• The Premier League announced it was stopping the pre-game handshake in an effort to prevent players from spreading the coronavirus.
  • However, the league didn’t announce any other amendments for the rest of the game, in which players spend in very close contact. 
  • Players from England’s Liverpool and Bournemouth soccer clubs sparked online reactions for the awkward contact-free greeting at the beginning of Saturday’s game.
  • The move is a minor example of decisions made by sports authorities in countries across the world trying to prevent a further spread of the coronavirus among the public.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Players on England’s Liverpool and Bournemouth soccer clubs sparked some humorous reactions when they skipped the customary pre-game handshake before their Saturday game.  

The Premier League had announced before the game that the players would line up alongside their teammates to greet their opponents per usual, but would not physically shake hands. 

Most players abided by the no-touch decision, but some, like Nathan Ake and Giorginio Wijnaldum, came up with friendly alternatives, like bumping elbows. 

—Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) March 7, 2020

In a statement released ahead of the game, the league cited the infectious nature of the novel coronavirus as the basis of its decision, saying it was taking precautions against the “spread via droplets from the nose and mouth and can be transmitted on to the hands and passed on via a handshake.”

Despite the decision to skip the pre-game ritual, the league did not make any other amendments to the 90-minute game, which players spent in close contact. 

liverpool match

Mohamed Salah of Liverpool celebrates scoring Liverpool’s second goal with Sadio Mane during the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and AFC Bournemouth at Anfield on March 07, 2020 in Liverpool, United Kingdom.

Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Many who were watching the game took to social media to mock the decision, saying that the greeting appeared awkward and pointing out that players could have still passed on the virus during the game or when they greeted each other after. 

Though it sparked reactions, the move is a minor example of decisions made by sports authorities in countries across the world to try and prevent the spread of the coronavirus among the public. Italy, Japan, and South Korea, where sporting events have been canceled or games have been played in empty venues, are responding to the spreading outbreak. 

The International Olympic Committee has been closely monitoring the virus spread ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which could still be canceled.

The NBA said in a memo released earlier this week that it recommends players use fist-bumps instead of high-fives when greeting fans, and not to take pens, basketballs, or jerseys to sign autographs. The organization later said that it was considering having teams play in empty arenas in front of only “essential staff.”

The proposal was almost immediately knocked by players like LeBron James, who called it “impossible.” 

“If I show up to an arena and there ain’t no fans in there, I ain’t playing,” James told reporters. 

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