Thursday 12 March 2020 4:31 pm

Coronavirus: The impact on the sporting world as numerous events are disrupted

In the space of a week the coronavirus pandemic has gone from having a minimal impact on the world’s sporting events to causing vast swathes of postponements and contests played out behind closed doors. 

This week saw the first Premier League game postponed due to Covid-19, Champions League matches played in empty stadiums and two Europa League ties called off — and the impact on global events is only set to increase.

A dramatic Six Nations finale has been put on hold indefinitely, tennis tournaments have been cancelled, and the NBA has joined the domestic football leagues of Spain and Italy in suspending the competition. 

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Despite criticism from Lewis Hamilton and the withdrawal of McLaren, Formula One has so far resisted calls to delay this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix. Here is the current state of play:

Football

Manchester City’s fixture with Arsenal on Wednesday was axed but English football is currently set to go ahead as usual this weekend. The Premier League and English Football League are believed to be considering playing ties behind closed doors as a first step.

Leicester City are testing all their players after three displayed symptoms of coronavirus. Any positive cases would leave them unable to play and may pressure the suspension of all matches.

Serie A and LaLiga have already been postponed for two to three weeks, while Ligue 1 and Bundesliga games are set to go ahead in empty stadiums. 

Next week’s Champions League fixtures are also in doubt, with Uefa said to be considering postponing ties.

Real Madrid’s second-leg with Manchester City has already been postponed with the Spanish side’s players in isolation after the club’s basketball team, which shares their training facilities, had a positive case.

Juventus v Empoli - Serie A
Juventus player Daniele Rugani has tested positive for coronavirus

Juventus defender Daniele Rugani became the first high-profile player to contract coronavirus and his team-mates are now in isolation. Their match with play Lyon next week has been postponed also.

Read more: RB Leipzig 3-0 Tottenham: Meek Spurs dumped out of the Champions League as pressure mounts on Mourinho

Uefa has called a video conference with representatives of its 55 member associations for next Tuesday to discuss European football’s response to the outbreak. Euro 2020 is set to be on the agenda.

However, England men’s friendlies later this month are in doubt, with the Danish FA saying the game with Denmark was unlikely to go ahead.

FBL-EUR-C1-REAL MADRID-MAN CITY
Real Madrid’s Champions League match with Manchester City has been postponed with the Madrid players in isolation

Rugby 

The Six Nations had been set for a Super Saturday to remember with all of England, Ireland and France still capable of winning the title. However, none of them will be in action. 

Rugby union was quick to act, postponing last weekend’s match between Ireland and Italy in Dublin well in advance. 

The other matches went ahead, but this weekend’s games between England and Italy, and France and Ireland, have been postponed until later in the year. Wales v Scotland is currently set to go ahead in Cardiff as planned.

Sunday’s Premiership Rugby Cup final between Sale and Harlequins is also still on. 

No Premiership, Top14 or Pro14 fixtures were scheduled for this weekend, but it is likely next week’s rounds will be affected. Pro14 games involving Italian clubs have already been postponed.

Formula One

This weekend’s opening race in Australia was thrown into greater doubt today when McLaren announced they would not race after a team member tested positive for Covid-19. 

Seven other paddock personnel were also tested, including four members of Haas, all of whom returned negative results. 

TOPSHOT-AUTO-PRIX-AUS-F1
Australian Grand Prix had not made a decision on whether it will go ahead on Thursday, despite calls for it to be stopped

A ninth test result is still pending, although the person is unrelated to any F1 team or organiser, according to the Australian Grand Prix Corporation.

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Formula One took the early steps last month of postponing April’s Chinese Grand Prix, where the coronavirus outbreak occurred and there have been more than 80,000 cases. 

It also said its second race of the season in Bahrain would be raced without fans, but regularly insisted the Australian Grand Prix would go ahead.

World champion Hamilton has criticised the decision to race on, implying it was financially motivated. Teams, meanwhile, held a crisis meeting. 

F1 Winter Testing in Barcelona - Day Three
McLaren have pulled out of the race after one of its team members tested positive for Covid-19

Cricket

England’s Test series in Sri Lanka is still due to go ahead, with the first match scheduled for next Thursday. However there are growing doubts about whether it will happen and England chiefs are in dialogue with the Foreign Office and Sri Lanka’s high commission to assess the situation. 

The team are already isolating themselves as much as possible by following guidance not to shake hands with opponents or mingle with fans.

England are considering cancelling the tour before an estimated 3,000 fans travel.

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The ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Challenge League A has been postponed, while the Everest Premier League, due to begin tomorrow has also been suspended.

The Indian Premier League, due to begin on 29 March, is considering starting the season behind closed doors.

Meanwhile, Lancashire, Surrey and Worcestershire have all cancelled pre-season tours.

Tennis 

The men’s ATP Tour has suspended play for six weeks. There had been frustration at the lack of communication among players, with the Miami Open set to begin on Monday.

That has now been called off and joins Indian Wells, which was cancelled on Monday following a confirmed case in California’s Coachella Valley. Fed Cup events were also postponed earlier this week.

The current suspension would mean a return to action before the French Open in May. 

Golf

The Players Championship began in Florida despite speculation that the PGA Tour might begin cancelling events. It will continue as scheduled, but with a spectator ban for the remaining three rounds.

On the European Tour, next week’s Indian Open has been postponed. It follows the cancellation of the China Open, Maybank Championship and Kenya Open, meaning the next European Tour event will be the Andalucia Masters on 30 April.

The PLAYERS Championship - Round One
The Players Championship is set to continue

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American sports

The NBA season was postponed on Wednesday after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive. It is currently unclear when, or if, the regular season continues.

Baseball and IndyCar seasons are currently set to begin as usual, but Major League Soccer has postponed its season indefinitely.

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