The UK government has today (Monday) announced that sporting events could be allowed to go ahead in England behind closed doors from June 1.

The government has released a 50-page document this afternoon to spell out how England can move towards easing lockdown measures, which have been in place since March following the COVID-19 outbreak.

Step Two of the government’s plan includes “permitting cultural and sporting events to take place behind closed doors for broadcast, while avoiding the risk of large-scale social contact”.

The document stressed that the content and timing of adjustments will depend on the most up-to-date assessment of the risk posed by the virus. The government is aiming to make the second step no earlier than June 1.

The government said that venues which attract large crowds such as sports stadia may only be able to reopen “significantly later” than outdoor spaces and activities depending on the reduction in numbers of infections.

The announcement comes as professional sports leagues, including football’s Premier League, weigh up when they will be able to return to action. Premier League clubs are meeting today to discuss the league’s ‘Project Restart’ plan, which would see matches played at neutral venues.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has already announced that no professional cricket will be played until at least July 1.

The government did not offer any update on when fans may be able to return to stadia.

NHL

The NHL ice hockey league has announced that this year’s planned international games have been postponed.

The NHL had intended to stage regular-season games in the Czech Republic and Finland this year but this will not be possible. Prague had been due to host the season opener between the Boston Bruins and Nashville Predators, with Finland having been scheduled to host two games between the Colorado Avalanche and Columbus Blue Jackets.

The league and the NHL Players’ Association expressed their commitment to maintaining and growing the NHL’s international presence and it is hoped that overseas games can be held in 2021.

The NHL has staged games in Europe for the past three years, and in eight seasons overall. The league joins Major League Baseball and the NFL American football league in cancelling scheduled overseas games.

Super Rugby

New Zealand Rugby has announced that the ‘Super Rugby Aotearoa’ competition will begin next month after the government in the country announced that it would move to Level 2 of its COVID-19 alert system on Thursday.

New Zealand Rugby announced last week that five teams – the Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders and Highlanders – will feature in the 10-week competition following an announcement that rugby and netball would be able to resume at Level 2 of the alert system.

It has now been announced that the competition will begin on June 13, allowing players four weeks to adequately prepare with contact training. Two matches will be played on Saturdays and Sundays, with all fixtures to be held in closed stadia until the government advises an approach to managing mass gatherings in controlled venues.

On the opening weekend, the Highlanders will play the chiefs in Dunedin on the opening day, with the Blues to play the Hurricanes in Auckland the following day.

Elsewhere, Rugby Australia is reportedly set to announce plans for its own competition that would replace Super Rugby in the country. ABC reports that Perth-based Western Force, which last played in Super Rugby in 2017, would form part of the competition.

Australian Super Rugby teams the New South Wales Waratahs, Queensland Reds and Melbourne Rebels would compete, while ABC reported that Japan’s Sunwolves could also be included.

The competition would not begin until July at the earliest.

IndyCar

The IndyCar motorsport series has announce that its 2020 season will get underway on June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway with the Genesys 300 event. The event will feature practice, qualifying and the race itself on the same day due to restrictions imposed by COVID-19.

No fans will attend the event and strict access guidelines will be in place. PPE equipment will be provided to everyone entering the facility, social distancing protocols will be in place and a health screening system will be administered to all racers.