Manchester United will play their Europa League last-16 first leg away to LASK Linz behind closed doors as Austria attempts to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Rudolf Anschober, the Austrian health minister, announced on Tuesday morning that all outdoor events of more than 500 people in the country would be cancelled until mid-April.
Anschober said that football matches could still be played – ensuring United’s trip to LASK would go ahead – but only with these limitations in place.
LASK later confirmed in a statement that Thursday evening’s game would go ahead without any fans in attendance, in accordance with government advice.
“LASK has announced that the home game scheduled for Thursday (6.55 p.m.) against Manchester United must take place without spectators,” the club said.
“The association will provide further information after the publication of the relevant decree.”
Around 900 United fans are understood to have bought tickets for Thursday night’s game at the Linzer Stadion, which has a capacity of 21,005.
Many supporters are already on route to Linz. United are understood to be waiting for guidance from LASK and Uefa before taking further action.
The organisers of the Austrian Bundesliga, the country’s domestic top flight, said that they would prioritise playing matches behind closed doors rather than a postponement.
“We want games with spectators for economic and atmospheric reasons. Above all, in terms of sporting fairness too,” the organisers said.
“With this in mind, we will exhaust all possibilities & only consider ghost games when there are no other options available.”
Matches in France’s Ligue 1 and Spain’s La Liga will be played behind closed doors for the next two weeks while in Italy, the epicentre of Europe’s coronavirus outbreak, Serie A games have been suspended until 3 April.
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Source – The Independent