NBA, LaLiga suspended as March Madness goes behind closed doors

The NBA basketball league has confirmed that it is suspending its season after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the coronavirus, while the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has announced that its March Madness basketball competition will be held behind closed doors as the outbreak continues to have an impact on sporting events around the world.

Football’s Spanish LaLiga has also announced that the next two match days have been postponed after the Real Madrid squad went into quarantine. A player from Real Madrid’s basketball team, which shares facilities with the football club, tested positive for the virus.

Real Madrid has quarantined both the basketball and football first teams and LaLiga has moved to postpone the next two match days as a result.

The Utah Jazz player tested positive for coronavirus shortly before the team was due to play Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena yesterday (Wednesday). The affected player was not in the arena and the game was subsequently cancelled, and the NBA has now moved to suspend all games in a move to combat the spread of the virus.

The NBA said it is suspending games “until further notice” and will use the hiatus to determine the next steps for moving forward in light of the coronavirus, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) said yesterday is now officially a pandemic.

A person speaking to the Associated Press news agency anonymously said the NBA expects to go two weeks without playing games, but the timeframe is said to be “very fluid”.

Meanwhile, the NCAA’s showpiece March Madness tournament, which is scheduled to get underway on March 17, will be played without fans amid concerns over the coronavirus. Only essential staff and family will be in attendance for what is one of the most popular college sports events on the US calendar. The event will still be televised.

NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement: “While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States.”

Elsewhere, France’s Professional Football League (LFP) has postponed the Coupe de la Ligue final between Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique Lyonnais, which had been scheduled to take place at the Stade de France on April 4.

The LFP said it would set a new date for the match depending on how the coronavirus situation develops, as well as PSG and Lyon’s involvement in European competitions. The two clubs will now play behind-closed-doors league fixtures on the weekend of April 4-5.

Next month’s match had been due to be the last-ever Coupe de la Ligue final after the LFP opted to remove it from the schedule.

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has also announced today that all indoor mass gatherings of more than 100 people and outdoor mass gatherings of more than 500 people should be cancelled until March 29.

Varadkar said that arrangements are being made to ensure that everyone entering Ireland is “fully informed” and self-isolates if they develop coronavirus symptoms.

In India, the government has ordered all upcoming international cricket matches to be played behind closed doors to combat the risks posed by the coronavirus. The Reuters news agency notes that India only has 68 confirmed coronavirus cases and no deaths, but the steps have been taken to avoid large gatherings of people.

India is due to play South Africa in one-day internationals this month.

In tennis, the planned Fed Cup Finals at Budapest’s Laszlo Papp Arena have been postponed due to coronavirus concerns. The International Tennis Federation (ITF) said it is committed to delivering the Finals in 2020 and is in consultation with the relevant authorities to find a suitable alternative date for the tournament.

The ITF has also moved to postpone the Fed Cup play-offs, which were due to take place on April 17-18 in eight locations around the world.

Earlier this week, Italy cancelled all sporting events in the country until April 3. Yesterday, Juventus footballer Daniele Rugani tested positive for coronavirus and according to reports, the entire squad is set to spend two weeks in quarantine. The club is still due to play Lyon in the UEFA Champions League match next week.

Image: MSG