The British Government plans to set up the first of a series of regular meetings with major sports, including the Premier League, this coming week in a bid for a speedy return to action on the field while the French Football Federation is proposing a return to football in June with two cup finals ahead of a restart of the Ligue 1 season.
Here is our update on further cancellations, postponements and rescheduling as Codiv-19 casts its invisible shadow over the staging of every major sporting event.
Football – The British Government plans to set up the first of a series of regular meetings involving senior medical directors of the major sports this week, including the Premier League, in a bid to return to action as soon as possible, BBC Sport has reported. The move was described by a source close to the plans as a “quickening of the pace” and intended to help sport resume within weeks, if progress was made. The Chief Medical Officer’s staff would also be involved in the weekly meetings, and the Prime Minister has been briefed on the plan. Testing, social distancing, hygiene standards and strict limits on the numbers of people allowed in venues would all be debated. The Premier League has been suspended since 13 March but is now hopeful of a potential 8 June restart and finishing at the end of July to fit in with UEFA’s European competition plans. This would require full training to begin by 18 May. Top-flight clubs will meet on Friday to discuss options for the restart. Meanwhile, French football could resume its season in June with two cup finals, French Football Federation President Noel Le Graet proposed on Friday. La Graet said that the French Cup final between Paris St Germain and St Etienne could be played on either June 13 or 20, followed by the League Cup final between PSG and Olympique Lyonnais three days later. He suggested it would be the appropriately symbolic way to restart professional soccer after its suspension last month. A restart for Ligue 1 had been provisionally set for June 17 but Le Graet conceded it would depend on government approval. The Eredivisie – the top tier of football in the Netherlands – has been abandoned for the season with no title winner and no teams relegated. Both Ajax and AZ Alkmaar, who topped the table, will go into the Champions League qualifying stages, pending ratification by UEFA. Euro 2020, Europe’s flagship tournament, will be staged from 11 June to July 11, 2021. UEFA has put all club and national team competitions for men and women on hold until further notice. The men’s and women’s Champions League finals and Europa League final originally scheduled for May have been formally postponed. However, UEFA is working to plans that would see the Champions League final end the 2019-20 season on 29 August. All the major European leagues have been suspended and seasons across Asia and South America have been either postponed or suspended.
Formula One – The 2020 Formula One season is set to begin on 5 July with the Austrian GP as part of back-to-back races at the Red Bull Ring. Round two would take place at the venue a week later on 12 July. The season is yet to get under way with the opening nine rounds already cancelled. Austria has been impacted less by the virus compared to many other European countries around it. These races could be followed by two UK races at Silverstone, also without spectators. However, any proposal on the calendar depends on external factors, particularly the situation with the spread of coronavirus in each individual country. F1 bosses have said they do not want to start the season if they cannot carry it on.
Motor Sports – The German Grand Prix became the eighth MotoGP race to be postponed because of coronavirus, pushing back further the start of the new season. The race was scheduled for 21 June at the Sachsenring The German government and regional state governors have extended a ban on big events until the end of August. Races in Qatar, Thailand, the United States, Argentina, France, Spain and Italy have also been postponed. The 2020 North West 200 and Isle of Man TT international road races, the 2020 Ulster Grand Prix and the Munster 100, scheduled for June, and the Faugheen 50, scheduled for July, have all been called off. The Le Mans 24 hours race was postponed from 13-14 June to 19-20 September. The Indianapolis 500, one of the world’s biggest single-day sporting events with an estimated crowd topping 350,000, has been postponed until 23 August.
The Olympics – The delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics probably could not be held in 2021 unless a vaccine is developed before then to defeat the global coronavirus pandemic, according to Yoshitake Yokokura, President of the Japan Medical Association (JMA). He acknowledged that researchers around the world are striving to come up with an answer with anti-viral drugs but he also made clear that he felt that the government’s steps to contain the virus fell short. “Unless a vaccine is developed, I do not believe the Olympics can be held,” Yokokura told Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper on Friday. The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo 2020 organisers held an executive board meeting earlier this month at which they reiterated their hope the Games could be the “light at the end of the tunnel”. The rescheduled Olympics are due to take place from 23 July-8 August 2021.
Tennis – The fate of this year’s US Open will not be decided until June, but it is highly unlikely to be staged behind closed doors, according to the US Tennis Association (USTA) which has set up a medical advisory group to help them determine whether it will be safe to play the tournament. The US Open is due to begin at Flushing Meadows in New York on 31 August. The French Tennis Federation, in a surprise move, switched the clay court French Open Grand Slam tournament from its May start to 20 September to 4 October because of the coronavirus lockdown. The men’s ATP Tour and the WTA, which runs the women’s circuit, have suspended all tournaments until mid-July. Wimbledon has been cancelled while the French Open’s new slot means the tournament will start a week after the U.S. Open is played on hard courts. Of the four Grand Slam events, only the Australian Open has been held. The women’s Fed Cup finals scheduled in Budapest from 14-19 April were postponed.
Golf – The 2021 women’s Solheim Cup will not be moved if the 2020 Ryder Cup gets pushed back because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to LPGA commissioner Mike Whan. The biennial tournament is scheduled from 4-6 September 2021 in Ohio. There has been speculation the Ryder Cup, currently set for 25-27 September 2020 in Wisconsin, could be pushed back a year to September 2021. If the Ryder Cup is postponed it would join the cancelled 149th Open Championship, due to take place in July at Royal St George’s in Kent, and 2020’s three other majors, all in the US, which have been rescheduled. The Augusta Masters has been put back from April to November, while the US PGA Championship is slated for August. The US Open, at Winged Foot, New York, is being moved from June to September. The British Open will now be hosted by the same venue in Kent in 2021. The Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club due to be held in North Berwick from 9-12 July in July has also been postponed while the BMW International Open in Munich and the Open de France near Paris have been cancelled.
Rugby Union – English Premiership Rugby was further postponing the current season, and working with the Rugby Football Union (RFU), Rugby Players Association (RPA), clubs’ Directors of rugby and medical staff to scenario-plan for a number of restart dates with all measures put in place to ensure safety and wellbeing, its Chief Executive Darren Childs said in a statement at the weekend. He said that he was exploring with the RFU opportunities to reschedule the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final until later in the year, with all tickets valid for the rescheduled date. World Rugby, the global governing body, has already said it is exploring options for rearranging the international rugby calendar in the short term in preparation for sport restarting. World Rugby’s contingencies include the possibilities that cross-hemisphere travel may not be permitted, which would impact on the northern hemisphere’s autumn series, and that no international rugby at all may be feasible until 2021. Four Six Nations matches have been indefinitely postponed, leaving the tournament in limbo. Rugby Europe announced a suspension of all its matches and tournaments while France’s rugby federation suspended all its competitions, including Top 14. The European rugby season was suspended after European Professional Club Rugby postponed Champions Cup and Challenge Cup quarter-final, semi-final and final matches. England’s Rugby Football Union and Wales’ governing body confirmed the end of the 2019-20 season for all league, cup and county rugby. In Rugby League, the English Rugby Football League and Super League have postponed all fixtures indefinitely pending further review while the game’s premier competition, the National Rugby League (NRL) in Australia, has also shut down its season with plans to resume on 28 May with matches to be played behind closed doors.
Cycling: The postponed 2020 Tour de France will now start on 29 August, following the French government’s extension of a ban on mass gatherings to mid-July. Cycling’s biggest event, won by Team Ineos’ Egan Bernal last year, was originally scheduled to run from 27 June to 19 July. “Holding this event in the best conditions possible is judged essential given its central place in cycling’s economy,” said the UCI, the sport’s governing body. Four-time winner Chris Froome is set to return at this year’s Tour, which is set to start in Nice, after he missed the 2019 race following a high-speed accident in which he broke his neck, femur, elbow, hip and ribs. The Giro d’Italia, scheduled to start in Budapest, Hungary on 9 May, has been postponed while the Road World Championships remain scheduled at the end of September in Switzerland. A decision is still to be made on the final Grand Tour of the year, the Vuelta a Espana, which is due to start on 14 August.
Athletics – The 2020 European Athletics Championships in Paris, due to be staged at the Charlety Stadium from 25-30 August, have been cancelled. Great Britain topped the medal table at the 2018 championships in Berlin. This follows the postponement of the World Athletics Championships scheduled for 2021 in Eugene, Oregon, to the summer of 2022 because of the Olympic Games rescheduling. The Diamond League has postponed its first five meetings of the 2020 season due to be held in April and May in Qatar, China, Stockholm, Naples and Rabat. The World Athletics Indoor Championships to be held in Nanjing in March will now be held from 19-21 March, 2021. The British Athletics Championships, due to take place on 20-21 June, have been rescheduled for 8-9 August. The World Triathlon Grand Final set for this August in Edmonton, Canada, will not take place in 2020, organisers said on Friday. Citing guidance from Alberta’s chief medical officer of health that limits “gatherings of more than 15 people”, World Triathlon said it would look for new options to hold the event in the future. The Paris and Barcelona marathons have been called off, the London Marathon has been postponed till 4 October, the Boston Marathon has been put back from 20 April to 14 September.
Cricket – The shutdown on cricket in England and Wales will remain until at least 1 July and will mean the postponement of England’s Test series against West Indies. No domestic competitions have been cancelled yet, but the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) will meet this Wednesday to discuss the inaugural season of The Hundred, which is due to start on 17 July. The domestic season, scheduled to start on 12 April, had been delayed until at least 28 May. The ECB says it will look to schedule all international cricket between July and the end of September. England women’s limited-overs series against India – scheduled to start on 25 June – has also been postponed. The 2020 Indian Premier League (IPL has already been suspended “until further notice”. Australia and New Zealand’s limited-overs tours were postponed. The boards of India and South Africa agreed to reschedule a three-match ODI series to a later date. England’s two-match test series in Sri Lanka scheduled to start on 19 March was postponed.
Winter Sports – The International Ski Federation (ISF) cancelled the final races of the men’s Alpine skiing World Cup. The World Cup finals in Cortina were cancelled along with the last three women’s races in Are. The women’s world ice hockey championships in Canada have been cancelled. The Ice Hockey World Championship scheduled for Switzerland in May have also been cancelled. The speed skating world championships in Seoul were postponed until at least October. The 16-22 March world figure skating championships in Montreal were cancelled.
American sports – The NBA and the NHL have suspended their seasons and Major League Baseball (MLB) has further delayed its 2020 season’s opening day of 26 March amid calls for gatherings of 50 or more people to be cancelled or postponed for eight weeks. The Major Soccer League (MLS) has suspended its season.
Boxing – The world heavyweight title fight between Briton Anthony Joshua and the IBF’s mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev of Bulgaria originally scheduled for 20 June has been postponed, promoters Matchroom Boxing said. Joshua’s defence of his IBF, WBA, WBO and IBO titles was set to take place at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium The 30-year-old Joshua reclaimed the WBA, WBO and IBF belts with a unanimous points win over Andy Ruiz Jr in December.
Snooker – The World Snooker Championship, originally set to take place in April and May, has been rescheduled to start on 31 July at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. The event, which was postponed on 20 March, will run for 17 days and be broadcast in full across BBC TV and online. The World Snooker Tour (WST) says it will assess “government advice at the time” about the number of spectators allowed inside the Sheffield venue. The 1mln sterling China Open, scheduled to start in Beijing at the end of March, has been cancelled.
Horse Racing – Races with a maximum of 12 runners ridden by senior jockeys in an extended Flat racing season are planned when the sport returns in Great Britain. Action has been suspended since 17 March but racing chiefs hope for a return behind closed doors next month. The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) is working on a revised fixture list. York has cancelled the Dante Festival, due to run from 13 to 15 May. The first four classics of the season, including the Epsom Derby, were postponed. Organisers of the Royal Ascot meeting in June hope it can go ahead, but without spectators. Australia, Japan and Hong Kong have continued to stage race meetings behind closed doors in recent weeks.
For full updates on the fate of sporting events go to:
http://www.bbc.com/sport, http://www.espn.com, http://www.lequipe.fr, https://www.insidethegames.biz/, http://www.reuters.com/news/sports, www.sports.yahoo.com,www.skysports.com, www.eurosport.fr, midilibre.fr