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    Why Project Restart is flawed: The problems football must overcome

    Why Project Restart is flawed: From hostility over neutral venues, 350 tests needed PER MATCH and toilets banned at training grounds, Sportsmail assesses the problems football MUST overcome before it can safely return from coronavirus

    • The measures being discussed to bring the Premier League have many risks
    • The less risky the measures, the more impractical they are for clubs and players 
    • Some plans would involve performing 350 coronavirus tests per match
    • Players won’t be able to use toilets at training due to coronavirus restrictions 
    • Managers are wary of alienating the public if the Premier League comes back
    • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

    Football in England is pushing for a remarkable return to action to provide a lift to society amid the ongoing fight against the coronavirus outbreak.

    A Premier League meeting is going to be held on Friday where discussions over how to progress with a return to the pitch will take place.

    But there are numerous obstacles to overcome, with many unconvinced the game can return yet at all. Sportsmail looks at the major questions that have to be answered in order for the game to return safely. 

    Clubs aren’t happy about proposed plans to play Premier League games at neutral venues

    There are concerns such as players not being able to use toilets at training grounds

    Medics

    There are ways you can make it work. That is the first thing to be said about Project Restart as the Premier League clubs dial in to debate the matter at Friday’s video conference.

    It is not impossible according to the scientists, who understand the coronavirus better than most. But none of the options are foolproof, they all carry risk and the further from risk they promise to be, the more impractical they are.

    But there are ways of making it work, so let’s start there. ‘Everybody would need to be tested to make sure they are Covid-free,’ said Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham. ‘And they would need to be tested over a period of days to make sure they stay Covid-free for the duration of the incubation period.

    ‘Once you are sure none of those people have Covid, you can isolate them from the rest of society, make sure they don’t come into contact with anybody who has not been tested and make sure anybody new coming into that environment is clean. Then you could keep those players Covid-free for however many days you need.

    All of the ways of bringing football back from suspension ahead of the deadline carry risks

    All of the ways of bringing football back from suspension ahead of the deadline carry risks

    ‘So in theory it’s possible, but whether it’s practical is a different matter. How are you going to achieve it? That’s the question.’

    Hotels, empty and losing money, might jump at the chance to do what it takes to provide a football team with a safe environment. But what about the service staff? What about the food coming in?

    Neutral stadiums offer the safest solution and yet there is a group of Premier League clubs fiercely against the idea and set to dig in for home and away fixtures on the grounds of integrity.

    This then demands more safe stadiums and more safe vehicles and a greater number of people in more places living within football’s quarantined society and thus increases the risks of the virus breaking in. Some grounds are being used by the NHS. How can you kick them out to play football?

    ‘You could never guarantee preventing Covid-19 getting in,’ said Professor Ball. ‘You can reduce the risks but if you were unfortunate enough to introduce the virus, most people inside will be incredibly fit and may only have mild symptoms and you could have quite an amount of transmission under the radar before you realised what was going on.

    The less risky the measures are, the less practical they are for the clubs and players

    The less risky the measures are, the less practical they are for the clubs and players

    ‘We are being lulled into a false sense of security because we are seeing fewer deaths than before, but the numbers are still higher than when we saw the sudden increase that led to lockdown.’

    The earliest proposed start date for Premier League football behind closed doors is June 6, which is likely to be revised if the Government extend the lockdown measures.

    Each day the landscape shifts and on Friday some clubs will articulate their fears of being rushed back too soon.

    Any return must come in step with a strict testing system for all those involved in putting on the matches, roughly 350 per game.

    ‘It’s a logistical challenge but it’s not millions of people,’ said Steve Bates, chief executive of the Bio Industry Association, working with companies on the testing strategy. ‘You could test them every day with private companies. Football has the money and it has the incentive. It would be interesting to see and might help other sectors of society.’

    Professor Ball agrees testing on the day of the games might be a more realistic policy than the extreme quarantining.

    Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger has questioned the wisdom of restarting the season so soon

    Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger has questioned the wisdom of restarting the season so soon

    Then what happens if one player tests positive? Or two? How many positives before a game is called off? Or is that bad luck like an outbreak of food poisoning or flu and they are expected to plough on? Where do clubs stand on insurance if a staff member falls ill on their watch? Where do they stand if players refuse to play? Can they withhold pay? These questions and more will be raised on Friday. No one expects answers.

    Meanwhile, few footballers want to be guinea pigs. Some are scared at the prospect of contact sport when it is not safe to have a haircut. They must opt in or there is no show and they have never been more aware of the fact.

    They might have pregnant partners or relatives in society’s shielded sectors. Or maybe they cannot face six weeks in a hotel at a time of high anxiety.

    Some managers share those concerns. Others are keen to get going again, such as Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder – perhaps not surprisingly as his team are targeting Europe. For others the integrity of this season has been lost. Some clubs will play at Liverpool with Anfield in full voice, others when it is eerily deserted.

    So, yes, there are ways to make it work but is it worth the effort? For what? For the money? We are doing it for the money – and taking a risk with people’s health? That is the subtext of Friday’s meeting. 

    By Matt Barlow 

    The EFL

    Championship clubs eye £7,000-a-week salary cap 

    Championship chief executives will debate stringent salary caps and limits on squad sizes from next season at Friday’s meeting of all 24 clubs.

    The main proposal being discussed Friday is a wage limit of £7,000 a week for all new contracts, though clubs could negotiate cuts with those already on their books. Such a cap would lead to huge cuts for the majority.

    Sportsmail revealed this week the average basic pay for each club’s highest earner is £29,000-a-week, with the highest-paid player on £68,000-a-week.

    Even the lowest-paid players earn more than the proposed cap on average, at £8,500-a-week. A squad limit of 24 – with a certain number aged 23 and under – will also be discussed.

    Championship chiefs are discussing stringent salary caps and squad size limits next season

    Championship chiefs are discussing stringent salary caps and squad size limits next season

    Meanwhile, the EFL want the next transfer window to remain open until the end of March to allow clubs to trade their way out of financial ruin, according to a confidential memo obtained by this newspaper. The EFL have already asked the FA to lobby FIFA on the issue.

    An almost season-long transfer window would allow clubs to comply with profit and sustainability rules, and those with reduced squad sizes could add faces if hit by injuries. ‘It’s common sense,’ said one EFL club official. ‘Extending the window would allow us flexibility as we try to keep afloat.’

    In further developments, players below the Championship have been told the chances of the season being finished are receding.

    After an EFL board meeting on Wednesday, PFA representatives of clubs were told there is a real possibility of no more football being played until at least June, despite plans to resume training this month. Supporters are not expected back in EFL stadiums until January.

    A key issue is the tens of thousands of coronavirus tests required for players required to see this season out safely. Clubs and executives are worried how that would look when there are potentially not enough tests for key workers.

    Championship clubs, including leaders Leeds, want to play on to determine the outcome

    Championship clubs, including leaders Leeds, want to play on to determine the outcome

    Championship clubs – including leaders Leeds – want to play on to determine the season’s outcome. Below that, the picture is less clear. The ‘sporting merit’ system is one option, determining teams’ final standings by points per game already played. Clubs in automatic promotion places could go up with none coming down.

    Many clubs feel the usual promotion and relegation system should stand, with concerns a precedent will be set if there is no relegation from the top tier.

    EFL clubs are not prepared to pay players whose contracts run out in June if the season runs beyond then, and will expect them to play on. Players have been asked by their PFA reps to vote on this. Some clubs will not be able to compete without players in the last years of their deals.

    The EFL declined to comment. 

    By Matt Hughes, Mike Keegan, and Ian Ladyman 

    Managers

    Bosses wary of alienating the public 

    Premier League managers want to ensure any return to competition does not put them at odds with the public as the country continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

    The League Managers Association have surveyed all their members ahead of Friday’s Premier League meeting to discuss Project Restart.

    LMA chief executive Richard Bevan told Sportsmail: ‘We have collated our managers’ views from across the leagues and round the world. Social acceptance is a really big issue for them. For example, who in football gets tested for the virus and when? What will be the availability of testing for the public at that time? What happens if a player gets injured at training or in a game and requires assistance from a doctor or ambulance? How does that look? The managers are responsible people and they want to place health as their guiding principle.

    Premier League managers don't want to alienate the public with the resumption of football

    Premier League managers don’t want to alienate the public with the resumption of football

    ‘The Premier League is of the same view. They won’t put economic issues before health.’

    Bevan revealed the LMA have been in touch with their members more over the last month than at any time in the organisation’s 101-year history.

    ‘It’s about understanding their views on about 20 things such as testing schedules and training and players who are out of contract,’ said Bevan. ‘This week we have been asking them how they view the cut-off points for returning to training and then playing, and also the transfer window and dealing with players out of contract. This will all be fed back.It’s important what the managers think. Between them they have experience of hundreds of thousands of matches and this is something the Premier League will take into account. The collective view of the managers is probably the biggest voice of all the stakeholders.’

    By Ian Ladyman 

    Neutral Venues

    Clubs oppose ground switch 

    A Premier League plan to use neutral venues to complete the season has been met with hostility by top-flight clubs.

    A venue taskforce has been set up by the Premier League to identify and approve suitable sites to stage matches.

    But the idea is fiercely opposed by a number of managers, who do not want to lose crucial home advantage.

    Several venues have been discussed – Twickenham among them. But the national football centre at St George’s Park and Wembley are not in the running.

    Top flight clubs are not happy with plans to hold Premier League games at neutral venues

    Top flight clubs are not happy with plans to hold Premier League games at neutral venues

    Stadiums and training complexes across the country have been explored by the taskforce, but any venue would require approval from the Premier League and clubs. Pitch quality is a key factor. All Premier League grounds use an intricate hybrid turf – a surface that not all training grounds have.

    Facilities for broadcasters is another consideration, as is the threat of fans congregating – a scenario that would contravene social distancing measures.

    Top-flight clubs briefed their players and staff about the Premier League’s plans during video conference calls on Thursday, with the neutral-venue idea among the topics raised.

    By Jack Gaughan and Sami Mokbel 

    Health Issues

    Toilets shut at training grounds, say guidelines 

    Premier League footballers will not even be allowed to use toilet facilities when they are back at training, according to guidelines set out by the Premier League which raises questions about player wellbeing.

    A ‘return to training’ guide has been sent to executives at all 20 top-flight clubs by the Premier League to confirm that all training-ground facilities must be kept closed when players are back on the premises — and that includes the toilets.

    Arsenal, West Ham and Tottenham players have returned to training this week but are driving to and from sessions in their training gear because the showers are closed. They have been working on their own but under guidance from fitness instructors at their clubs.

    Footballers will not even be allowed to use toilet facilities when they are back at training

    Footballers will not even be allowed to use toilet facilities when they are back at training

    According to the guide, players will also be expected to bring their own energy drinks and water from home, and should be aware the toilet facilities are off limits before leaving for training.

    Premier League chief executives expressed bemusement at receiving the document when there is no detailed plan for how the season can restart.

    Players at Tottenham, West Ham and Arsenal are doing staggered sessions, with a pitch each to work on, so they do not come into contact with each other.

    They are also being given their own footballs to work with.

    By Sami Mokbel 

    Players

    Aguero: ‘We are scared’… City star reveals fear over return 

    Sergio Aguero became the most high-profile player to voice fears over the Premier League’s return on Thursday night.

    On a day when a raft of concerns were raised over a potential return to action, the Manchester City striker admitted that players are ‘scared’ about the prospect of training again.

    The Argentine said: ‘The majority of players are scared because they have family, they have children, babies, parents.’

    Watford boss Nigel Pearson also expressed fears about player welfare, while Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger and Brighton’s Glenn Murray questioned the wisdom of restarting the season. Clubs plan to resume training on May 11, with a clearer picture set to emerge from talks Friday. But Aguero said: ‘When we go back, I imagine that we will be very tense, we will be very careful.

    Glenn Murray has expressed concern for his children if the Premier League is rushed back

    Glenn Murray has expressed concern for his children if the Premier League is rushed back

    Sergio Aguero is the most high-profile player to voice fears over the Premier League’s return

    Sergio Aguero is the most high-profile player to voice fears over the Premier League’s return

    ‘I hope there is a vaccine so all this ends. It does scare me.’

    Watford boss Pearson warned players could pick up injuries without sufficient time to build up fitness. He said: ‘We are worried. It will be a topic about the timeframe from when we can start training to when the season starts. Four weeks is not long enough.’

    Brighton striker Murray said: ‘It is us going out there competing. Guys from all over the world who could be carrying the disease – it is a worry. I do not want to jeopardise my children.’

    Chelsea’s Germany defender Rudiger said: ‘If there is a danger and we ignore that while people are dying somewhere in the world, I don’t know if that would sit right on my conscience.’

    By Jack Gaughan, Adrian Kajumba, and Daniel Matthews 

    Face Masks

    Top grade PPE for stars 

    Premier League clubs could provide their players with revolutionary protective face masks as officials prepare to impose strict rules on hygiene.

    As part of new guidelines ahead of the planned return to group training, players will be required to wear face masks to minimise the threat of spreading coronavirus.

    At least four clubs are in talks with Dubai-based company Altitude Mask over their N95 mask, which has been designed to protect athletes against Covid-19. West Ham and Crystal Palace are among those to have used Altitude’s standard mask, which is designed to help athletes improve endurance levels and aid conditioning. But the new design includes a disposable respiratory filter.

    At least four Premier League clubs are in talks to use a revolutionary protective face mask

    Altitude Mask's N95 design has been specifically built to protect athletes from Covid-19

    Altitude Mask’s N95 design has been specifically built to protect athletes from Covid-19

    Bournemouth and Chelsea are also understood to be in discussions over using the mask.

    Among the high-profile sporting figures who have already used the Altitude Mask are Anthony Joshua, Dele Alli, Gareth Bale and Virat Kohli.

    By Sami Mokbel 

    HOW CORONAVIRUS HAS HIT THE WORLD OF SPORT SO FAR

    2020 OLYMPIC GAMES  

    The 2020 Olympic Games has been postponed until 2021 on March 24 – becoming one of the last major sporting events this summer to fall victim to the coronavirus.

    Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe held a crucial conference call with Olympics chief Thomas Bach on Tuesday to formally decide a plan and they have chosen to postpone for 12 months.

    The decision also means the Tokyo Paralympic Games will be subject to a one-year delay.

    Despite the delay, the name of the delayed Games will still be Tokyo 2020, the city’s governor Yuriko Koike revealed.

    A joint statement from the IOC and Tokyo 2020 organising committee read: ‘In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the WHO today, the IOC President and the Prime Minister of Japan have concluded that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.

    ‘The leaders agreed that the Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present. 

    ‘Therefore, it was agreed that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan. It was also agreed that the Games will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.’ 

    There was plenty of scepticism whether the Olympics would pull through and continue as scheduled while events linked to the games were called off. The Olympic torch relay in Greece was cancelled on Friday March 13 – just a day after the flame was lit in Olympia.

    Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games have been postponed by one year due to the coronavirus

    Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games have been postponed by one year due to the coronavirus

    Large crowds mobbed Hollywood actor Gerard Butler as he lit the cauldron in the Greek city of Sparta despite repeated warnings for spectators not to attend because of coronavirus.

    That forced the decision by the Greek Olympic Committee to halt the torch relay on Greek soil on just the second day of its scheduled eight-day journey. It is the only the third time that a relay to Athens for the summer Games has not been completed.

    The Olympic flame will still be handed over to the Tokyo 2020 organising committee at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens on Thursday March 19, but without fans present. 

    Athletes were told to keep training but many struggled considering the government lock-down measures put in place. 

    On Friday March 13 US president Donald Trump’s suggestion to postpone the Tokyo Olympics for a year because of the coronavirus was immediately shot down by Japan’s Olympic minister.

    ‘The IOC and the organising committee are not considering cancellation or a postponement – absolutely not at all,’ Seiko Hashimoto, an Olympic bronze medalist, told a news conference in Tokyo.

    On Tuesday March 17, Kozo Tashima, one of the Japanese Olympic Committee’s vice presidents and president of the Japanese Football Association, tested positive for coronavirus.  

    The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo organisers have stayed on message since the viral outbreak in China three months ago spread across Asia and then the globe: The games will open as scheduled on July 24. 

    Tokyo 2020 organisers received the Olympic flame in a scaled-down handover ceremony in the Greek capital on March 19. 

    ATHLETICS 

    The World Athletics Indoor Championships, which was due to be held from March 13-15 in Nanjing, is postponed until March 2021.

    The World Athletics Indoor Championships in Nanjing, China, has been postponed due to concerns over the danger of the coronavirus and its ability to spread

    The World Athletics Indoor Championships in Nanjing, China, has been postponed due to concerns over the danger of the coronavirus and its ability to spread

    North Korea cancelled the Pyongyang Marathon scheduled for April after imposing a border lockdown due to the level of outbreak in South Korea, where the Seoul Marathon is cancelled in a bid to protect runners.

    The Paris half-marathon is cancelled and the French government also decided to ban all public gatherings of more than 100 people, before ordering people to stay at home from March 15 for at least 15 days. The race involving some 44,000 competitors was scheduled for Sunday March 1. Organisers said the race will be postponed to a date yet to be determined.

    The London Marathon, which had been scheduled to take place on April 26, has been postponed until October 4. Over 40,000 runners were due to take part. 

    The Barcelona marathon scheduled for March 15 has been postponed until October.

    BOXING 

    Olympic boxing qualifiers to be staged in Wuhan were cancelled by the International Olympic Committee, but went ahead in Amman from March 3-11.

    The IBF title fight between Daniele Scardina and Andrew Francillette in Milan on February 28 was postponed by Matchroom due to restrictions in Italy following the outbreak.

    The Japanese boxing commission cancelled all fight cards scheduled for March on government advice to suspend all pending sporting fixtures. They will not be rescheduled.

    Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce's Battle of Britain has been pushed back from April to July

    Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce’s Battle of Britain has been pushed back from April to July

    The British Boxing Board of Control announced on Tuesday March 17 that all boxing events under their jurisdiction for March will be postponed due to the coronavirus.

    That decision has lead to the heavyweight clash between Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce being postponed. That fight, which had been penciled in for April 11, has been rescheduled for July 11 at the O2 Arena. 

    Anthony Yarde, who was due to fight Lyndon Arthur on the undercard of the all-British clash, announced on March 29 that his father had died as a result of contracting the coronavirus. 

    He revealed in an Instagram post that he had no underlying health issues and urged everyone to stay at home.  

    Matchroom Boxing has also postponed all events scheduled for March and April, including Josh Kelly’s European title fight against Russia’s David Avanesyan (scheduled for March 28). 

    The European Olympic boxing qualification tournament in London has been suspended. It was due to secure qualification for Tokyo 2020 for 77 male and female boxers, with 322 taking part. 

    Matchroom Boxing chief Eddie Hearn has said Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight title defence against Kubrat Pulev, which is scheduled for June 20, could be rearranged for July. All Matchroom promoted fights in March and April have been postponed. 

    Canelo Alvarez vs Billy Joe Saunders, earmarked for May in Las Vegas, was postponed before even being announced, however the Mexican is reportedly still planning to make the bout happen in June. 

    CRICKET 

    England’s tour of Sri Lanka was postponed on March 13, with the England and Wales Cricket Board citing ‘completely unprecedented times’.

    The decision was confirmed while Joe Root’s side were in the field at Colombo’s P Sara Oval, contesting a warm-up game for a two-Test series.

    On March 18, the West Indies offered to host England’s upcoming home Tests against them in the Caribbean instead of in the UK – should the coronavirus outbreak not have improved by then. England are due to face the Windies in a a three-Test series, which is due to start at the Oval on June 4 but could be delayed until September. If playing the series in England proves unworkable, CWI have offered to step in for this series, and also for England’s three Tests against Pakistan, due to start on July 30. Although there are Covid-19 cases in the Caribbean, its impact there has been limited so far. 

    The start of the Indian Premier League season has also been delayed until April 15. The 2020 campaign had been set to start on March 29. The IPL franchises are also ready to quarantine their foreign players for a period of 14 days, if travel restrictions are lifted to allow them to arrive.

    On March 13, India’s ongoing one-day international series against South Africa was postponed, while Australia’s one-day internationals against New Zealand will be played behind closed doors.

    Scotland’s one-day series against the United States and UAE have been postponed. The games were scheduled to be played in Florida in April. 

    England’s cricketers would not play any rescheduled Test series against West Indies in the Caribbean until December at the earliest, it emerged on March 19.

    CYCLING 

    Cycling’s Giro d’Italia has been called off, with the race scheduled to start in Hungary in May. 

    The final two stages of the UAE Tour were cancelled after two members of staff on the race were suspected of having the disease. 

    Danish cyclist Michael Morkov was tested for coronavirus after being put in isolation

    Danish cyclist Michael Morkov was tested for coronavirus after being put in isolation

    The Tour de France is under threat of cancellation, with the scheduled start in Nice taking place in just over three months, on June 27. With British and French governments anticipating that the pandemic will last until the summer, race organizers are studying alternative scheduling. 

    The Paris-Roubaix cycling race, another major event on the French sports calendar, was postponed due to the pandemic, while the April 5 Tour of Flanders, only previously cancelled during World War I, was also postponed in a further sign that Le Tour is under grave threat.

    FOOTBALL 

    This summer’s Euro 2020 tournament has been moved to next summer (2021) following a UEFA conference held on March 17. The postponement provides a chance for European club competitions to be completed.

    All football in England is suspended until at least April 30 – but the 2019-20 season should eventually be completed after the FA bend their own rules to extend the campaign INDEFINITELY after holding crisis talks on March 19.

    The decisions to suspend follows players and staff becoming affected by the virus, or individuals self-isolating as a precaution after reporting symptoms consistent with Covid-19.

    The Premier League has moved to cancel games following the global outbreak of coronavius

    The Premier League has moved to cancel games following the global outbreak of coronavius

    The Premier League clash between Manchester City and Arsenal, scheduled for March 11, had already been postponed as a ‘precautionary measure’ after Olympiacos and Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis tested positive for coronavirus weeks after watching his Greek team play at the Emirates Stadium. 

    On March 13, UEFA announced all Champions League and Europa League fixtures scheduled are postponed, as well as the quarter-final draws for both competitions. UEFA hope to conclude the competitions in the summer but no dates are yet set. 

    Birmingham City become the first Championship side to see players take temporary 50 per cent wage cuts to ease financial pressure.  Leeds United soon followed in a bid to keep paying all of their non-football staff. 

    All Chinese domestic fixtures at all levels were postponed and the season pushed back, the first football to be affected by the outbreak in the country of its origin. However, reports suggest that the league could resume on April 18 as China gets to grip with the virus.

    Asian Champions League matches involving Guangzhou Evergrande, Shanghai Shenhua and Shanghai SIPG are postponed until April.

    The start of the Korean K-League season is postponed. The four teams in the AFC Champions League are playing their matches behind closed doors.

    Japan’s J-League postponed all domestic games until the middle of March, but further delays are inevitable. 

    Ludogorets players were taking no chances after the coronavirus outbreak in Italy

    Ludogorets players were taking no chances after the coronavirus outbreak in Italy

    Italy, the country worst hit by the virus outside China, suffered a spate of cancellations before the government put the population on lockdown. All sport, including Serie A games, were suspended until at least April 3 to contain the virus.

    In France, it was announced on Friday 13 March that there will be no top-flight football in France for the immediate future after their governing body postponed all matches.  

    In Spain, April 18’s Copa del Rey final between between Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad has been postponed. LaLiga is also postponed until the end of March at least.

    Germany’s Bundesliga, the other major European league, is also suspended until April 3 at least. 

    The Dutch Eredivisie and Portugal’s Primeira Liga are also suspended.

    The Football Association of Ireland announced that all football under its jurisdiction will cease until March 29. 

    Major League Soccer has been suspended for 30 days until mid-April with David Beckham’s first Inter Miami home game delayed.  

    The South American Football Confederation postponed this year’s Copa America, due to take place from 12 June to 12 July, until 2021.

    FIFA said that the newly-expanded Club World Cup, originally scheduled to take place in China in June 2021, will be postponed and a new date announced when ‘there is more clarity on the situation’.

    On March 13, the FA announced that all of England’s games scheduled for the month would be postponed, including those of development teams. It means that England’s friendlies with Italy and Denmark have been called off.    

    Euro 2020 play-off matches due to be held on March 26, including Scotland v Israel have been put off until June. 

    Olympiakos' owner Evangelos Marinakis has tested positive for the coronavirus

    Olympiakos’ owner Evangelos Marinakis has tested positive for the coronavirus

    Manchester United clash at Austrian side Lask was behind closed doors, with United handing out £350 to each fan to help with travel and accommodation after they sold 900 tickets for the Europa League game. 

    Newcastle United banned their players from shaking hands with each other amid coronavirus fears. 

    Cristiano Ronaldo went into isolation in Madeira after it emerged that his Juventus team-mate, Daniele Rugani, has coronavirus. Squad members Blaise Matuidi and Paolo Dybala also tested positive. 

    Elsewhere in Italy, Fiorentina striker Patrick Cutrone, who is on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers, tested positive for coronavirus.

    In Spain, 35% of Valencia’s squad staff tested positive for coronavirus, with all cases being asymptomatic. 

    Real Madrid’s first-team squad were in quarantine after a member of the basketball team tested positive for Covid-19. The two teams share the same training facility.   

    Liverpool have announced a charity match between a Reds Legends side and Barcelona Legends, due to be played at Anfield on March 28, has been postponed.

    FIFA says it will postpone South American World Cup qualifying matches due to take place in March. 

    Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta tested positive for coronavirus on March 12 with the entire first-team squad being put into isolation. The Gunners’ game against Brighton, scheduled for Saturday March 14, has been postponed.

    In the early hours of Friday, March 13, Chelsea announced that winger Callum Hudson-Odoi had been diagnosed with the illness.

    The club’s first team went into self-isolation, while two buildings at their training ground in Cobham were closed. 

    Premier League clubs, including Manchester United and Manchester City, have sent players home to train alone following the British government’s increasing crackdown on mass gatherings and unnecessary social contact.   

    West Ham chief Karren Brady called for the season to be null and void while Aston Villa believe no team should be relegated. In this situation Liverpool, the runaway league leaders, could face the horror of being denied the title despite being on the brink of securing their first league trophy in nearly 30 years.

    Reports suggest football bodies across England and the rest of Europe are bracing themselves for a reported total shutdown of every league until September.

    Top-level English and Scottish football was initially suspended until April 3 at the earliest. The Football Association, the Premier League, the English Football League, FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship all agreed to call a halt to competitive action with immediate effect. 

    All levels of English football below the National League North and South have been called off and voided with no promotion and relegation due to the calendar being decimated by the coronavirus outbreak.  

    FORMULA ONE 

    The season-opening Australian Grand Prix was called off after a McLaren team member came down with Covid-19, leading to the British team pulling out prior to a decision being made on whether the race would still go ahead. 

    The announcement came hours after Lewis Hamilton said it was ‘shocking’ that the race was going ahead. 

    The Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai on April 19 was the first race to be postponed, with no decision over whether it will be reinserted into the 2020 calendar for later in the season. 

    The Bahrain Grand Prix, scheduled for March 20-22, is also called off, as is the inaugural Vietnam Grand Prix, which was scheduled to take place in Hanoi on April 5. 

    It was hoped that the Dutch Grand Prix on May 3 would be the first race of the new season but that has also been postponed due to Covid-19. 

    The iconic Monaco Grand Prix on May 24 was cancelled for the first time in 66 years before Formula One announced their race in Azerbaijan had been postponed. 

    The Chinese GP was first to be cancelled and other races could yet follow that lead

    The Chinese GP was first to be cancelled and other races could yet follow that lead

    GOLF 

    On March 13, the Masters was postponed. In a statement released online, Fred Ridley, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, emphasised that the decision makers hope to hold the championship ‘at some later date’. The first men’s major of the year was due to begin on April 9.

    The US PGA Championship, the second major of the year, has now joined the  Masters in being postponed. It had been due to take place at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco from May 11-17, but has been rescheduled for later this summer.

    After deciding to play with no spectators from the second round of the Players Championship onwards, the PGA Tour cancelled the event entirely after the first round on March 12. 

    They also scrapped the following three events leading up to the Masters, but after that was cancelled four further events in April and May – the RBC Heritage, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, the Wells Fargo Championship and the AT&T Byron Nelson – also bit the dust. It is hoped that the season can be resumed in late May.

    The European Tour have cancelled all tournaments until the popular Made in Denmark event on May 21. Many of them were due to be held in China or east Asia in countries badly hit by the outbreak.

    The women’s game has also been hit by postponements and cancellations, with the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration, the highest profile casualty.

    The Masters has been postponed for the first time since the Second World War

    The Masters has been postponed for the first time since the Second World War

    Lorenzo Gagli and Edoardo Molinari were withdrawn from the Oman Open on medical grounds after Gagli showed symptoms of the virus. He shared a hotel room with Molinari and he was told to self-isolate. They were later reinstated to the tournament after testing negative for the virus. 

    HORSE RACING 

    The Grand National was called off following new British government restrictions to fight the spread of coronavirus made it impossible to stage the Aintree showpiece on April 4. The Cheltenham Festival went ahead amid some criticism before the social distancing measures were tightened. 

    The Japan Racing Association revealed that ‘government-sanctioned races’ will go ahead behind closed doors.  

    Racing in Ireland attempted to take place behind closed doors starting on March 29 – but that decision was changed after government cancelled all sporting events.  

    The Dubai World Cup meeting will go ahead on March 28 ‘without paid hospitality spectators’. 

    Racing Post forced to temporarily suspend publication of the flagship daily racing newspaper for the first time since their inception in 1986 due to all action in UK and Ireland being suspended.  

    The Cheltenham Festival went ahead despite travel disruption caused by the virus

    The Cheltenham Festival went ahead despite travel disruption caused by the virus

    RUGBY 

    This year’s Six Nations will have to wait for its conclusion with all remaining games postponed.

    England’s game with Italy and Ireland’s trip to France had already been called off with Wales and Scotland leaving it until the day before before calling off their game. 

    Saturday, 31 October is a possible date for the final weekend of matches. 

    The Women’s Six Nations has also been hit by postponements.

    Ireland's Six Nations encounter with Italy on March 7 has been postponed

    Ireland’s Six Nations encounter with Italy on March 7 has been postponed

    The RFU has suspended all levels of rugby in England until April 14, with the announcement coming shortly after the Premiership was halted for five weeks. 

    The quarter-finals of the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup have also been postponed. Those games were scheduled for April 3, 4 and 5.   

    The RFL and rugby league’s Super League have now followed suit and postponed all fixtures for at least three weeks. Eight Leeds Rhinos players had been confirmed to be self-isolating.  

    TENNIS

    Wimbledon has been cancelled for the first time since World War II as All England Club chiefs called the tournament off at an emergency meeting.

    It was considered impossible for the tournament to be moved back to later in the year, or to be played without fans, and so chiefs have pulled the plug entirely.

    This is the first time that Wimbledon will not be staged since 1945. Only one Grand Slam has missed a year since the war, the 1986 Australian Open, and that was for the technical reason of the date shifting forward from December into January. 

    The French Open, one of the four Grand Slam tournaments, is postponed until September amid a wide lockdown in France.

    The clay-court major was scheduled for May 24 to June 7, but that has shifted to September 20 to October 4, after the US Open, which was due to be the final major of the year. 

    Players have been quick to criticise the move, which has created a conflict with the Laver Cup men’s team event spearheaded by Roger Federer, and a women’s tournament in China.

    All events on the ATP Tour have been suspended for six weeks. 

    The BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells in California, set to start on March 9, was postponed at the eleventh hour.  It came after a confirmed case of the coronavirus in the nearby Coachella Valley.

    The final of an ATP Challenger event in Bergamo, Italy, between Enzo Couacaud and Illya Marchenko of Ukraine was cancelled. Both players received ranking points and prize money for getting to the final. They were denied the opportunity to play behind closed doors.

    China forfeited a Davis Cup tie because the men’s team were unable to travel to Romania for the March 6-7 play-off.

    WTA events have also been cancelled. The WTA announced they are assessing their schedule with a number of events set for China in the second half of the season.

    The International Tennis Federation has announced that the Fed Cup finals have been postponed. The event was due to be held in Budapest in April and the competition’s play-offs, which were set to take place in eight different locations, have also been placed on hold.

    The WTA also announced no tournaments will be staged for at least five weeks.   

    Wimbledon has been cancelled for the first time since World War II

    Wimbledon has been cancelled for the first time since World War II

    OTHER SPORTS 

    The NBA has been suspended indefinitely after two Utah Jazz players contracted the virus. On March 17 Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant confirmed he had tested positive for the virus alongside three unnamed team-mates.

    In an aid to decrease risks of exposure to the virus, the NBA had told players to avoid taking items such as pens, markers, balls and jerseys from autograph seekers. 

    The NHL has announced it has paused the 2019-20 season with no date confirmed for when it will resume. 

    The UFC has cancelled its next three events, although president Dana White is still pushing ahead for the highly-anticipated lightweight title fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson. 

    MotoGP have cancelled their first two races of the season in Qatar and Thailand. 

    South Korea’s baseball league cancelled all 50 pre-season game which were slated to take place from March 14-24. It is the first time since the leagues inception in 1982 that an entire set of exhibition matches are off. 

    The first-stage draw for the Table Tennis World Championships, scheduled for South Korea from March 22-29, is postponed.

    A beach volleyball tournament, due to be held in Yangzhou from April 22-26, is postponed until after the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

    World Short track speed skating championship in Seoul is cancelled.

    The World Triathlon Series event in Abu Dhabi was postponed as a precautionary measure.  

    The Women’s World Ice Hockey Championships in Canada have been cancelled.   

    All 72 pre-season baseball games in Japan are to take place behind closed doors

    All 72 pre-season baseball games in Japan are to take place behind closed doors

    In badminton, the German Open (March 3-8), Vietnam Open (March 24-29) and Polish Open (March 26-29), all Olympic qualifying events, are cancelled due to ‘strict health protection’. 

    The Japanese professional baseball league made the decision to play their 72 pre-season games behind closed doors until March 15. Baseball is among the most popular sports in Japan.  

    Doubts remain as the Asian weightlifting championships, scheduled for March, are relocated from Kazakhstan to neighbouring Uzbekistan. They could still be postponed. 

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