By Neil Leverett & Ros Satar

  • Get the latest as the Coronavirus begins to take its’ toll on the 2020 sporting schedule
LONDON, UK – As the world fights to combat Covid-19, the 2020 sporting calendar stands at its’ mercy with the Euro’s and Olympics under threat. So what’s the latest?

 

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Coronavirus decimates the sporting calendar

For sporting fans globally, the entering of a new decade brought with it a sense of hope, joy but most pertinently excitement. However, just three months into the new year, 2020 is perched on the precipice of rather murky waters, as the Coronavirus takes its’ grip on the global community.

As the world begins its’ battle to prevent the disease from spreading at an alarming rate, Italy put itself in total lock-down, with still very little known about COVID-19.

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With a state of emergency being declared in New York City and other cities across the US also, it seems few places are currently immune to the virus’ rapid spread. That indeed has began to have a knock-on effect on global sport, with the coronavirus threatening to radically disrupt 2020’s big sporting events – not least the Olympics which are due to take place in Japan in the summer.

A spring and indeed summer of sport is left in a sizeable fog of uncertainty then, and though the return of warmer weather could see the slow of the virus, the scene of empty sporting arenas, stadiums and grounds the world over could become a common trend in the coming weeks and months.

 

What is COVID-19?

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2), a virus closely related to the SARS virus.

The disease was discovered and named during the 2019–20 coronavirus outbreak. Those affected may develop a fever, dry cough, fatigue, and shortness of breath. A sore throat, runny nose or sneezing is less common. While the majority of cases result in mild symptoms, some can progress to pneumonia and multi-organ failure.

The World Health Organisation has declared the current outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern and as of 29 February 2020, China, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and the United States are areas having evidence of community transmission of the disease.

The outbreak has already made its’ mark on the 2020 sporting calendar, with Italy currently the centre of Europe’s growing epidemic. With northern regions of the country worst affected, all 22 areas of the country have been hit, prompting unprecedented measures including the closure of schools, universities and indeed the cancellation of sporting events.

 

Formula 1 – Grand Prix to start with the Dutch Grand Prix in May

With the Wuhan province the source of the initial infection, the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai was one of the first events to fall almost a month ago, leaving a one-month gap between the Dutch GP on April 5 and the inaugural Vietnam race on May 3 in the 2020 F1 calendar.

Expectations were that the Australian GP was set to go ahead this weekend, but after a McLaren team member tested positive for COVID-19 the race in Melbourne was hastily called off.

Hot on its heels on 13 March was the news that the Bahrain (22 March) and Vietnam (5 April) events had been called off. The Dutch Grand Prix is scheduled for 3 May.

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Tthe Dutch and Spanish Grands Prix postponed and Monaco has been cancelled on 19 March – so the first Grand Prix of the year is likely to be Azerbaijan. F1 bosses are looking to reschedule as many races as possible, potentially running them on consecutive weekends and geographically grouped.

However, Monaco has stated it cannot be rescheduled, and events at risk in this calendar reshuffle are likely to be Spain, Brazil, China and Australia.

 

Premier League Updates

Update 19 March: English football is suspended until April 30 at the least, due to continued fears over the spread of the coronavuris, affecting:

  • Premier Leage
  • EFL
  • Women’s Super League
  • Women’s Championship
  • All fixtures in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Football Association has also agreed to the ‘indefinite extension’ of the current season.

 

READ MORE | Football | Coronavirus suspends elite English football until April

On March 13 (a Friday, no less) all Premier League and EFL football was suspended in England with Scotland and Wales following suit.

12th March alone saw the most rapid moving day as far as the virus was concerned.

  • Brendan Rogers confirms three Leicester City players are in self-isolation after showing symptoms
  • The UEFA Champions League R16 match between Manchester City and Real Madrid is postponed
  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson insists there is no reason to for the UK to clamp down on sporting events
  • Manchester City say that Benjamin Mendy is self-isolating after members of his family showed symptoms
  • At 21:30 GMT the Premier League insist that it will go ahead with this weekend’s fixtures
  • 22:17 GMT Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta says he has tested positive for coronavirus and it is now expected that the full team squad will self-isolate
  • 13 March – Chelsea announce that Callum Hudson-Odoi has tested positive for coronavirus and again the full squad is now in isolation

 

Diamond League Athletics postponed

The first three Diamond League meetings in Doha (17 April), Shanghai (16 May) and one scheduled elsewhere in China in June have all been postponed. Organisers are hoping to run the meeting in Shanghai later in the year on 13 August.

 

Grand National joins the suspension list

‘The People’s Race’ is the latest sporting event to join the list of cancellations, denying Tiger Roll a chance to do the treble, in three successive Nationals. Red Rum won the race three times in the 1970s but no horse has managed the feat three times in a row.

 

The Boat Race

Another historic showdown, the annual boat race between the universities of Cambridge and Oxford was cancelled for the first time in peacetime Britain. The race has taken place barring the two World Wars every year since 1855.

London Marathon postponed

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Scheduled to be run on 26 April, the London Marathon has now been postponed to October. The Brighton Marathon (19 April) will now be held in September and the Manchester Marathon (5 April) will be held at some stage in the Autumn.

 

 

Cricket – Sri Lanka Test series called off

England’s Test Series against Sri Lanka was the next event to be called off, with the players being recalled back home.

 

Golf – US Masters called off

The Masters has been postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The first men’s major championship of the year was due to begin on 9 April at Augusta National in Georgia, has now aso been postponed after the PGA Tour stopped play earlier in the day.

The first ladie’s major of the year, the ANA Inspiration, has also been called off.

Football – Widespread disruption

Serie A has already been hit hardest and as the sport attempts to play catch-up, games will now be played behind closed doors until April 3 in the attempt to prevent the further spreading of the illness – as is the case for all sporting events in Italy.

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Football elsewhere in Europe has continued to feel the brunt of the impact of COVID-19, and as March has gone on with La Liga and Segunda having suspended all play for the next two weekends in Spain, both the Champions League and Europa League have been hit also – having seen games in Rome, Milan and now Manchester City’s return leg against Real Madrid called off.

This past week’s second leg ties between Valencia and Atalanta and PSG and Borussia Dortmund were both played behind closed doors.

Measures have already been installed in Premier League games, with traditional pre-match handshakes ditched to prevent the virus’ potential spread.

As Liverpool romp toward the Premier League crown also, fears have re-emerged that the Reds could yet be prevented from claiming their first league title in 30 years, after three members of Leicester City’s squad were put into isolation after showing symptoms.

That news has thrown Watford’s game with the Foxes under a considerable deal of doubt this weekend and whether English league grounds could yet be left empty also during 90 minutes, remains to be seen.

 

Tennis – Sunshine Double Clouded Over

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After a start to the 2020 season that saw the Australian Bush-fires claiming all the headlines, the tour took another hit with the abrupt cancellation of the combined event at Indian Wells, the prestigous BNP Paribas Open.

READ MORE | Tennis | ATP & WTA Indian Wells | Tournament cancelled after one confirmed COVID-19 case in region

READ MORE | Tennis | Miami Open cancelled and ATP shuts down tour for six weeks, WTA Update

 

Rugby Six Nations first casualty

In the Six Nations, Ireland’s clash with Italy was the first rugby match taken off the schedule, but with both England’s meeting in Rome and Ireland’s latest game also being called off, the tournament finale came to an end as the one remaining fixture between Wales and Scotland also called off.

 

Euro’s, Tokyo 2020 doubtful

Whilst world governments attempt to prevent the virus from spreading short-term, the long-term effects have also placed this year’s marquee sporting events under a great deal of scrutiny, with both the European Championships and Tokyo 2020 shrouded in a heavy cloud of uncertainty.

For the Euro’s – the first tournament to be held continent-wide – COVID-19’s untimely arrival paints a rather grim picture ahead of the summer’s competition, with all three of the Azzurri’s Group games with Wales, Turkey and Switzerland set to take place at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

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From a footballing perspective, Serie A’s already implemented month-long ban of fan attendance is hoped to quell the coronavirus threat, but whether it will clear up in sufficient time remains to be seen, not least for the many thousands of fans who will flock from all corners of Europe – nay the world.

The same problem – perhaps more sizeable in dilemma – lies with Tokyo’s scheduled hosting of the XXXII Olympiad in July. With Japan having already imposed travelling restrictions, the country’s proximity to China is course of huge concern also.

IOC President Thomas Bach has again been bullish in his words that the Games will go ahead this past week, but as Covid-19 stretches its’ reach across the globe, the Olympics could become a sporting petri dish.

Cancelling the Games will be a last resort option. With many multi millions invested in advertising and TV rights across the world, simply calling the show off is a particularly unpalatable scenario.

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The possibility of delaying Tokyo 2020 until later in the year has also be mooted, but that in turn could have a direct knock-on effect for the sporting calendar in the autumn, for example with US coverage of the NFL and NBA – with NBC having invested a record amount in their coverage for this upcoming Games.

The further option of staging a TV-only event has been tossed around, but for the Olympics to be staged with no fans in attendance would take the atmosphere away, plus the competition’s mantra of bringing the world together would be left flawed.

Not in peacetime have an Olympics been cancelled since 1944, and there is no precedent for a Games to not take place due to a health threat. However, there is a mandate in the IOC’s clause that states it can be terminated to protect the safety of participants – in this case due to Covid-19. Watch this space.

 

Follow Britwatch Sports for on-going coverage of the coronavirus and its’ effect on the 2020 sporting year.

 

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