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COVID-19 news: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Premier League and more

Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium

Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium is set to become the latest major sports venue adapted for use during COVID-19.

Nelson Mandela Bay Acting Mayor, Thsonono Buyeye, said the South African city and the department of health have come up with a plan whereby the stadium will be ready for use within a matter of days as an isolation site to treat patients.

“An isolation site is being established in Nelson Mandela Bay in order to temporarily look after (those) affected or infected by COVID-19,” Buyeye said, according to the Dispatch Live website.

“We know that many of our people will have difficulty with self-isolation, due to housing and other social challenges. The Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium is an asset of government with world-class infrastructure perfectly suited to respond to the current pandemic.”

Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium officially opened in February 2010 ahead of its use as one of the venues for South Africa’s staging of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Buyeye said the local government is working with the Mandela Bay Development Agency to prepare the stadium, with help from the public health department.

He added: “Some of the work we are busy with now includes converting hospitality suites into isolation rooms and doctors’ facilities.”

Estadio Héctor Espino

The Mexican government has acquired Estadio Héctor Espino, one of the country’s most historic baseball venues, with the majority of proceeds set to go towards assisting the fight against COVID-19 in the state of Sonora.

The state government had owned the ballpark, which has not held a sports event since 2016, but the federal government has paid MXN511.69m (£17.1m/€19.7m/$21.4m) for the site. The AS newspaper said MXN311.69m of this sum will be funnelled towards the Sonoran health sector, specifically to improve hospital infrastructure and acquire supplies during the pandemic.

The 15,000-capacity ballpark opened in 1972 and had been home to Naranjeros de Hermosillo until the team moved to Estadio Sonora in 2013.

Cardiff Arms Park

Cardiff Arms Park has become the latest stadium in the Welsh capital to be drafted in to aid the fight against COVID-19.

The home of Pro14 rugby union team Cardiff Blues is being utilised as part of Ysbyty Calon y Ddraig – Dragon’s Heart Hospital. With support from the Welsh Rugby Union, Cardiff Council and the Blues, the Principality Stadium and surrounding areas were identified as suitable venues to accommodate the anticipated increase in demand on NHS facilities, and Ysbyty Calon y Ddraig – the Dragon’s Heart Hospital was born.

The Arms Park is currently providing logistical support during the building of the facility, and Phase A was completed over Easter weekend which will see the hospital open its doors to the first 350 patients in the days ahead.

Once completed, the home of the Blues will house a staff welfare centre, catering facilities and the headquarters for the hospital’s facilities management. Cardiff Blues chief executive, Richard Holland said: “As soon as we were made aware of the plans to turn the Principality Stadium into a hospital, we offered the entire Arms Park site to assist with the project.

“Our operations team have been working tirelessly with colleagues at the WRU, Principality Stadium and the local health board and the Arms Park has now been transformed. The site will initially act as a logistical base during the construction phase of the hospital and once completed we will have welfare, catering and other facilities available to assist the brilliant NHS staff.

“These are uncertain and unprecedented times but we are proud to be able to support the NHS by making our facilities available.”

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board chief executive Len Richards added: “We have never undertaken a project this big before and in such a short space of time. We are planning on the basis of what we think we might need to ensure we are as ready as we can be.

“I sincerely hope we don’t need to use all of the capacity but it is far better to have developed plans based upon the scientific evidence and modelling of the experts.”

Cardiff City Stadium, home of the national football team and Championship club Cardiff City, is also being utilised as a testing facility.

Premier League

In fan engagement news, English Premier League footballers will put their EA Sports FIFA 20 skills to the test in the inaugural ePremier League Invitational tournament.

The prize fund for the esports tournament is being donated to the #PlayersTogether initiative, which was created by Premier League players as a collective way of generating funds for the National Health Service and distributing them where they are needed most.

The tournament will also continue to urge everyone to follow official advice by staying home and saving lives.

Among the players competing in the tournament are Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace), Diogo Jota (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Lys Mousset (Sheffield United) and John McGinn (Aston Villa).

The full line-up of club representatives will be confirmed ahead of the draw for the tournament, which will take place on Monday.

The opening rounds will feature four matches per day between midday and 4pm BST from April 21-24. The semi-finals and final will be televised live on Sky Sports at 3pm BST on April 25.

In other news, Chelsea has begun providing 78,000 meals to the NHS and charities that support the elderly and vulnerable groups. The meals, which are free of charge, are being prepared by the club’s catering partner Levy and will be distributed daily for an initial period of six weeks, with 13,000 meals per week given.

The initiative is aimed at helping NHS staff who are working long shifts and therefore may find it difficult to obtain good-quality food on a regular basis, and also forms part of Chelsea’s continued effort to support the most vulnerable in its community during the global coronavirus pandemic.

The meals will be provided to Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust across their five local hospitals, including St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, Charing Cross Hospital in Fulham and Hammersmith Hospital.

Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck said: “We are and have always been committed to supporting our communities, especially the vulnerable, and at this time we recognise this is more important than ever.

“Our owner, Roman Abramovich, has been instrumental in challenging us to find ways to support those in need and after we successfully launched the Refuge campaign and made the Millennium Hotel at Stamford Bridge available to the NHS, this was the priority so I am pleased to see it begin.”


LaLiga, the organising body of the top division of Spanish club football, has stepped up its efforts to engage with fans at home and abroad by creating exclusive programming.

All of LaLiga’s national and international broadcasters, including LaLigaTV, will air three new programmes starting this weekend: LaLiga StayAtHome, LaLiga Clubs and LaLiga Nations.

The LaLiga StayAtHome programme, which will run for 30 minutes and air weekly, will bring viewers closer to the players and coaches of the competition. The league’s footballers have filmed themselves at home so that fans can see how they are living through the lockdown. While taking precautions, the players will demonstrate their fitness routines, the dietary guidelines they are following and their favourite hobbies and interests.

Courtesy of LaLiga Nations, over the course of 10 weekly episodes, audiences will learn about the importance and value of the different nationalities which have competed in the league.

LaLiga Clubs is a fortnightly segment which will explain the connection between Spanish cities, the LaLiga teams playing there and their people. It will outline the significance of each club, their fans’ sense of belonging and their importance to Spanish football.

Melcior Soler, director of LaLiga’s audiovisual department, said: “LaLiga’s international broadcasters are looking to offer football fans different forms of entertainment during this quarantine period. Through our work together with the clubs and the players, fans will be able to get closer to their idols despite the ongoing postponement of the competition.”

Image: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium