The French and Dutch 2019-2020 football seasons have been cancelled while the English Premier League stubbornly clings on with a plan to host remaining fixtures at neutral venues. Meanwhile, English cricket’s pioneering new city-based tournament, The Hundred, has been postponed till next year.
Here is our update on further cancellations, postponements and rescheduling as Codiv-19 continues to cast its invisible shadow over the staging of every major sporting event.
English Premier League clubs were told on Friday they cannot use their own stadiums for any resumption of games this season with only “approved neutral venues” to host remaining fixtures in a campaign currently on hold. The league, which has been suspended since 13 March, remains in limbo, unable to take any steps, until any UK Government decision later this week on possible changes to lockdown restrictions. But all 20 clubs held a conference call in which they looked at plans for a resumption of training later in May followed by a possible return to competitive action in June. During the meeting clubs were informed that an eventual resumption of matches would see them played only at neutral venues which has been approved from a health and safety point of view. The league has also held talks with club medical staff and other medical experts about how restricted team training might be able to return later this month, if the government allows professional sport to resume. Runaway leaders Liverpool head the Premiership the table by 25 points.
In France, defending champions Paris Saint Germain have been awarded the Ligue 1 title after the government announced earlier last week the 2019-20 season would not resume. PSG were 12 points clear of Marseille at the top of the table, with a game in hand, when French football was suspended indefinitely on 13 March. French football’s governing body had been hoping to resume the season on 17 June. PSG were awarded the title on a points-per-game basis, while Lorient have been crowned Ligue 2 champions on the same principle. They were just one point above Lens when the season was suspended and both teams will be promoted. Amiens and Toulouse will be relegated from Ligue 1. Lyon – who were fifth a week before the last match day, but finished seventh – said they might appeal the verdict.
Elsewhere in Europe, the Eredivisie – the top tier of football in the Netherlands – has been abandoned for the season with no title winner and no teams relegated. The German Bundesliga should know this week whether it can resume its season with the government saying a decision would be taken this Wednesday. In Spain, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has said he hopes La Liga returns “soon” and it will be the leagues and federation that decide when after the government began easing coronavirus restrictions. The sports ministry approved La Liga’s plans last Thursday for clubs to test their players for the coronavirus before they return to training as the league looks to restart the season in June. Euro 2020, Europe’s flagship tournament, will now be staged from 11 June to July 11, 2021. The men’s and women’s Champions League finals and Europa League final originally scheduled for May have been formally postponed but UEFA is working to plans that could still see the Champions League final end the 2019-20 season on 29 August.
Hungarian Grand Prix organisers have said the race will have to be held without spectators. The country’s government announced last Thursday a ban on all gatherings of more than 500 people until 15 August. The race was originally scheduled for 2 August, but the F1 calendar has been almost completely ripped up, and published dates effectively irrelevant, as the sport’s bosses seek to re-shape the season and fit in enough races for a legitimate championship. Formula 1’s latest plan to get the 2020 season off the ground is to hold the Austrian Grand Prix as scheduled followed by two races at Silverstone. The first nine races have all been postponed as a result of the global coronavirus crisis and F1 is facing a moving target as it seeks a start date. But the easing of lockdown restrictions in Austria might mean its race could go ahead on 3-5 July behind closed doors. It could be followed by two 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.
The German, Dutch and Finnish MotoGP races scheduled to take place in June and July have all been cancelled. The new season is yet to start with the first 11 races affected and a revised calendar has not been published. Races in Spain, France and Italy have so far been postponed but are now looking more uncertain to take place. The next race on the original calendar is the Czech Grand Prix in Brno on 9 August. The German Grand Prix had been scheduled for 21 June, with the Dutch TT at Assen the following weekend, while Finland’s new KymiRing was due to host its debut race on 12 July. Races in Qatar, Thailand, the United States and Argentina 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 postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympics would be scrapped if they cannot take place in 2021, Games chief Yoshiro Mori has said. Tokyo 2020 is now scheduled to run from 23 July to 8 August next year but health experts have cast doubt on whether the Games could be held next summer without a vaccine or effective drugs to treat Covid-19. When asked if the event could be moved again to 2022, Mori replied: “No. In that case, the Olympics will be scrapped.” However, the Tokyo 2020 president said he was confident the rescheduled Games would go ahead. Next year’s Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) World Beach Games has been postponed until 2023 because of the coronavirus pandemic. ANOC said its Executive Council had decided not to stage the event as planned next year “to alleviate pressure on the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and ensure they can focus on preparing their athletes for the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games”. The bidding process for the event, which had been opened alongside the 2023 edition in January, has also been pushed back to 2021.
The Hundred. the England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) new city-based tournament, has been postponed until 2021. The 100-ball competition, involving eight teams in separate men’s and women’s tournaments, was due to begin on 17 July and end on 15 August. An ECB meeting last Wednesday concluded it was not possible for The Hundred to be staged this year because of coronavirus. The ECB had previously extended the shutdown on cricket in England and Wales until at least 1 July. If and when the 2020 season does begin, the national governing body has already stated it will focus on delivering men’s and women’s internationals, as well as domestic first-class and limited-overs competitions, in the period between July and the end of September. However, it seems likely the majority of cricket would have to be played behind closed doors 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.
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.
The Women’s PGA Championship has been postponed to October but the LPGA announced last Wednesday it wants to restart the 2020 Tour by the middle of July. The major, one of five in the women’s game, was due to take place from 25-28 June in Pennsylvania, but has now been rescheduled for 8-11 October. Other tournaments set to take place in Michigan, Arkansas and Ohio in June and early July have also been postponed. In the men’s game, the 149th British Open Championship, due to take place in July at Royal St George’s in Kent, has already been cancelled and 2020’s three other majors, all in the US, 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.
This season’s European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup quarter-finals will not be played before September after the French government banned all mass gatherings for the next four months. The last eight of the competitions, involving six French teams, were due to take place from 3-5 April. Organisers European Professional Club Rugby still want to complete this season’s competitions. Irish sides Leinster and Ulster as well as English teams Saracens, Northampton and Exeter are all due to play in the Champions Cup last eight. In the Challenge Cup Welsh clubs Scarlets and Dragons, Scottish side Edinburgh and Premiership teams Leicester and Bristol have all qualified for the knockout stages. The finals of the two competitions had originally been scheduled to take place in Marseille next month. The French Top 14 rugby union season has already been abandoned after the league’s organisers (LNR) and the club presidents reached an agreement to call off the campaign. 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 well-being. 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.
The Tour de France could still go ahead despite more sanctions on mass gatherings by the French government. Cycling’s biggest race was set to start two months late, on 29 August but the government ban has extended until September. “The Tour de France has not been called into question,” said French sports minister Roxana Maracineanu. The Vuelta a Espana, the final Grand Tour of year, has also announced it would cancel its departure from the Netherlands, set for 14 August. Maracineanu added: “There will not be any large gatherings before September but with the Tour starting on 29 August, there could be adjustments. It is up to [organisers] ASO to make some suggestions.” The Tour was originally scheduled to run from 27 June to 19 July. Four-time winner Chris Froome is set to return at the 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. Meanwhile, the European Road Cycling Championships in Italy this September have been postponed by a year. It was set to take place from 9-13 September in the province of Trentino, which will remain as the host. “This decision was taken in full agreement and cooperation with the parties concerned,” said a European Cycling Union (UEC) statement.
The 2020 European Athletics Championships in Paris, due to be staged at the Charlety Stadium from 25-30 August, have been cancelled. 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.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.
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.
Major League Soccer (MLS) has extended the moratorium on matches until at least 8 June. League play has been suspended since March 12. 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 with any hope for a season start still weeks away. As of Tuesday last week, a typical team had already had about 15 games postponed, or nearly 20 per cent of an 81-game schedule.
Boxing’s biggest fights may be a year away from happening because of the coronavirus pandemic, BBC Radio 5 Live’s Steve Bunce has warned. The sport has been shut down in most countries as a result of the outbreak and the possibility of staging fights without fans when restrictions are eased has been raised by some promoters. Among fights postponed is the world heavyweight title contest between Briton Anthony Joshua and the IBF’s mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev of Bulgaria originally scheduled for 20 June. 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.
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. 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.
The final two weekends in May have been earmarked for some big races if British racing is given the go-ahead to resume. Racing has been suspended since 17 March and key contests, including the Chester Vase, are set to be cancelled. But some could be saved, with 16 Group races provisionally planned to be run behind closed doors this month. The Craven Stakes would be on 23 or 24 May, with the Dante a week later, along with the Lockinge Stakes. Plans are part of a ‘best case scenario’ and dependent on government approval for racing’s resumption. It is hoped that the season’s first two Classics – the 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas – will be held on the first weekend in June after being postponed from their original dates at Newmarket this weekend. Australia, Japan and Hong Kong have continued to stage race meetings behind closed doors in recent weeks.
Next year’s Badminton World Championships in Huelva, Spain, have been rescheduled for November and December after the original dates clashed with the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The Badminton World Federation (BWF) confirmed on Friday the event is set to take place from November 29 to December 5. Confirmation of the new dates for Tokyo 2020, delayed until 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, made it inevitable that the World Championships would have to be moved. It is not clear what impact the decision will have on the lucrative BWF World Tour Finals, traditionally held at the end of each year.
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