Champions League

UEFA is set to announce this week that the Portuguese capital of Lisbon will host the finale of the 2019-20 Champions League season, according to multiple reports.

The Reuters news agency, citing a plan that will be presented to UEFA’s executive committee tomorrow (Wednesday), reported that Lisbon will host a ‘final eight’ tournament over the course of 11 days in August. The report added that four German cities will host a similar finale for the UEFA Europa League.

The plans will mark a change in UEFA’s hosting model for the competitions, with Istanbul and Gdansk having originally been scheduled to host the finals of the Champions League and Europa League, respectively. According to Reuters, Istanbul will now host the Champions League final in 2021 and subsequent host cities will stage their finals a year later.

The proposal, which is set to be ratified tomorrow, will see the remaining round-of-16 matches played at their scheduled venues before the quarter-finalists head to Lisbon and Germany for the ‘final eight’.

Reuters said the Champions League quarter-finals and semi-finals would be single-leg affairs. The quarter-finals and semi-finals are scheduled to run from August 12-15 and August 18-19, respectively, before the final on August 23.

Benfica’s Estadio da Luz and Sporting Lisbon’s Jose Alvalade stadium are the two venues that are likely to host matches. According to Reuters, stadiums in the German cities of Duisburg, Dusseldorf, Gelsenkirchen and Cologne will host Europa League matches.

A-League

The A-League, the top tier of club football in Australia, will resume on July 16 when Melbourne Victory takes on Western United at AAMI Park. Changes in the federal government’s rules for crowds in stadia will come into effect on July 1, meaning that it will be possible for the season to be finished with supporters in attendance.

The A-League plans on playing its remaining 27 matches over a 28-day period before the end-of-season finals series. The season will finish by August 31 at the latest after Football Federation Australia (FFA) reached an agreement with the Australian Professional Football Clubs Association (APFCA) and Professional Footballers Australia (PFA).

Wellington Phoenix and Perth Glory will complete the remainder of their regular-season matches in New South Wales, with games to be played at Bankwest Stadium, Netstrata Jubilee Stadium and McDonald Jones Stadium.

Greg O’Rourke, the FFA’s head of leagues, said: “Last Friday our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, announced that stadiums with capacities of 40,000 people or fewer could be permitted to host up to 10,000 people. We will continue to work closely with the federal and state governments, as well as our venues, to consider how we can accommodate as many club members and fans as possible at matches when the competition resumes.”

Adelaide Oval

Last weekend, Australia hosted its first major sporting crowd since the COVID-19 outbreak as the Adelaide Oval staged the AFL match between Port Adelaide and the Adelaide Crows.

Rules on social gatherings meant that the 40,000-seat stadium was able to welcome a ‘sell-out’ crowd of 2,240. Two thousand fans were seated 1.5 metres apart in the stands, with a further 240 guests watching in function rooms across the Oval’s three stands.

The match effectively served as a pilot case for the national Cabinet’s push to reopen stadiums across Australia, and the event was deemed a success.

Adelaide Oval chief executive Andrew Daniels said: “We had fantastic support from our patrons for the way in which they cooperated with our people and observed all the protocols we had in place. There was a great mood the whole night; people were just excited to be back at the footy and our staff loved having them back. For such a comparatively small crowd, there was an incredible atmosphere from the first bounce until the final siren.

“We are very pleased with how our detailed planning played out. We will undertake a full review this week and there will likely be some fine tuning, but we think Adelaide Oval has helped create systems that will give confidence to those making decisions around escalating the return of crowds.”

WNBA

The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) has confirmed that it is finalising an agreement to make the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida its official home for the remainder of its 2020 season.

Plans have been outlined for a reduced season, with a 22-game campaign scheduled to begin next month. Each of the WNBA’s 12 teams will set up base at the IMG Academy, which will serve as a training camp, stage games and provide housing for players and staff.

The WNBA said that the health and safety of players remains its top priority, with the league currently working with the relevant authorities to ensure that appropriate medical protocols and protections are in place.

Teams are scheduled to report to IMG Academy in early July, with regular-season action to begin later in the month following a training camp period.

Tim Pernetti, executive vice-president of IMG Events & Media, said: “As home to some of the world’s leading athletes, coaches and performance experts, IMG Academy is thrilled to partner with the top basketball players in the world and the entire WNBA family.

“We are truly looking forward to becoming the official home of the 2020 WNBA season and working closely with the league in providing our best-in-class training and competition environment.”

Images: Sarah Reid