The spread of coronavirus around the world has impacted negatively the staging of sporting events around the globe. Almost all major football leagues, including the UEFA Champions League and its second tier Europa League have all been put on hold due to the spread of the virus around the world. Now, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is still studying the situation to know if the summer Games can still go ahead in Tokyo, Japan between July and August.
It is the worst ever period for sports as the global community battle to find solution to the scourge that is believed to have emanated from Hubei Province in China since November last year. Below are some of the impacts…
Top-level English and Scottish football have been suspended until April 3 at the earliest due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was announced on Friday 13 March.
The Football Association, the Premier League, the English Football League, FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship have all agreed a halt to competitive action since last weekend.
A joint statement from the Scottish Football Association and the Scottish Professional Football League confirmed the suspension of all football north of the border until further notice.
The decisions to suspend follows players and staff becoming affected by the virus, or individuals self-isolating as a precaution after reporting symptoms consistent with Covid-19.
The Premier League clash between Manchester City and Arsenal, scheduled for March 11, had already been postponed as a ‘precautionary measure’ after Olympiacos owner Evangelos Marinakis tested positive for coronavirus weeks after watching his Greek team play at the Emirates Stadium.
On Friday 13 March, UEFA has announced all Champions League and Europa League fixtures scheduled for next week are postponed, as well as the quarter-final draws for both competitions. UEFA has called an emergency meeting on Tuesday 17 March to discuss whether Euro 2020 can go ahead as scheduled.
Domestic fixtures at all levels have been postponed by the Chinese Football Association as the season is pushed back due to the scale of the outbreak in China.
Asian Champions League matches involving Guangzhou Evergrande, Shanghai Shenhua and Shanghai SIPG are postponed until April.
The start of the Korean K-League season is postponed. The four teams in the AFC Champions League are playing their matches behind closed doors.
Japan’s J-League postponed all domestic games until the middle of March.
Inter Milan’s game against Sampdoria was one of four Serie A games cancelled on February 22-23 weekend due to affected regions in Italy leading to advice from the prime minister to call off sporting events.Inter Milan’s Europa League match with Getafe was also postponed on March 11, while Roma’s flight to Spain to face Sevilla was banned from landing before being postponed, with Italy on lockdown.
The Coppa Italia match between Napoli and Inter Milan on March 5 became the latest fixture to be called off, when it was postponed indefinitely. It was the 12th game to be postponed since the crisis began and the third involving Inter.
An update from Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora later confirmed all the Serie A fixtures for the weekend commencing March 7-8, would be played behind closed doors. And with the country on lockdown, it was later announced that all sport, including Serie A games, would be suspended until at least April 3 to contain the virus.
In France, it was announced on Friday 13 March that there will be no top-flight football for the immediate future after their governing body postponed all matches in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
In Spain, April 18’s Copa del Rey final between between Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad has been postponed while the country’s leagues have been put on hold.
UEFA said it is asking governments across the continent to ensure Euro 2020 goes ahead in three months despite the coronavirus outbreak.
MLS has been suspended for 30 days with David Beckham’s first Inter Miami home game delayed.
Inter Milan’s Europa League match against Ludogorets on February 27 was played behind closed doors. Only TV rights-holders are allowed to attend as media as the club look to secure the San Siro. Ludogorets players arrived in Italy wearing face masks.
Manchester United’s Europa League clash at Austrian side LASK was played behind closed doors, with United handing out £350 to each fan to help with travel and accommodation after they sold 900 tickets for the game.
Three players from third-division Italian football club US Pianese have tested positive for coronavirus, the Tuscany side confirmed on Friday.
Olympiacos owner Evangelos Marinakis, who also owns Nottingham Forest, tested positive for the coronavirus. Both Olympiacos and Forest squads were tested and all returned negative.
In Germany, Hannover 96 defender Timo Hubers tested positive for the virus.
The Football Association of Ireland announced that all football under its jurisdiction will cease until March 29.
Liverpool have announced a charity match between a Reds Legends side and Barcelona Legends, due to be played at Anfield on March 28, has been postponed.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) on Friday postponed indefinitely all AFCON 2021 Match day 3 and 4 qualifiers scheduled for the weekend of March 25th to 31st.
Acting General Secretary of CAF, Abdel Bah, said in a message to member federations involved in the qualifiers that following the growing concern over the COVID-19 virus and the latest declaration of the World Health Organization (WHO) describing it as a pandemic, CAF Emergency Committee has decided to postpone the following matches until further notice:
“Total AFCON 2021 Qualifiers: Match days 3 and 4 of the qualifiers initially scheduled from 25th to 31st March.
“Also, FIFA Women U-20 World Cup Qualifiers, initially scheduled from 20-22 March and 27 and the Total Women AFCON 2020 Qualifiers, initially scheduled from 8th to 14th April.”
He said CAF will announce the new programme in due time.
Concerning the Total African Nations Championship (CHAN 2020) scheduled for Cameroon from 4th to 25th April, the CAF scribe said a delegation from the CAF Medical Committee “is scheduled to visit Cameroon between 14 and 15 March 2020.
Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta tested positive for coronavirus on March 12 with the entire first-team squad being put into isolation. The Gunners’ game against Brighton, scheduled for Saturday March 14, has been postponed.
In the early hours of Friday, March 13, Chelsea announced that winger Callum Hudson-Odoi had been diagnosed with the illness.
The club’s first team has gone into self-isolation, while two buildings at their training ground in Cobham have been closed.
Also, Israel has warned citizens to avoid all international travel, which raises questions whether supporters or players will travel to Scotland for their Euro 2020 play-off match on March 26.
There are growing concerns that some matches at Euro 2020 could be called off if the coronavirus outbreak gets worse between now and the summer.
The Australian Grand Prix has been called off after a McLaren team member came down with Covid-19, leading to the British team pulling out prior to a decision being made on whether the race would still go ahead. The announcement came hours after Lewis Hamilton said it was ‘shocking’ that the race was going ahead. The Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai on April 19 is postponed with no decision over whether it will be reinserted into the 2020 calendar for later in the season.
The Bahrain Grand Prix, scheduled for March 20-22, is set to be called off as is the inaugural Vietnam Grand Prix (scheduled to take place in Hanoi on April 5).
There is hope that the F1 season can begin on May 3. F1 chiefs are looking to press on with the Zandvoort race in Holland on that date.
The Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific golf championship, slated to take place from February 12-15 in Thailand, was postponed and has been rescheduled for October.
The Honda LPGA Thailand event in Pattaya, Thailand scheduled for February 20-23 along with the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore, scheduled to start on February 27, were both postponed
The PGA Tour Series-China postponed two qualifying tournaments and delayed the start of its 2020 campaign by two months, cutting the number of regular season events down from 14 to 10.
The decision was made to cancel the LPGA Blue Bay tournament in China, with the event at Hainan Island (due to start on March 5) seen as dangerous to players’ health The European Tour postponed the Maybank Championship (April 16-19 in Kuala Lumpur) and Volvo China Open (April 23-26 in Shenzhen).
After deciding to play with no spectators from the second round of the Players Championship onwards, the PGA Tour cancelled the event entirely after the first round on Thursday 12 March.
They have also scrapped their next three events, meaning there will be no PGA Tour events prior to the first major of the year, The Masters, in April. However, on Friday 13 March the prestigious Augusta tournament was also postponed.
All events on the ATP Tour have been suspended for six weeks. The International Tennis Federation has announced that next month’s Fed Cup finals have been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The event was due to be held in Budapest and the competition’s play-offs, which were set to take place in eight different locations, have also been placed on hold. The WTA also announced no tournaments will be staged for at least five weeks.
The first-stage draw for the Table Tennis World Championships scheduled for South Korea from March 22-29 has been postponed.
A beach volleyball tournament, due to be held in Yangzhou from April 22-26, is postponed until after the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
The Women’s World Ice Hockey Championships, scheduled for Canada later this month, have been cancelled.
The NBA has also been suspended indefinitely after two Utah Jazz players contracted the virus.
The NHL has announced it has paused the 2019-20 season with no date confirmed for when it will resume. The London Marathon has been postponed for six months. It was scheduled to take place on April 26 but has now been pushed back to October.
2020 OLYMPIC GAMES
The 2020 Olympic Games Torch Relay in Greece was cancelled on Friday 13 March – just a day after the flame was lit in Olympia.
Large crowds mobbed Hollywood actor Gerard Butler as he lit the cauldron in the Greek city of Sparta on Friday despite repeated warnings for spectators not to attend because of coronavirus.
That forced the decision by the Greek Olympic Committee to halt the torch relay on Greek soil on just the second day of its scheduled eight-day journey.
The Olympic flame will still be handed over to the Tokyo 2020 organising committee at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens on Thursday, but without fans. It is the only the third time that a relay to Athens for the summer Games has not been completed.
The scale of the outbreak in Japan saw senior International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound describe the disease as ‘the new war’ threatening Tokyo 2020 and he warned the Games may have to be cancelled if the virus was still around by May.
But the Japanese government later insisted Pound’s comments were not the IOC’s official stance but there remains doubts over whether the summer showcase can still go ahead with health concerns.
Athletes have been told to keep training and the plan remains to hold the Games in Japan as planned but training for around 80,000 volunteers has been delayed for at least two months- it was due to begin on February 22.
On Friday, March 13; President Donald Trump’s suggestion to postpone the Tokyo Olympics for a year because of the spreading coronavirus was immediately shot down by Japan’s Olympic minister.
‘The IOC and the organising committee are not considering cancellation or a postponement – absolutely not at all,’ Seiko Hashimoto, an Olympic bronze medalist, told a news conference in Tokyo.
The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo organisers have stayed on message since the viral outbreak in China three months ago spread across Asia and then the globe: The games will open as schedule on July 24.
World Athletics Indoor Championships (March 13-15 in Nanjing) is off until 2021.
German Open (March 3-8), Vietnam Open (March 24-29) and Polish Open (March 26-29), all Olympic qualifying events, are cancelled due to ‘strict health protection’.
Olympic boxing qualifiers to be staged in Wuhan were cancelled by the International Olympic Committee, and now are relocated to occur in Amman from March 3-11 All British fights over the next two months are under threat. The BBBoC confirmed to Sportsmail they are no currently making recommendations to cancel shows but admitted that can change and will await guidance from the government.
England’s tour of Sri Lanka was postponed on Friday 13 March due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the England and Wales Cricket Board citing ‘completely unprecedented times’.
The decision was confirmed while Joe Root’s side were in the field at Colombo’s P Sara Oval, contesting a warm-up game for a two-Test series that was in the process of being written off by decision-makers back at Lord’s.
Danish cyclist Michael Morkov has been cleared to race at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships after being kept in isolation over fears of an outbreak of coronavirus.