Why Liverpool vs Atletico Madrid can’t be labelled a Covid-19 superspreading event, yet

Jurgen Klopp

Covid-19 superspreading events

Many football fans have started to take notice of a recently published article from Jonathan Kay titled:

COVID-19 Superspreader Events in 28 Countries: Critical Patterns and Lessons.

The article was written for Quillette, which is described by Wikipedia as a “magazine [that] primarily focuses on science, technology, news, culture, and politics”.

The aim of the report is to attempt to identify what factors have led to Covid-19 superspreading events.

But what is a superspreading event? Jonathan Kay wrote:

As there is no formal scientific definition of SSE at play, nor any World Health Organization-established protocol for cataloguing them, I simply spent several weeks scanning the scientific and lay press for any information I could find, using search terms such as “superspreader,” “cluster,” “hot spot”; or non-English variants, such as superpropagadore.


Was Liverpool vs Atletico Madrid a Covid-19 superspreading event?

A little over a month ago at Anfield, Atletico Madrid knocked Liverpool out of this season’s Champions League.

However, the result of that match has largely fallen by the wayside, as many have focused on the health implications of the clash going ahead.

The official attendance for this match was 52,267. There were at least 3,000 fans from Madrid at the game. At the time, Madrid was one of the epicentres of the ongoing coronavirus global pandemic.

Recently, the UK’s Deputy Chief Scientific Adviser, Angela Maclean, was asked whether the Liverpool-Atletico Madrid match should have gone ahead. She said:

That’s certainly an interesting hypothesis that you’ve raised. It will be very interesting to see in the future, when all the science is done, what relationship there is between the viruses that have circulated in Liverpool and the viruses that have circulated in Spain.

Jonathan Kay has also analysed whether the Liverpool versus Atletico match could have been a Covid-19 superspreading event.

Kay’s conclusion is that that question remains up in the air, due to basic failings on the part of the UK government:

Was Liverpool’s March 11 football match against Atletico Madrid an SSE, as many believe? Possibly. But no one knows, because the study of COVID-19 SSEs is bedevilled by the same sloppy contact-tracing practices and inadequate testing resources as has hampered the public-health response to the disease more generally.


Jonathan Kay’s warning about the kind of behaviour that underpins a Covid-19 superspreading event

With most of the world living by strict social distancing measures for more than a month now, the urge to relaunch top-flight football appears to be ramping up daily.

In England, ‘Project Restart‘ is being formulated to complete the 2019-20 Premier League season.

But should football really be allowed to go ahead until there’s a vaccine for Covid-19?

In a worrying conclusion about which behaviours underpin a Covid-19 superspreading event, Jonthan Kay warned:

When do COVID-19 SSEs happen? Based on the list I’ve assembled, the short answer is: Wherever and whenever people are up in each other’s faces, laughing, shouting, cheering, sobbing, singing, greeting, and praying.

You don’t have to be a 19th-century German bacteriologist or MIT expert in mucosalivary ballistics to understand what this tells us about the most likely mode of transmission.


Also see: “An interesting hypothesis”: UK government on if Liverpool vs Atletico Madrid should have gone ahead.

Carlo Ancelotti agrees with Jurgen Klopp: Playing Liverpool vs Atletico Madrid was ‘criminal’.

This article was edited by Conor Laird.