Coronavirus: How will it impact on the world of sports?

12 March 2020, 07:14

A German Bundesliga match between Borussia Monchengladbach and FC Cologne was played behind closed doors
A German Bundesliga match between Borussia Monchengladbach and FC Cologne was played behind closed doors. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

With some of 2020's biggest sporting events coming up many official bodies have taken action to halt the spread of coronavirus.

Postponements have hit the Premier League, Guinness Six Nations and Formula One, while all domestic sporting action in Italy has been suspended until April 3 at the earliest.

However, pubs could be banned from showing football as coronavirus forces matches to be held behind closed doors.

Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam warned Government officials last week that blocking fans from games would force them into pubs.

One senior sports administrator told The Times newspaper: "It will be an open conversation about what we can all do to help, should it become necessary.

"If you look at things logically, I can see broadcaster being asked to make events free-to-air and block signals into pubs."

On Monday UK sports governing bodies attended a meeting with Government officials to discuss contingency plans.

With huge sporting events such as Euro 2020, the Olympics and golf's majors on the horizon, what could this mean for the players and the fans?

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The English Football League and Premier League has postponed all matches until 3 April at the earliest in a move the former says was down to "increasing numbers of clubs taking steps to isolate their players and staff."

Olympiacos owner Evangelos Marinakis and Juventus defender Daniele Rugani had earlier tested positive for the virus, while Everton's first team squad and coach were also forced to self-isolate.

Meanwhile, UEFA has also cancelled all its fixtures for the next week, which includes all Champions League and Europa League matches on Tuesday and Wednesday.

As a result, the quarter-final draws for both competitions will also be called off.

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On the continent, all domestic sporting action in Italy - including Serie A matches - has been suspended until 3 April, although that does not cover Italian clubs involved in the Champions and Europa Leagues. However, Thursday's Europa League ties between Sevilla and Roma in Spain and Inter Milan and Getafe in Italy have been called off due to travel restrictions between the two countries imposed by the Spanish authorities.

French Ligue 1 and 2 games have been postponed "until further notice" after a unanimous vote from the Ligue de Football Professionel's board of directors.

All matches in the German Bundesliga this weekend will be played behind closed doors, except RB Leipzig's home clash with Freiburg which does not have any restrictions.

Other matches being played behind closed doors include Barcelona's game at home to Napoli and Chelsea's trip to Bayern Munich in the Champions League next week, as well as the Europa League games between Olympiacos and Wolves and LASK and Manchester United on Thursday and Rangers' match at Bayer Leverkusen the following week.

The Republic of Ireland's Euro 2020 play-off semi-final in Slovakia on March 26 will also take place in an empty stadium, while the Bosnia and Herzegovina Football Federation has suspended ticket sales for their play-off match with Northern Ireland. UEFA, however, says it has received no requests to postpone this summer's Euro 2020, which is scheduled to be held in 12 cities across the continent, beginning in Rome.

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Olympics and Paralympics

The International Olympic Committee has said it remains fully committed to staging the Tokyo 2020 Games as scheduled this summer, despite Japan's Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto suggesting it could be postponed until later in the year. The British Olympic Association still plans to send a delegation of around 55 people to Tokyo this month for a "detailed operational recce".

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Rugby Union

The France v Ireland and Italy v England games in the final round of the Guinness Six Nations have been postponed, with Wales v Scotland the only game due to go ahead as scheduled.

PRO 14 matches involving Italian sides Benetton and Zebre have been postponed, but the organisers of rugby union's European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup competitions have said the quarter-final ties scheduled for April 3-5 are still set to go ahead.

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Formula One

A member of McLaren's Formula One team is in self-isolation after being tested for coronavirus at the Australian Grand Prix. It is understood the team member reported symptoms associated with the virus in the Albert Park paddock on Wednesday morning.

They were tested at the circuit's medical centre before returning to the team's hotel in downtown Melbourne.

Two personnel from American outfit Haas were tested and are also in self-isolation.

Organisers insist the opening round of the season in Australia on March 13-15 will go ahead as planned, but this month's Bahrain Grand Prix - from March 20-22 - will take place behind closed doors.

F1 personnel who have visited high-risk countries within 14 days of their arrival in the Gulf Kingdom will be subjected to an extensive screening process.

Italian team Ferrari remain in close contact with the authorities in light of the increasing restrictions on movement in the country. The FIA is monitoring the situation, having already called off the Chinese Grand Prix.

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McLaren have announced they have withdrawn from the Australian Grand Prix after a staff member tested positive for coronavirus.

The team personnel, believed to be a mechanic, was placed in quarantine in Melbourne on Wednesday after reporting symptoms related to the virus.

The opening race of the season is now in doubt with at least four other members of Formula One's travelling circus also tested for the illness which has claimed more than 4,600 lives around the world.

A statement from the British team read: "McLaren Racing has confirmed this evening in Melbourne that it has withdrawn from the 2020 Formula One Australian Grand Prix, following the positive test of a team member for the coronavirus.

"The team member was tested and self-isolated as soon as they started to show symptoms and will now be treated by local healthcare authorities.

"The team has prepared for this eventuality and has ongoing support in place for its employee who will now enter a period of quarantine."

Formula E

The Formula E calendar suffered a third postponement after the Jakarta E-Prix, set for June 6, was called off. Formula E had already postponed the Sanya E-Prix - scheduled for March 21 - on February 2, with the view of rescheduling both races later in the calendar, while the Rome E-Prix on April 4 was shelved last week due to Italy's ban on domestic sporting action.


The opening four races of the MotoGP season in Qatar, Thailand, the United States and now Argentina were called off. The Qatar race was cancelled, while the other three have been moved to later in the season, which is now due to get under way in Spain on May 3.

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Two more European Tour tournaments, taking the total to five, have been postponed. Next week's Hero Indian Open and August's Czech Masters have joined this week's Kenya Open and April's Maybank Championship and China Open in being called off.


England cricketers are due to be flown home after their Test series against Sri Lanka was cancelled. Surrey have cancelled their pre-season training camp at the ICC Academy in Dubai amid concern over the safety of their players.


The NBA season has been suspended "until further notice" after an unnamed player from the Utah Jazz tested positive for coronavirus, with the outbreak continuing to rip through the sporting schedule.

American basketball was suspended after the league was advised of the positive test shortly before the scheduled game between the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night.

The NBA said in a statement: "The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of tonight's schedule of games until further notice.

"The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic."

Utah said the player, who was not at the arena, had been tested as "a precautionary measure" in consultation with NBA medical staff and Oklahoma health officials.

The team said in a statement: "When it was determined that the individual would be tested, we immediately informed the league office.

"The health and safety of our players, our organisation, those throughout our league, and all those potentially impacted by this situation are paramount in our discussions."

It said the player was "currently in the care of health officials in Oklahoma City".


Fears of two cases of coronavirus at the UAE Tour saw the race cancelled with two stages left. Team INEOS are among a host of teams who have decided to withdraw from all racing until the Volta a Catalunya on March 23. The Strade Bianchi, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo and the Giro di Sicilia races in Italy have been postponed.


The high-profile BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, where the likes of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic were due to compete, was called off.

Organisers of the Miami Open, due to start on March 23, are monitoring the situation closely but preparations are continuing. Next month's Fed Cup finals in Budapest and Fed Cup play-offs, due to be held in eight different locations, have been postponed, while China's Xi'an Open (April 13-19) and Kunming Open (April 27-May 3) have been cancelled.


Racegoers planning to attend this week's Cheltenham Festival have been told not to if they have any of the symptoms of coronavirus or they have been to or transited through the high-risk countries, or been in contact with anyone that has, in the last 14 days.


The World Indoor Championships, which had been due to take place in Nanjing in China this month, have been called off. Organisers of the London Marathon are monitoring the situation but the April 26 event is scheduled to go ahead. The Paris Marathon, which was due to take place on April 5, has been postponed until October 18 and the Rome Marathon, scheduled for March 29, has been cancelled. The International Triathlon Union has moved the 2020 ITU Paratriathlon World Championships, planned for May 2, from Milan to Montreal.

Rugby league

The Betfred Super League match between Catalans Dragons and Leeds in Perpignan on Saturday will go ahead behind closed doors.


All events scheduled for March in Japan have been cancelled.


The £1million China Open, scheduled to start in Beijing at the end of March, has been cancelled. The attendance in the arena for this week's Gibraltar Open has been limited to 100 people.

Ice skating

The World Short Track Speed Skating Championships, scheduled for March 13-15, were called off. The World Figure Skating Championships in Quebec, planned for March 16-22, were also cancelled.


The International Judo Federation has cancelled all Olympic qualification events on the calendar until April 30.


The Professional Darts Corporation has cancelled the European Darts Grand Prix in Sindelfingen, the European Darts Open in Leverkusen, which were both scheduled for later this month, and next month's German Darts Grand Prix in Munich.