Football: Disease halts QPR fixture

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The Independent Online
QUEEN'S PARK RANGERS have been forced to postpone tomorrow's Nationwide League First Division game against Sheffield United after a first-team player was diagnosed as suffering from meningitis.

A number of other Loftus Road players are under observation after displaying similar symptoms to those of the confirmed case.

A statement released by the Football League read: "The decision to postpone this fixture has been taken on the advice of medical professionals and is in the health and safety interests of the QPR playing squad, staff and fans and also those of Sheffield United."

The QPR chief executive, Simon Crane, said: "We will not have the results of the tests back for 48 hours so, out of respect for the player and the others who are undergoing tests, we won't be naming names.

"An outbreak of meningitis is a shock for anybody and, as a result, we have shut our training ground and it will be closed all day tomorrow. We have cancelled all our junior sides' games as well as the Sheffield United game. We have shut the place down for the weekend.

"We have an obligation as an employer to act in the best interests of the playing staff, the employees and the fans."

Partizan Belgrade would rather play both legs of their Uefa Cup first- round tie against Leeds United at Elland Road than visit Heerenveen for their "home" leg.

The decision by European football's governing body, Uefa, to switch the first leg to the Dutch town next Tuesday has upset the Yugoslav club. "We are now pressed for time to obtain Dutch visas and will probably be booted out of the competition if we are denied for some reason," said an angry Partizan director, Slobodan Novakovic. "Words cannot describe our disgust with Uefa's decision. It goes beyond sports and represents economic pressure on the club, as we will have to dish out pounds 100,000 for taking the tie to Heerenveen instead of treating our fans to a classic in Belgrade."

Uefa agreed to move the match to a neutral venue due to Belgrade's unsuitability in the wake of the recent Kosovo crisis. Foreign Office officials have urged British citizens not to travel to Yugoslavia, while no commercial flights are allowed into the country.

Miodrag Jesic, the Partizan coach, said: "Uefa are trying to destroy Partizan's chances of doing well in Europe. But I know my players will come out of this stronger and get past Leeds."