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Coronavirus scare: IPL’s fate to be decided on March 14

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The governing council of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has called a meeting in Mumbai on Saturday (March 14) to discuss the impact of coronavirus and its wide-ranging pitfalls in the thirteenth edition of the tournament.

According to a governing council member, the body is “seriously considering” having matches behind closed doors after the recent outbreak in different parts of the country. “We can’t turn a blind eye to what is happening around us. The situation is changing dramatically every hour as the number of persons affected seems to be on the rise. We can’t risk anything,” the governing council member said.

“Since the postponement of the tournament would lead to issues that are beyond our control, we may be forced to having matches in empty stadiums. The Champions League match was held without any spectators on Tuesday night and the Indian Open badminton will also follow suit. If it causes health hazards, IPL will also be held likewise,” he said.

As of now, nothing has been told to the franchises but a close watch is being kept on the legends matches that are going on in Mumbai and the three ODIs against South Africa, the first of which will be played in Dharamsala on Thursday. However, postponing the tournament and reducing its duration also can’t be ruled out.

“We are looking at having matches behind closed doors, say for the first fortnight. In that case, we will have to take a call depending on the situation,” the member said. A health ministry advisory to associations has already banned “mass gatherings” in sporting events. What has made it worse for the IPL is the Maharashtra government’s order on Wednesday to not allow the sale of tickets at the stadium during the league.

“After discussions, we have come to two options: either to postpone matches or to have matches without selling tickets,” Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope said in Mumbai.

Late in the evening on Wednesday, the ministry of health and family welfare decided to suspend all existing visas with the exception of diplomatic, official, UN/other international organisations, employment and project visas, till April 15.

“The players will not be affected by such suspension of visas since they are in India on employment visas. There are, however, a few exceptions,” a franchise official said.