A study into data from the UK’s National Health Service has speculated that the Champions League fixture between Liverpool and Atletico Madrid at Anfield on March 11 is linked to more than 40 additional deaths from coronavirus.
Defending European champions Liverpool were eliminated from this season’s Champions League when they suffered a surprise home defeat to Atletico after extra-time to lose the tie 3-2 on aggregate, in what was the last major game to be played in England before football shuddered to a halt due to the coronavirus lockdown.
The game was a controversial one, as around 3,000 fans flew in from Spain to attend at a time when the country had an estimated 640,000 cases of coronavirus compared to around 100,000 in the UK, according to data from Imperial College London and Oxford University, cited in The Sunday Times.
An analysis into the data by Edge Health now suggests that the game could have been linked to 41 deaths from Covid-19 in the weeks following.
The match took place even as Spain introduced mandatory regulation designed to inhibit the spread of the virus, with some football matches already taking place behind closed doors.
Jose Luis Martinez-Almedia, the Mayor of Madrid, said in an interview with Spanish radio last month that allowing the Liverpool-Atletico fixture to proceed as planned was “a mistake.“
“It didn’t make any sense that 3,000 Atletico fans could travel to Anfield at that time,” Martinez-Almedia said. “It was a mistake. Looking back with hindsight, of course, but I think even at that time there should have been more caution.”
However, the decision to allow the game to proceed was defended by the UK government – who also gave the green light to the annual Cheltenham horse-racing festival, which the same study suggests was linked to 37 Covid-19 deaths.
Social distancing guidelines were subsequently introduced in the days that followed and remain largely in place today.
Football in the UK has remained in hiatus since that March 11 game, with the sport’s chiefs beginning to outline its ‘Project Restart’ plans aimed at resuming the Premier League season this summer. Spain, meanwhile, has also outlined a proposal to return to action from the week beginning June 8.
To date, the UK has suffered nearly 37,000 deaths as a result of the virus while Spain is approaching 29,000 fatalities.