LaLiga

LaLiga and the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) have today (Monday) said the suspension of domestic professional competitions will continue on an indefinite basis as the country continues to battle Covid-19.

Earlier this month, LaLiga, which oversees the top two divisions of Spanish football, announced that its next two match days had 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.

This meant LaLiga could have resumed on April 3. However in a joint statement, LaLiga and the RFEF today said: “The Monitoring Commission established by the current RFEF-LaLiga Coordination Agreement AGREES the suspension of professional football competitions until the authorities of the Government of Spain and the General Administration of the State consider that they can be resumed without creating any health risk.”

NRL/AFL

The National Rugby League (NRL) has today joined the Australian Football League (AFL) in suspending its 2020 season, with officials from the two bodies stating their sports face substantial financial challenges.

Australia’s top competitions have continued in recent weeks, while the majority of the world’s major sports leagues and competitions have either suspended play or postponed their events. On March 13, North Queensland Cowboys christened its new Queensland Country Bank Stadium, with the opening match against Brisbane Broncos having been in doubt just hours before kick-off due to Covid-19.

The match was preceded by an announcement from Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, that the coronavirus pandemic would lead to a ban on public gatherings of more than 500 people. The NRL staged a meeting with its 16 clubs and decided that the opening round of fixtures for the 2020 season would continue as planned, but the second round of games would be played behind closed doors.

The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) and the NRL today announced they will suspend the 2020 Premiership Season until further notice. The organisations said the decision has been made in response to revised medical advice from government health officials and biosecurity experts, coupled with the travel bans introduced by the Queensland and New Zealand governments. The ARLC will monitor the situation daily and review the competition next month.

ARLC chairman Peter V’landys said the decision to postpone games, which will reportedly cost an estimated Aus$13m (£6.5m/€7m/$7.46m) for each round that isn’t completed, represents “probably the biggest financial crisis the game will face in its history”. NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg added: “We’re at a moment in time where the game’s cost base will need to be reset and that cost base is across the entire sport, from players and clubs, to central administration.”

Aussie rules league the AFL yesterday said it would suspend the 2020 Premiership season at the conclusion of the weekend’s matches and finish the AFL Women’s (AFLW) season. Sunday’s match between West Coast Eagles and Melbourne was the final match before the AFL season went into a temporary halt with the suspension of all games until May 31. The AFL said it will review the situation by the end of April to determine whether a further suspension period would be required.

The AFL last week committed to starting its 2020 season as scheduled on Thursday, albeit behind closed doors. AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan yesterday said over the next 48 hours the League and clubs would map out the “drastic and immediate steps” needed to be taken to cut costs.

“To say this is the most serious threat to our game in 100 years is an understatement,” he said. “It is unprecedented in its impact. It is unprecedented in the impact it is having on our game and the wider community, and as a community and as a code, we all need to take the unprecedented and required actions to get through this together.”

ECB

The England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has agreed that no professional cricket will be played in England and Wales until at least May 28, wiping out the first seven rounds of the County Championship and questioning the status of this year’s 50-over Royal London Cup.

The ECB, which is due to launch its new franchise-based competition, The Hundred, this summer, has begun modelling a range of options to start the season in June, July or August – with an immediate focus on options for cricket in June, including England’s three-Test series against West Indies, and the domestic T20 Blast tournament. The governing body said close liaison with the government will continue, with discussions on the potential of starting the season behind closed doors and giving fans the opportunity to watch live broadcast action.

The potential for reduced versions of competitions, should the season become further truncated, will also be discussed. ECB CEO, Tom Harrison, said: “With the information available to us at the moment a delay to the start of the professional cricket season until 28 May was unavoidable.

“This also allows us time to keep pace with a fast-moving situation and continue to plan for how a revised season might look. Critically, we can also remain as flexible and adaptable as possible, within the obvious restrictions we face.

“Securing the future of the game will be a primary focus as we plot a revised schedule with an emphasis on the most financially important forms of the game for the counties across international and domestic cricket.”

Ice Hockey World Championship

The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has cancelled its 2020 World Championship.

The men’s national team showpiece was due to be held in Lausanne and Zurich, Switzerland, from May 8-24. However, the event has now been shelved with IIHF president René Fasel stating: “This is a harsh reality to face for the international ice hockey family, but one that we must accept.

“The coronavirus is a global problem and requires major efforts by government bodies to combat its spread. The IIHF must do all it can to support this fight. We have to set sport aside for now and support both the government bodies and the ice hockey family.”

Vaudoise Aréna, a 9,600-seat ice hockey facility which opened in Lausanne in September, was due to co-host the Championship alongside Zurich’s Hallenstadion.

The IIHF added in a statement: “Both the IIHF and the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Organising Committee have implemented a robust insurance and risk management program for the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in accordance with the IIHF Statutes and insurance guidelines. Part of these risk management measures included protecting the substantial revenues associated with the event. These revenue protection measures have responded accordingly.”

Formula 1

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku has today become the latest round of the Formula 1 motor-racing championship to be postponed.

Baku City Circuit (BCC) took the decision to postpone the race, which was due to take place on June 5-7, following talks with F1, the International Automobile Federation (FIA) and the Azeri government. BCC said it would seek a new race date later in the 2020 season.

On Thursday, the Monaco Grand Prix, the most famous race on the F1 calendar, was 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 championship earlier said that the Monaco GP, along with the returning Dutch GP and the Spanish GP would be postponed amid Covid-19.

F1’s season-opening Australian GP was cancelled shortly before it was due to start earlier this month, 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 Canadian GP in Montreal on June 12-14.

Dubai World Cup

Dubai Racing Club (DRC) has cancelled this year’s edition of the Dubai World Cup, one of horse racing’s most lucrative events.

The $35m (£29.5m/€32.5m) event was due to take place at Meydan Racecourse on March 28, but was called into question after the United Arab Emirates on Thursday suspended all sporting events to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

DRC said in a statement issued yesterday: “To safeguard the health of all participants, the higher organising committee of the Dubai World Cup has decided to postpone the 25th edition of the global event to the next year.

“Further to the UAE government’s precautionary measures against the virus, we believe it is our duty to help protect the well-being of residents and guests.”