NRL

The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) has announced the six venues that will be used during the first phase of the NRL’s resumption from May 28.

Bankwest Stadium (Parramatta, pictured), Campbelltown Stadium (Leumeah, New South Wales), Central Coast Stadium, Suncorp Stadium (Brisbane), QCB Stadium (Townsville) and AAMI Park (Melbourne) have each been selected on a range of factors, including how equipped they are to meet the NRL’s biosecurity protocols.

Other factors considered by the ARLC were geographic location, rectangular rather than oval stadia and commercial aspects. All matches will be consolidated into the six venues and will be played without fans.

The six venues will be used for at least rounds three to nine of the NRL before a review is conducted. The 2020 NRL season was suspended after two rounds following the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Eels, Bulldogs, Rabbitohs, Sharks and Roosters will play home games at Bankwest Stadium, while the Dragons, Tigers, Panthers and Raiders will call Campbelltown Stadium home.

Central Coast Stadium will serve as the home of the Knights, Warriors and Sea Eagles, with the Broncos and Titans to play home games at Suncorp Stadium. The Cowboys and the Storm will play home games at QCB Stadium and AAMI Park, respectively.

The official draw for the first phase of the league’s restart will take place on Thursday.

Acting NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said: “The competition will begin with a consolidated approach to venues. Each venue requires customised infrastructure to meet our strict biosecurity requirements. We’ve adopted a phased approach for venues should restrictions be eased in the future.

“We’ve chosen three consolidated venues for clubs in and around Sydney to ensure there are no double headers at venues and in different parts of the region to meet the geographical challenges we face.”

Serie A

The suspension of Serie A, the top tier of club football in Italy, has been extended to June 14 – a day later than the league had originally planned.

Lega Serie A, the organising body of the league, last week outlined plans to resume on June 13 in accordance with government decisions and medical protocols for protecting players and staff.

However, the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) has now announced that it is complying with a government decree banning sports until June 14. This will be the case “pending any further and desirable decision by the competent authority”.

Serie A has been suspended since March 9 and the league has 12 rounds of the season left to play.

Meanwhile, Serie A team Inter Milan has announced plans to stage the ‘European Solidarity Cup’ in association with German Bundesliga club Bayern Munich and Spanish LaLiga giant Real Madrid.

The competition will take place at some point in 2021 and will raise funds to support medical infrastructures. The tournament will be dependent on the calendars of the respective clubs and on when football can be played with fans again.

The three clubs will play each other in a round-robin group, with one match played in each city: Milan (Inter vs Bayern), Madrid (Real vs Inter) and Munich (Bayern vs Real).

Inter president Steven Zhang said: “The pandemic has hit people all over the world with great force. The great commitment of all healthcare workers has been essential to now allow us to look to the future. With this initiative we want to thank them and celebrate their work and at the same time send a message of unity and solidarity between nations.”

The net proceeds from the three games will be donated to medical facilities in Italy, Spain and Germany.

LaLiga

Spain’s LaLiga is hoping to return to action on June 12 and the league is reportedly drawing up plans that would see 197 people attend each match to ensure the fixtures go ahead smoothly.

The Guardian, citing a protocol prepared by LaLiga, reported that the plan is for stadia to be split into three zones: green and blue inside the ground and red outside. The green zone would permit 94 people, including players, coaching and medical staff, police officers, stewards, match-day officials, groundsmen, ball boys, and people working in security, TV production and VAR.

The report added that players and referees would access the stadium through separate different entrances. A number of safety precautions would be taken, including the provision of hand gel, gloves and face masks.

The blue zone would be designated for other TV staff, club officials and security.

Challenge Cup

England’s Rugby Football League (RFL) has confirmed today (Tuesday) that the final of the Challenge Cup, which had been scheduled for July 18 at Wembley Stadium, has been postponed.

The RFL intends on playing the final at some point later in the year although this is contingent on the public health situation and government advice. The Challenge Cup had reached the sixth round stage before rugby league was suspended in March.

The final of 1895 Cup, a competition for lower-league rugby league clubs, has also been postponed. The match had been due to take place at Wembley on the same day as the Challenge Cup final.

Fans who had bought tickets for the finals have been informed that they will be valid for any rearranged date.

NHL

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has revealed that the ice hockey league is looking at “eight or nine different places” that can serve as bases for numerous teams when the season resumes.

The NHL has yet to spell out a timetable for its return and Bettman has previously said the league is considering a plan to complete the season by playing multiple games in up to four arenas behind closed doors.

Bettman has now provided a further update but admitted it is still too early to set a date for the season’s resumption.

“I don’t think anybody has a fixed timetable, particularly in North America right now,” he said. “We have been working very hard since we took the pause on March 12 to make sure that whatever the timing is, whatever the sequencing is, whatever physical ability we have in terms of locations to play, that we’re in a position to execute any or all of those options. There is still a great deal of uncertainty.”

Bettman added: “Do we complete the regular season when we’re given the opportunity? Do we do an abbreviated regular season, because our competitive balance is so extraordinary, it’s hard to tell how the season would have ended? Do we go right to the (Stanley Cup) playoffs and in what form?

“And if we’re not playing in front of fans, which at least in the short term seems (likely), do we do it in a centralised location or locations? And if so, what places might be suitable from a COVID-19 standpoint in terms of the communities that you’re in and how big the outbreak is? And what is the availability of testing? And so that requires a collaboration with our medical advisers.

“And I believe that all of the major sports in North America are going through this same exercise, and while the medical and health issues are probably to some extent the same for all of us, the logistics of what we do and how we do it may be a little different depending on the sport.”

Image: Bankwest Stadium