Express & Star

Fan safety must be paramount – West Brom's Slaven Bilic

Head coach Slaven Bilic says fan safety must be the priority as the coronavirus outbreak threatens to see Albion’s games moved behind closed doors.

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Slaven Bilic head coach / manager of West Bromwich Albion is interviewed after the match for West Bromwich Albion / WBA TV / Television.

Yesterday it was confirmed all matches in Spain’s top two divisions will be played without supporters for at least the next two weeks because of the virus.

All sport in Italy has also been suspended until April 3 because of COVID–19.

As it stands, football on these shores is carrying on as normal. And while Bilic is no fan of playing matches behind closed doors, he says he understands if the FA or government feel they need to act.

HEALTH Coronavirus
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“Sport – football – is not the most important thing in life,” the Croatian said.

“I am sure the English FA, the Italian FA and the FA’s all over the world will find a solution to finish the season but without putting in danger the fans and the players.

“They are going to find a solution and if the solution is to play behind closed doors that is the solution.

“I played in a few games behind closed doors in ex-Yugoslavia and also Turkey because there were a few problems with fans. It’s not nice to play those games.

“It’s very difficult to motivate the players, you hear everything. It’s like a training session.

“It’s a very weird situation. There are about 22 people in a stadium that has a capacity of 20,000, 30,000, 40,000 people or whatever.

“You can’t get in the zone that is required.

“It’s all about the fans, is all about entertainment, it’s all about atmosphere – that is what makes football here so good.

“But if that has to be the solution it has to be like that – the most important thing is to protect people.”

Since the outbreak, football managers up and down the country have been asked about coronavirus.

But Bilic says doctors are the only people we need to listen to.

“I am a football coach so I don’t know a lot about it and if it wasn’t for my wife I would know a lot less,” he said.

“It’s a concern for the whole world.

“But it shouldn’t be football coaches who are talking about it, it should be doctors. It should be specialists.

“Then we can all read about it to find out more because it is very serious, not only for sport but for the whole planet.

“There is nothing clever I can say about it because my knowledge is extremely limited.”