UEFA Euro 2020

UEFA has called meetings for Tuesday to address the impact on its competitions caused by coronavirus, with European football’s governing body expected to announce the postponement of Euro 2020.

Due to its unique hosting template, Euro 2020 has appeared especially problematic as the virus has swept across Europe. The tournament is due to be held across 12 stadia in 12 different nations, and is scheduled to kick off in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico on June 12, with Italy the centre of the outbreak on the continent.

Wembley Stadium is serving as the centrepiece of Euro 2020, with the final, semi-finals, Round of 16 and group stage games taking place in London. Munich (Allianz Arena), Baku (Olympic Stadium), Saint Petersburg (Gazprom Arena), Copenhagen (Parken Stadium), Dublin (Aviva Stadium), Glasgow (Hampden Park), Bucharest (Arena Naționala), Amsterdam (Johan Cruyff Arena), Bilbao (San Mamés) and Budapest (Puskás Aréna) are also due to stage games.

The coronavirus has already affected a number of UEFA Champions League and Europa League games, with multiple reports stating that next week’s meeting is likely to see Euro 2020 postponed to the summer of 2021.

UEFA said in a statement: “In the light of the ongoing developments in the spread of COVID-19 across Europe and the changing analysis of the World Health Organisation, UEFA has today invited representatives of its 55 member associations, together with the boards of the European Club Association and the European Leagues and a representative of FIFPro, to attend meetings by videoconference on Tuesday 17 March to discuss European football’s response to the outbreak. Discussions will include all domestic and European competitions, including UEFA Euro 2020.”

UEFA this morning announced that all its club competitions matches scheduled for next week, including the Champions League and Europa League, are postponed.

Premier League/EFL

The Football Association (FA), Premier League, English Football League (EFL), FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship have today collectively agreed to postpone the professional game in England until April 3 at the earliest.

The organisations said the action, which will be kept under constant review, has been taken due to the increasing numbers of clubs taking steps to isolate their players and staff because of COVID-19.

In addition, clubs are being advised to suspend indefinitely all non-essential activities which include, but are not limited to, player appearances, training ground visits and fan meetings. The Premier League added that it intends to resume play on April 4, subject to medical advice and conditions at the time.

Bundesliga/Ligue 1

The German Football League (DFL) has suspended play in the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga until April 2. The announcement this afternoon came just hours after the DFL said this weekend’s games would take place behind closed doors where possible, before a full suspension of the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga from March 17.

The DFL added: “The goal is still to end the season by the summer, from a sporting point of view, but especially because an early end of the season could have existential consequences for some clubs.”

The French Football League (LFP) has moved to suspend all Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 fixtures with immediate effect and “until further notice”. The LFP had previously said games would be played behind closed doors until mid-April and will reassess the situation following UEFA’s meeting on Tuesday.

The LFP added: “As the president of the republic stressed yesterday, the collective interest must be placed above all else. The urgency today is to curb the epidemic, protect the most vulnerable and avoid travel.”

MLB

Major League Baseball (MLB) has delayed the start of its season by at least two weeks and suspended the rest of its spring training schedule. Opening day of the 2020 season had been set for March 26 and the announcement calls into question whether each team will still play 162 games.

In the stadium space, the Texas Rangers had been due to open its new retractable-roof ballpark, Globe Life Field, with an exhibition match against St. Louis Cardinals on March 23 before the regular season opener versus the Los Angeles Angels on March 31.

In a statement, the League said: “MLB and the clubs have been preparing a variety of contingency plans regarding the 2020 regular season schedule.  MLB will announce the effects on the schedule at an appropriate time and will remain flexible as events warrant, with the hope of resuming normal operations as soon as possible.”

The regular season was scheduled to end on September 27, with the postseason scheduled to begin on September 29. The World Series was set to begin on October 20

NHL

The National Hockey League (NHL) has suspended its season following the news on Wednesday that an NBA player had tested positive for Coronavirus. A number of NHL teams share arenas with NBA outfits, with League commissioner Gary Bettman citing this as a reason for the “pause” to the season.

Bettman said: “The NHL has been attempting to follow the mandates of health experts and local authorities, while preparing for any possible developments without taking premature or unnecessary measures. However, following news that an NBA player has tested positive for coronavirus – and given that our leagues share so many facilities and locker rooms and it now seems likely that some member of the NHL community would test positive at some point – it is no longer appropriate to try to continue to play games at this time.”

The NHL currently has 189 games left in its season and Bettman added: “Our goal is to resume play as soon as it is appropriate and prudent, so that we will be able to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup.”

The season was originally scheduled to end on April 4, 2020. The 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs would have originally began a few days afterwards, with the Stanley Cup Finals held in late May and early June.

Formula 1

Formula 1 has cancelled the opening round of its 2020 season, Melbourne’s Australian Grand Prix, with executive chairman and CEO Chase Carey admitting it is difficult to see when the campaign will commence.

F1, governing body of the motor-racing championship the FIA and Australian Grand Prix Corporation confirmed the decision in the early hours of the morning local time, with F1 having been criticised over its approach to the event. F1 said the decision was eventually made following McLaren’s withdrawal from the race on Thursday, after one of their team members tested positive for the coronavirus.

All ticket holders will receive a full refund. The second round of the season had been due to take place behind closed doors in Bahrain on March 22, while the fourth round, the Chinese GP in Shanghai, has already been cancelled. Speaking at a press conference in Melbourne today (Friday), Carey said: “It is a pretty difficult situation to predict. Everybody uses the word ‘fluid’ and it is a fluid situation.

“The situation today is different than it was two days ago or even four days ago. Trying to look out and make those sorts of predictions, when it is changing this quick, it is challenging.”

Later today, F1 confirmed the postponement of the Bahrain GP on March 20-22 and the inaugural Vietnam GP, which was due to take place from April 3-5 in Hanoi. Formula 1 and the FIA said they will continue to work closely with the race promoters in Bahrain and Vietnam, and the local authorities, to study the viability of potential alternative dates for each race later in the year should the situation improve.

As a result, Formula 1 and the FIA said they expect to begin the championship in Europe at the end of May but added that given the sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Europe in recent days, this will be regularly reviewed.

The 22-grands prix season is scheduled to finish on November 29.

ATP/WTA Tour

The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) have also acted concerning their events. The ATP has announced a six-week suspension of the men’s professional tennis tour meaning all events scheduled up to and inclusive of the week of April 20 will not take place.

Following the recent cancellation of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, the affected ATP Tour events are the Miami Open, the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, the Grand Prix Hassan II in Marrakech, the Monte-Carlo Masters, the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, and the Hungarian Open in Budapest.

Andrea Gaudenzi, ATP chairman, said: “This is not a decision that was taken lightly and it represents a great loss for our tournaments, players, and fans worldwide. The worldwide nature of our sport and the international travel required presents significant risks and challenges in today’s circumstances, as do the increasingly restrictive directives issued by local authorities.”

The WTA has taken a slightly different approach. Along with the Miami Open, a major men’s and women’s event, the Volvo Car Open in Charleston has been pulled, as well as tournaments in Bogota and Guadalajara. However, WTA chairman and CEO, Steve Simon, said a decision on the European clay court season will be made in the week ahead. This is due to begin in Stuttgart and Istanbul on April 20.

Indian Premier League

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) today decided to suspend the forthcoming 2020 Indian Premier League (IPL) season until April 15. The highly-lucrative franchise-based tournament was due to commence on March 29, but has taken on advice from the Indian government.

The BCCI said: “The BCCI is concerned and sensitive about all its stakeholders, and public health in general, and it is taking all necessary steps to ensure that, all people related to IPL including fans have a safe cricketing experience.

“The BCCI will work closely with the Government of India along with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and all other relevant Central and State Government departments in this regard.”

PGA Tour

Golf’s PGA Tour changed course on Thursday evening by announcing the cancellation of the ongoing Players Championship, along with other tournaments through the Texas Open on March 30 to April 5.

The announcement was seen as a surprise after play was allowed to commence at TPC Sawgrass in Florida yesterday. The Tour said in a statement: “We did everything possible to create a safe environment for our players in order to continue the event throughout the weekend. But at this point — and as the situation continues to rapidly change — the right thing to do for our players and our fans is to pause.”

The Masters

Augusta National has taken the decision to postpone this year’s edition of The Masters, the first time the men’s major has been forced to cancel play since World War II.

The first major of the year had been due to commence in Georgia on April 9. However, Fred Ridley, chairman of Augusta National, today said: “We hope this puts us in the best position to safely host the Masters Tournament and our amateur events at some later date.”

NCAA

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) also changed course yesterday, cancelling the highly popular March Madness basketball tournaments, along with all remaining winter and spring championships.

The decision came a day after the NCAA announced games that were scheduled to start next week would go on, but be staged in mostly empty arenas. “This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to the spread of the pandemic and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during the academic year given the ongoing decisions by other entities,” the NCAA said in a statement.

MLS

Major League Soccer (MLS) has suspended match play for 30 days, putting paid to another new stadium opening.

Inter Miami was set to play its first home MLS game on Saturday. Having opened its debut MLS campaign with defeats on the road at LAFC and D.C. United, the team, which is owned by a consortium led by Jorge Mas and David Beckham, was due to christen Inter Miami CF Stadium against LA Galaxy.

The regular season was planned to end October 4. The playoffs were planned to begin later that month.

Pro14

International rugby union league the Pro14 has suspended its current 2019-20 season. The league said the decision has been made with cross border travel “inevitable” with that bringing “unique challenges”.

With governments in Italy and Ireland already putting in place clear directives and restrictions around public activities and travel, the Pro14 said the decision to suspend the competition is appropriate.

David Jordan, tournament director for Pro14 Rugby, said: “We have made this decision with everyone’s welfare foremost in our minds. With an evolving situation in the five countries that take part in Guinness Pro14 it is important to make a clear decision that is in keeping with the advice of the various governments involved.”

Pro14 comprises teams in the UK, Ireland, Italy and South Africa. This year’s Grand Final was originally scheduled to take place on June 20 in Cardiff.

Image: UEFA