Rome: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced the suspension until April 3 of all sporting events in the country, including the top-flight Serie A football league, as Italy grapples with the coronavirus crisis.
The final Serie A game before government announcement saw Sassuolo beat Brescia 3-0 behind closed doors in Reggio Emilia on Monday. After scoring his opening goal Sassuolo striker Francesco Caputo held up a handwritten message on piece of paper, urging fans: "Everything will be fine. Stay at home."
A few hours later the Prime Minister used similar words as he announced a countrywide lockdown. "I am going to sign a decree that can be summarised as follows: I stay at home," Conte announced in a dramatic evening television address.
The unprecedented measures limiting travel and banning public gatherings across the country of more than 60 million people came after 97 more deaths took Italy's toll to 463.
The measures include closure of schools, universities and suspension of sports competitions.
"There is no reason why matches and sporting events should continue and I am thinking of the football championship," said Conte.
"I'm sorry but all the fans must take note of it, we will not even allow gyms to be used for sports activities," he added.
The decree allows the possibility of organising matches under international jurisdiction behind closed doors, such as ties in UEFA's Champions League and Europa League.
Juventus are due to host Lyon in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie in Turin next week. Inter Milan are due to host Spain's Getafe in the Europa League on Thursday while Roma welcome Sevilla a week later.
Earlier Monday, Italy's National Olympic Committee (CONI), which has authority over all national sports federations, had recommended "sporting activities at all levels" be suspended until April 3 to help contain the virus outbreak and called for a government decree to enforce the request....