Premier League, all English soccer postponed in wake of Queen Elizabeth II's death
The English Premier League postponed all 10 matches scheduled for this upcoming weekend after Queen Elizabeth II, Britain's longest-reigning monarch, died Thursday at age 96.
EPL officials made the decision Friday morning despite official guidance from the UK government that did not require them to do so. "There is no obligation to cancel or postpone events and sporting fixtures, or close entertainment venues during the National Mourning period," the guidance states.
The Premier League, in a statement, said it chose to pause its season "to honor [the queen's] extraordinary life and contribution to the nation, and as a mark of respect."
The Women's Super League and English Football League — which governs the second through fourth tiers of the men's game — and the rest of English soccer also "united" to call off their weekend matches for similar reasons. Even youth games have been canceled.
Other British sports also paused on Thursday and Friday as the nation fell into an official period of mourning. All horse racing was called off until Sunday. The BMW PGA Championship, a golf tournament that began Thursday in Surrey, England, suspended play. A cricket match between England and South Africa was paused. Cycling's Tour of Britain was canceled.
Weekend rugby matches, however, are still on as of Friday afternoon. The government guidance leaves decisions "at the discretion of individual organizations."
The Premier League's decision was complicated by an already-reshuffled calendar that had little room for further disruption. The league has packed its traditional nine-month season into roughly eight months so that it can break for the Qatar 2022 World Cup, which was moved to an unprecedented November-December window to avoid dangerous heat. Most top English clubs are already scheduled to play two games per week between now and the World Cup break.
No makeup dates for the postponed matches — which include Fulham-Chelsea and Manchester City-Tottenham on Saturday; Arsenal-Everton on Sunday; and Leeds-Nottingham Forest on Monday — have yet been announced. Several will likely not be playable until 2023.
"Further updates regarding Premier League fixtures during the period of mourning will be provided in due course," the league said.
Seven British clubs are scheduled to play again next Tuesday-Thursday in the Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League. Those competitions are run by UEFA, European soccer's governing body.
The Premier League, for now, is scheduled to resume next Friday, and throughout next weekend — after which players will depart their clubs for a nine-day window with their national teams. The schedule, though, could be disrupted again by the queen's funeral, for which a date has not yet been announced. Friday's government guidance focused on the funeral more so than the immediate response:
"As a mark of respect, organizations might wish to consider cancelling or postponing events or closing venues on the day of the State Funeral. They are under no obligation to do so and this is entirely at the discretion of individual organizations.
"If sporting fixtures or events are planned for the day of the State Funeral, organizations may want to adjust the event timings so they do not clash with the timings of the funeral service and associated processions. As a mark of respect, and in keeping with the tone of National Mourning, organizers may wish to hold a period of silence and/or play the National Anthem at the start of events or sporting fixtures, and players may wish to wear black armbands."
Policing resources could also be a concern, and were already a chief concern for Premier League clubs in discussions around this weekend's matches, according to reports.
The official national mourning period will continue until the funeral. The government has issued guidance for the half-masting of flags and for moments of silence, both of which the Premier League and other soccer leagues will likely observe.
News of the queen's death broke late in the first half of Arsenal's Europa League game at FC Zurich on Thursday. Arsenal players strapped on black armbands at halftime, and the two teams held a moment of silence before the start of the second half.
Manchester United's Europa League game against Spanish club Real Sociedad, scheduled to begin 90 minutes after the Royal Family's announcement, also went ahead as planned at Old Trafford, with a minute of silence beforehand. Both teams wore black armbands, and flags around the stadium flew at half-mast. United said the decision was made "following direction from the FA [England's soccer federation] and UEFA."