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Super Rugby Aotearoa ends behind closed doors

New Zealand Rugby’s Super Rugby Aotearoa competition ended behind closed doors at the weekend, with the Blues-Crusaders match at Auckland’s Eden Park having been called off completely after cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the city.

Eden Park (pictured) had been due to host the Blues vs Crusaders match yesterday (Sunday) but the match was cancelled after the New Zealand government confirmed that Auckland would remain at Alert Level 3 for 12 days.

Saturday’s Highlanders-Hurricanes match at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium was played without fans and kicked off at an earlier time to give the Hurricanes enough time to fly home. While Auckland, which had an outbreak of COVID-19 last week, is at Alert Level 3, the rest of the country is at Level 2.

Fans have been able to attend sports events in New Zealand since June, when the country moved into Alert Level 1 after no new cases of COVID-19 were recorded in 17 days. Last week’s Auckland outbreak marked the country’s first recorded cases since June.

Around 43,000 tickets had been sold for the Blues-Crusaders match and the cancellation could end up costing the Blues close to NZ$2m (£999,000/€1.1m/$1.3m), according to Stuff.co.nz. Both the Blues and the Crusaders were awarded two points following the cancellation.

In other news, the Swiss Football League (SFL) and Swiss Ice Hockey Federation (SIHF) have detailed plans to postpone the start of their seasons after the government announced that larger crowds will be allowed at sporting events from October 1.

There is currently a limit of 1,000 people for public events in Switzerland, but teams will be permitted to welcome thousands more fans from October 1 if the events are approved by local authorities.

The SFL had originally planned on starting its season on September 11 but this has been delayed by a week. This will ensure that all clubs play just one home match with a maximum capacity of 1,000.

The SIHF has postponed the start of its season by two weeks to October 1. In a statement, the SIHF said it is likely that regional authorities will determine the maximum number of fans allowed in each club’s arena.

Meanwhile, the Houston Texans NFL American football team has announced that no fans will be in attendance for its season-opening game against the Baltimore Ravens at NRG Stadium on September 20.

A decision on whether or not fans can attend subsequent home games will depend on the COVID-19 situation in the greater Houston area, which is currently at the highest threat level. The Texans said the absence of pre-season games this year will enable the team to refine the safety and operational protocols required to host fans at NRG Stadium.

Washington NFL Team and the Las Vegas Raiders have already announced that their 2020 seasons will be held behind closed doors, while other NFL teams have detailed plans to play with limited capacities. Some teams are set to take a similar approach to the Texans and initially play without fans before assessing the situation further down the line.

Elsewhere, a spike in COVID-19 cases in the Korean capital of Seoul has meant that sports events in the city will once again take place without fans.

A limited number of fans have been allowed at Seoul venues for the past few weeks, but a rise in cases has prompted the government to raise the social distancing measures from Level 1 to Level 2, where it will stay for two weeks. The decision means that no more than 100 people will be able to gather outdoors, and no more than 50 people will be allowed at indoor events.

Image: Eden Park