,” read a statement.

“After assessing the situation with these entities, the Football Association decided to extend the suspension of football activities in the country as of today and until further notice as a precaution, provided that the situation is evaluated and reviewed.

“The decision includes all competitions organised by the UAE Football Association, the UAE Pro League, the activities of national teams, the women’s football committees, futsal, private academies and others.”

The FA continues to assess various options for the resolution of the 2019/20 Arabian Gulf League, which was halted last month 19 rounds in the season. The final two match days – Rounds 18 and 19 – were played without fans in attendance.

As of yet, no deadline has been set as to when the UAE top flight must be completed – if at all. A number of options remain on the table, including cancelling the campaign completely, although at the moment that represents the least desirable options given the repercussions of such a move.

Currently, Shabab Al Ahli Dubai top the standings, six points ahead of second-placed Al Ain. Fujairah and Hatta occupy the relegation spots, but are three and two points, respectively, from safety.

The FA convened a meeting on Sunday afternoon to discuss a range of issues, including the best path forward for the league this season, the implications on the transfer window and a proposal to cut players' salaries by up to 40 per cent.

The search for a new UAE manager was also on the agenda following last week's decision to terminate manager Ivan Jovanovic's contract.

The Serbian, who left his post without taking charge of the team for a match, was appointed only in late December as successor to Bert van Marwijk.

Jovanovic had been tasked with leading the UAE through their final four fixtures in the second round of qualification for the 2022 World Cup. Those qualifiers were postponed last months because of the pandemic, but are expected to take place instead in October and November.