Wolves have condemned the decision not
to postpone their Europa League tie with Olympiacos, claiming the trip
to Greece "poses unnecessary risks" to their players and staff.
The Premier League side's appeal to have Thursday's last-16 first leg
called off was rejected by UEFA and the game will go ahead behind
closed doors as the spread of coronavirus continues to affect sporting
Olympiacos owner Evangelos Marinakis, who is also Nottingham Forest's
majority owner, announced on Tuesday that he had contracted the virus.
Wolves confirmed they would respect UEFA's decision and play the
match, but urged the governing body to "consider alternative options
moving forwards, as this will not be the last fixture to be affected by
"Wolves can confirm that a formal request submitted to UEFA proposing
the postponement of Thursday's Europa League tie at Olympiacos has been
rejected by the governing body," a club statement read.
"The match will take place, behind closed doors, in line with the
Greek government's enforced temporary suspension of spectators attending
sporting events, to limit the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) in
"Our position is that the trip poses unnecessary risks to our
players, staff, supporters and the families of all who travel, at such
critical and uncertain times.
"Our concern is also for our opponents, whose players and staff have
today been tested, and will now be expected to play their part in an
important fixture, under the difficult and challenging circumstances of
their owner suffering with the virus.
"There is also disappointment that the match will be played without
home and away supporters, as that is part of what makes European
competition so special, as well as the fact our fans have already
contended with similar obstacles on our Europa League journey already
"We believe that there are some things that are more important than
football, and that the good health of our pack and the general public is
one of them. However, we respect the decision of UEFA and the integrity
of the competition, and we will travel tomorrow to Greece to play the
"We hope that our request to UEFA, and our acceptance of their
decision, can act as the catalyst for them to consider alternative
options moving forwards, as this will not be the last fixture to be
affected by coronavirus."
Despite Marinakis' diagnosis and his position at Forest, the English
Football League insists there are no immediate plans to postpone any
Marinakis attended Friday night's Sky Bet Championship match against
Millwall, where he reportedly met with the first-team squad.
A club statement said he was diagnosed after first showing symptoms
on his return to Greece on Monday afternoon, adding he did not show any
symptoms while he was in Nottingham last week.
The EFL said it was working closely with Forest to see if any steps
needed to be taken following the news, but its statement confirmed
matches across the three divisions would continue as normal for the time
An EFL spokesman said: "The League is in dialogue to fully ascertain
the set of circumstances that existed when Mr Marinakis visited the club
last week and in conjunction with the club will make a determination on
what measures are to be taken - if any - when full details are known.
"We understand the club is taking the appropriate steps to mitigate
risk in line with relevant guidance provided by the health authorities.
The Government guidance remains unchanged on the position of EFL matches
taking place as scheduled."
Marinakis had also been in England just under two weeks ago to see
Olympiacos shock Arsenal by knocking them out of the Europa League at
the Emirates Stadium, with the Gunners insisting there has been no
suggestion anyone at the club has fallen ill as a result.
"Our home match with Olympiacos in the Europa League was played on
Thursday 27 February and none of our staff who came into contact with
him on that matchday have reported any symptoms since," they said in a
statement released to the PA news agency.
"We continue to follow strict protocols with regard to coronavirus.
We're following the Government health guidelines and have additional
procedures in place to protect our players and staff. This has included
regular deep cleaning of areas used by players at Emirates Stadium and
our training centre."
Wolves's clash with Olympiacos is one of a host of Europa and Champions League games due to take place without spectators.
Manchester United's Europa League last-16 first leg at Austrian side
LASK on Thursday and the second leg of Chelsea's Champions League
last-16 clash away to Bayern Munich on Wednesday, March 18 will both be
played behind closed doors.
So too will the second leg of Rangers' Europa League tie at Bayer Leverkusen on Thursday, March 19.
- TEAMtalk media