Premier League

Football’s English Premier League has today (Thursday) confirmed that it will resume its 2019-20 season on June 17, provided that all safety requirements are in place.

The decision by the Premier League Shareholders will see action resume with Aston Villa v Sheffield United and Manchester City v Arsenal, two games that had been postponed due to Villa and City’s involvement in the EFL Cup final. These matches will be followed by a full match round beginning on June 19.

Due to COVID-19, matches will take place behind closed doors with all 92 remaining games shown live in the UK by the League’s existing broadcast partners: Sky Sports, BT Sport, BBC Sport and Amazon Prime.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said: “Today we have provisionally agreed to resume the Premier League on Wednesday June 17. But this date cannot be confirmed until we have met all the safety requirements needed, as the health and welfare of all participants and supporters is our priority.

“Sadly, matches will have to take place without fans in stadiums, so we are pleased to have come up with a positive solution for supporters to be able to watch all the remaining 92 matches. The Premier League and our clubs are proud to have incredibly passionate and loyal supporters. It is important to ensure as many people as possible can watch the matches at home.

“We will continue to work step-by-step and in consultation with all our stakeholders as we move towards resuming the 2019-20 season.”

The planned kick-off times in the UK for live matches will also differ from the traditional times.

Weekend matches will be scheduled as follows (all times BST):

Friday – 20:00
Saturday – 12:30, 15:00, 17:30; 20:00
Sunday – 12:00, 14:00, 16:30; 19:00
Monday – 20:00

Midweek matches will be scheduled as follows (all times BST):
Tuesday18:00; 20:00
Wednesday18:00; 20:00
Thursday – 18:00; 20:00

The Premier League has been suspended since March 13. Earlier this week, clubs voted to resume contact training. Sky today said it will broadcast 64 of the games, 25 of which will be made available free-to-air, including the Merseyside derby between Everton and Liverpool on the first weekend back.

The 25 games will be made available via Sky’s free-to-air ‘Pick’ Channel and simulcast on Sky Sports. The BBC will also broadcast live Premier League games for the first time in the competition’s history, four in total. The last time a live, top division league match was broadcast on the BBC was during the 1987-88 season.

Dutch Grand Prix

This year’s edition of Formula One’s Dutch Grand Prix at the reworked Zandvoort circuit will not go ahead as planned after organisers decided that they would rather delay the event until 2021 than stage it without fans.

The Dutch Grand Prix has not been held since 1985 and was set to return to the calendar this summer. However, the F1 season is yet to start because of COVID-19 and races are set to go ahead behind closed doors when the sport does resume.

With this in mind, organisers of the Dutch event have taken the decision to cancel this year’s race and mark its return to the calendar next year in front of a capacity crowd.

Dutch Grand Prix sports director Jan Lammers said: “We were completely ready for this first race and we still are. We and Formula 1 have investigated the potential to hold a rescheduled race this year without spectators, but we would like to celebrate this moment, the return of Formula 1 in Zandvoort, together with our racing fans in the Netherlands. We ask everyone to be patient. I had to look forward to it for 35 years, so I can wait another year.”

Fans who bought tickets for this year’s race will be able to use them for the 2021 event, while refunds will also be offered if fans are unable to attend next year.

The Dutch Grand Prix, which was initially scheduled to take place on May 3, would have served as a home race for Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. Around 300,000 tickets were sold for the event.

Cricket

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has confirmed a further delay to the start of the domestic season, which will not begin before August 1.

The ECB said the specifics of the season are subject to ongoing advice from the UK government and health experts but it is hoped that both men’s and women’s domestic cricket can be held later in the summer.

Next month, the Professional Game Group (PGG) will look to outline a number of opportunities for domestic play in a presentation to the ECB board. The plans will include options for red-ball and white-ball cricket including matches at all first-class grounds.

The plans will also consideration for behind-closed-doors matches or fixtures with a limited number of supporters while adhering to social distancing guidelines.ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said: “Naturally we want to see cricket being played at every level. We remain hopeful of seeing both domestic and recreational cricket this season and planning with the PGG has allowed us to map a number of potential scenarios for domestic play.

“While traditional formats of our competitions are the preference, we are not against exploring the unorthodox to ensure that we can return our players to the field. That can only happen though when it is safe, and we have said throughout this crisis that the safety and well-being of everyone involved in the game is our key priority.

“We have learned a lot and continue to learn about the safety protocols that would need to be in place to stage international cricket behind closed doors in this environment and those protocols will also need to apply to the domestic game.”

NWSL

The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) in the US has announced that it will return to action on June 27 with the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah.

The 25-game tournament will feature all nine NWSL clubs and matches will be played behind closed doors. It will mark the league’s first competitive action since the 2019 NWSL Championship.

Each of the nine clubs will play four games in the preliminary rounds to determine seeding. The top eight teams will advance to the quarter-finals, at which point the tournament becomes a knockout competition. The semi-finals and final will be played at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, with the championship match scheduled for July 26.

Players will be able to opt out of the tournament and it has been reported that several members of the US World Cup-winning team will do so.

Nevada

The Nevada Athletic Commission has given the green light for two UFC events and two Top Rank boxing shows to go ahead in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas’ UFC Apex is due to host a behind-closed-doors event on Saturday night, before UFC 250 heads to the arena on June 6.

Top Rank, meanwhile, is due to stage behind-closed-doors events at the MGM Grand on June 9 and June 11. Top Rank founder and promoter Bob Arum had previously outlined his intention to stage the events in Las Vegas, which would commence a series of twice-weekly events at MGM Grand throughout June and July.

Combat sports have been suspended in Nevada since March 14 due to COVID-19 but the NAC lifted the ban yesterday.