UAE sports events

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has suspended all sporting events to prevent the spread of COVID-19, raising questions over whether the Dubai World Cup will take place as scheduled later this month.

A number of professional and amateur sports events in the UAE had already been cancelled due to the virus, but the General Authority of Sports (GAS) yesterday (Thursday) announced the suspension of all activities across all sports, including tournaments and competitions.

The decision was effective from yesterday and will run until further notice. The Dubai World Cup is one of the highlights of the global horse racing calendar, with the $35m (£29.5m/€32.5m) event due to take place at Meydan Racecourse on March 28.

Dubai Racing Club (DRC) last week announced that it would host the World Cup meeting without paid hospitality spectators. All supporting World Cup events were cancelled, along with race day events, including entertainment. DRC said that only horse connections, racing officials, accredited media and sponsors would be permitted entry.

Earlier this week, it was revealed that Etihad Arena, a new venue in Abu Dhabi that will seat up to 18,000 people, will open later than originally scheduled due to the outbreak. Last month it was announced that the Disney On Ice presents Frozen show would open the arena from April 15-18. However, in light of the global situation surrounding the coronavirus, this has been pushed back to September 9-12.

Monaco Grand Prix

The Monaco Grand Prix, the most famous race on the Formula 1 calendar, has been cancelled after organisers conceded that the “situation is no longer tenable” to stage the event.

The Automobile Club de Monaco (ACM) made the announcement after the motor-racing championship earlier said that the Monaco GP, along with the returning Dutch GP and the Spanish GP would be postponed amid COVID-19.

The Monaco GP, held on the streets of the principality, was first held in 1929 and has been staged every year since 1955. Its 2020 edition had been scheduled for May 21-24.

The ACM said: “The current situation concerning the worldwide pandemic and its unknown path of evolution, the lack of understanding as to the impact on the FIA F1 World Championship 2020, the uncertainty with regards to the participation of the teams, the consequences with regards to the differing measures of confinement as taken by various governments worldwide, the multi-border restrictions for accessing the Principality of Monaco, the pressure on all implicated businesses, their dedicated staff who are unable to undertake the necessary installations, the availability of the indispensable workforce and volunteers (more than 1,500) required for the success of the event means that the situation is no longer tenable.”

The announcement means the F1 calendar continues to be decimated by COVID-19. The season-opening Australian GP was cancelled shortly before it was due to start last week, while races in Bahrain; Shanghai, China; and Hanoi (Vietnam) have either been cancelled or postponed. At present, the opening event for the 2020 season is scheduled to be the Azerbaijan GP in Baku on June 7.

Formula 1 yesterday held a meeting with the International Automobile Federation (FIA) and all 10 teams. CEO Chase Carey said: “Formula 1 and the FIA will now work to finalise a revised 2020 calendar and will consult with the teams, but as agreed at the meeting the revised calendar will not require their formal approval. This will give us the necessary flexibility to agree revised timings with affected race promoters and to be ready to start racing at the right moment.”

Pro14

Cross-border rugby union league the Pro14 has extended the suspension of its 2019-20 season on an indefinite basis and has cancelled this campaign’s final.

The league, which comprises leading clubs and provinces from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, South Africa and Italy initially suspended its season last week, stating the decision was “inevitable” due to cross-border travel bringing “unique challenges”.

This season’s Pro14 Final was due to take place at Cardiff City Stadium in Wales on June 20. Pro14 said refunds will be made automatically to all who have already purchased tickets. The league said no decision on a definitive re-commencement date can be made until four key criteria can be met within its respective competing territories. These are:

Public health authorities cease to prohibit the resumption of sport and group training

Travel restrictions between territories are lifted

No forced isolation or quarantine orders are in force when visiting these territories

Player welfare is safeguarded, including requirement for a suitable pre-recommencement training period, to be established in conjunction with the high-performance personnel at participating unions and teams.

World Snooker Championship

Snooker’s 2020 World Championship has today been postponed.

The qualifying rounds of the sport’s biggest event were due to run from April 8-15 at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield, followed by the final stages from April 18 to May 4 at the Crucible Theatre in the city, which has held the event for the past 43 years.

The World Snooker Tour (WST) said it intends to host the final stages at the Crucible on rescheduled dates in July or August. This will be preceded by the qualifying rounds. When new dates are confirmed, tickets for the final stages will be automatically transferred, while the policy for refunds will be detailed.

WST chairman Barry Hearn said: “Snooker players are self-employed, they need opportunities to earn prize money so we have a responsibility to them. We are currently exploring the potential to stage tournaments behind closed doors to keep the circuit alive, with more details to follow next week.

“Live televised coverage of the biggest sporting events can be an inspiration to people around the world in these challenging times so it is important that we strive to find solutions for our tournaments.”

Image: Meydan Racing