China’s domestic football season – including its lucrative Super League – has been postponed as sporting bodies join efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus.
The dramatic step follows the postponement of the World Indoor athletics championships, which were due to be held in China in March.
In a statement released on Thursday morning, the China Football Association (CFA) said the move was taken to help with the “prevention and control of the pneumonia epidemic of the new coronavirus infection, and to protect the health of the majority of fans, media, players, coaches, game officials, clubs and district staff”.
It said the decision affected the “2020 season national football competitions at all levels”.
The Chinese Super League, featuring former English Premier League stars such as Yaya Toure, Marouane Fellaini and ex-Chelsea midfielder Oscar, was scheduled to begin on February 22 and to run until October 31.
A new starting date for the season has not been announced.
The CFA said it would “continue to maintain close communication with national authorities, determine the timing of each season’s events in combination with the actual development of the epidemic situation and make reasonable adjustments to the system, schedule and scale of some events when necessary”.
It added that it “pays deep tribute to all medical workers and staff who are currently struggling in the frontline of epidemic prevention and control”.
In Australia, China’s women’s football team has been forced into quarantine at a hotel in Brisbane, Queensland, after the state recorded its first case of coronavirus.
A 44-year-old man from Wuhan – the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak – is in isolation at the Gold Coast University Hospital, south of Brisbane.
The China team had been due to open the Women’s Olympic football tournament qualifiers with a match against Thailand in Sydney on Monday.
Ticket sales for the tournament have now been suspended.