The German government have given their approval for the Bundesliga to return behind closed doors, with a resumption date of May 15 likely to be discussed when football authorities meet on Thursday.
Reports on Wednesday stated Germany football’s return would be delayed until May 22 with suggestions that the first fixtures could only be held after a two-week quarantine of all teams.
However, following a meeting between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany’s 16 states, such a period has not been deemed necessary.
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Women’s football in Spain could be brought to a close
The Spanish soccer federation is proposing an end to this season’s women’s league because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The proposal is expected to be approved by the federation’s board on Thursday.
Barcelona was leading the competition at the time it was suspended in March and will be declared champion.
No teams will be relegated but the top two from the second division will be promoted.
There will be no relegation in the third and fourth divisions but the promoted clubs will come from the winners of playoff matches played without fans.
GOLF: World Amateur Team Championships cancelled
This year’s World Amateur Team Championships (WATC), scheduled for October, have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Golf Federation (IGF) said on Tuesday.
The biennial amateur golf competition, which dates back to 1958, had previously been moved from Hong Kong to Singapore due to political unrest.
“This unprecedented decision was due to the global COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty that this has caused to ensuring that the 2020 WATC could be staged successfully,” IGF Executive Director Antony Scanlon said in a statement.
“Most importantly, it was made to safeguard the health and safety of all athletes, officials and volunteers at the 2020 WATC.”
Scanlon added that scheduling and logistical issues had made it impossible to move the event to 2021 and that the IGF was looking forward to staging the competition successfully in 2022.
Merkel confirms Bundesliga recommencing
Germany’s Bundesliga soccer league can re-start in the second half of May following the coronavirus stoppage, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday.
The announcement was made as part of an easing of lockdown measures. The Bundesliga has been on hold since mid-March because of the pandemic. The German Football League is due to decide on Thursday to decide on further details
ATHLETICS: Russian anti-doping tests to resume
The Russian anti-doping agency plans to resume testing this month.
CEO Yuri Ganus says testing will start again in the last 10 days of May with a “balanced, selective and focused” approach as the agency tries to make up for a lengthy stoppage.
Testing was suspended at the end of March when Russian President Vladimir Putin asked people to stay home unless they were working in designated essential sectors.
Ganus says that during the stoppage “we have been carrying out all the work of a national anti-doping agency except for the testing.” That covers areas such as education, investigations and planning for future tests.
Anti-doping work worldwide has come to a near-standstill during the coronavirus pandemic. That has raised fears that some athletes could take advantage and cheat.
The Russian agency issued staff with disinfectant wipes and face masks before the stoppage and also offered athletes masks to wear while being tested.
RUGBY UNION: Contact training still some way away
England forwards coach Matt Proudfoot is coming to terms with specific issues concerning contact-training as the Rugby Football Union continues to plot a route out of the coronavirus crisis.
Proudfoot, who masterminded the Springboks’ World Cup final demolition of England before joining up with Eddie Jones’ squad, is currently in his native South Africa where he is linking up with his new charges through social media.
The inability to maintain tough physical training during the lockdown presents a particular problem for forwards, and Proudfoot admits it may take “a bit of time” before they are able to restore themselves to full capacity.
Proudfoot said: “Our strength and conditioning guys have been in contact with the players and clubs, and tried to formulate a process that is best suited to the individual.
“Rather than a generic programme that most teams would follow, we’ve tried to look at the player from an holistic point of view – where could we improve him in his home environment where we couldn’t have improved him in camp.
“Contact training is something that is going to take a bit of time. Once we can start training in smaller groups and institute smaller group situations, things can start to change a little bit.”
FOOTBALL: Turkey still planning on hosting Champions League final
Turkey plans to host the Champions League final in August, the head of its football federation said on Wednesday, after it was postponed by the global coronavirus pandemic.
Two months ago European soccer’s governing body UEFA indefinitely postponed the final, which had been scheduled to be played in Istanbul in May.
Turkish Football Federation chairman Nihat Ozdemir also said Turkey’s domestic soccer league would resume from June 12 and aims to complete the season on July 26.
The schedule would involve 7 weekend games and 1 weekday match. Teams will play their matches in their own cities and own stadiums, he said, adding that no consideration had been given to playing matches in a single city.
“God willing, we will complete our own leagues at the end of July. We will hand over our cups on the pitch and then we will cap the season off by hosting the UEFA Champions League final in August,” Ozdemir told a televised news conference.
CRICKET: Sangakkara’s term as MCC president extended
Former Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara will be offered a one-year extension as president of the Marylebone Cricket Club in the “extraordinary circumstances” resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the MCC said on Wednesday.
Sangakkara became the first non-British president of the MCC, the custodian of cricket’s laws, when he took over in October last year.
The disruption caused by the outbreak prompted the MCC committee to offer the 42-year-old to continue until Sept 30, 2021, a motion likely to be approved in its June 24 annual general meeting.
“Whilst Presidents of MCC only normally serve for a twelve-month period, it is not unprecedented for longer terms to be introduced to respond to extraordinary circumstances,” MCC said in a statement.
FOOTBALL: Sean Dyche keen to resume season as soon as it is safe
Sean Dyche wants the Premier League season to be played to its conclusion and the Burnley manager insists he and his players would be ready to restart the campaign when it is safe to do so.
He told Clarets Player HD: “Firstly, it goes from central Government. Nothing is decided and no dates are decided at this time.
“There’s a lot of conjecture on what’s going to open and that will then knock on to the Premier League meeting (next week), in which they will take a view from the Government on how we can best move this forward.
“There are lots of ideas and lots of thoughts. We are very pro the idea of moving forward, when we can of course and when it’s safe, and the players are clear minded about that as well. They want the season to carry on and finish.”
FOOTBALL: Spain’s players return to training
Soccer players in Spain are going back to their team’s training camps for the first time since the country entered a lockdown nearly two months ago because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Players for Barcelona, Real Madrid and other clubs arrived for medical tests and to start preparing for the return to training this week.
The majority did not wear masks or gloves. Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez were among those without masks when they drove into Barcelona’s training center. Antoine Griezmann, Arturo Vidal and Ivan Rakitic had masks on.
Real Madrid players Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Karim Benzema arrived without masks like most of their teammates.
Credit: Europa Press
The training centers of all clubs were disinfected in the last couple of days. All players and members of the coaching staff are going to be tested for COVID-19 before training can resume.
Players will initially train individually. The league wants a training period of about a month before it can restart in empty stadiums. It hopes to resume sometime in June.
GOLF: Women’s Amateur Latin America Championship and the ANNIKA Foundation cancelled
The 2020 Women’s Amateur Latin America Championship and the ANNIKA Foundation has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The inaugural event was due to take place in Argentina from 3-6 September 2020 at Pilar Golf in Buenos Aires but will now be played from 2-5 September 2021 at the same venue.
Mark Lawrie, Director – Latin America and the Caribbean at The R&A, said, “The safety of players and officials is our utmost priority and with so much uncertainty as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic we decided it would not be appropriate to stage the championship this year.”
Annika Sorenstam said, “We were excited to launch this special event in September but look forward to an even better event in 2021. I cherish the work we have accomplished with The R&A in Latin America and look forward to hosting the region’s top talent next year.”
WOMEN’S FOOTBALL: ‘No room’ for the world’s top players to plan pregnancies
By Fiona Tomas
The congested international football calendar caused by the coronavirus crisis could impact how women’s players factor pregnancy planning into their careers.
Chelsea striker Sam Kerr, one of the world’s most recognisable female footballers, has shed light on the issue, saying that the pandemic could hamper her international teammates’ prospects of becoming mothers in years to come.
Kerr, the Australian captain, would have been eyeing a lengthy break in the middle of next year, but with the Tokyo Olympics now pushed back until 2021, many of the world’s top female footballers could find themselves playing in a major tournament every year until 2024.
“This has put a real spanner in the works,” Kerr told Fox Sports TV from her London home, in lockdown. “I don’t know when I’ll be able to come home, I don’t know when I’ll get my next off year.
“Next year’s Olympics, then Asian Cup, then World Cup, then Olympics again. So the next off-year for the Matildas is five years away now when it was only one year.
“There’s no room for injury now, which is stressful, there’s no room for time off, there’s no room for girls in our team getting pregnant now – because that’s a thing in women’s football.”
FOOTBALL: Aston Villa CEO against neutral venues
Aston Villa have joined Brighton and West Ham in publicly opposing the idea of completing the Premier League season at neutral venues as chief executive Christian Purslow warned clubs would not support measures that increased the risk of the “£200million catastrophe” that is relegation.
It is understood that Premier League clubs have been told the only way to complete the season is for the remaining 92 matches to be played at neutral venues, but Purslow said that would punish clubs like Villa.
“Personally I’m against it,” Purslow said on Talksport. “We’re a club that prides itself on home form. Two-thirds of our wins this season have come at home.
“We’ve got six home games left to play and I think any Villa fan would agree that giving up that advantage is a massive decision for somebody running Aston Villa and I certainly wouldn’t agree to that unless those circumstances are right.”
He added: “When you say to any club, ‘We want you to agree to a bunch of rule changes that may make it more likely that you get relegated’, they’re not thinking about TV money, they’re thinking, ‘My goodness, am I going to agree to something that results in me being relegated and losing £200million?”‘
The latest on boxing’s return
By Gareth A Davies
The World Boxing Council sanctioning body – whose titles at heavyweight are held by Tyson Fury and by Katie Taylor at lightweight – is looking at proposals for the return of boxing which includes remote scoring by judges to reduce staff working at events in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have been working for several year on the evaluation of remote online ring officials,” Mauricio Sulaiman, president of the WBC explained from his home in Mexico City last night. “This platform is ready to be used in case it will help to reduce the number of persons at a boxing event.”
The WBC has laid out guidelines from testing protocol to comportment from boxers, teams and officials, which would include stringent testing and minimum numbers taking part in events. Elsewhere, the WBC guidelines have set out to have virtual press conferences and weigh-ins behind locked doors, laying out protocol for tests, the number of participants, pre-event medical questionnaires, and the overall sanitation procedures for future events when boxing begins again.
“We have estimated that with around ten boxers at an event, we may be able to go ahead with an event which has around 50 people maximum inside the venue, which will include the boxers, their teams, commission members and ring officials,” explained Sulaiman. The judges will be set up to officiate from home, or a remote venue near where the action takes place and will score fights in real-time, through an online portal, with ideally, access to the official television feed.
“We have an app, the judges will have the app,” explained Sulaiman. “At the end of the round, the judge just has to press the number—10, 9, 8, 7, 6 or whatever for that fighter, and then the same for the other fighter and then submit. The viewing angle will depend on the production, there are fights are produced by Showtime, by ESPN… they have very good production with many cameras. They have the capability of providing the feed in one way or another compared to other low budget shows that can only present a show from a limited number of angles.”
FOOTBALL: Christian Purslow says talks are still ongoing
Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow says Premier League clubs have yet to settle on protocols to ensure a safe return to playing during the coronavirus pandemic.
The league is trying to find a way to resume in June but group practice sessions have not yet started.
Purslow told talkSPORT radio that “we haven’t got to the crucial protocols that relate to actually playing football. Until we crack the code of making our great contact sports safe then the conversation we’re having is hypothetical.”
Aston Villa has joined Brighton and West Ham in expressing public opposition to the current “Project Restart” plan that would see all remaining games played at neutral stadiums.
Purslow says “we have six home games left to play so any Villa fan would agree that giving up that advantage is a massive decision for somebody running Aston Villa and I certainly wouldn’t agree to that unless the circumstances are right.”
Villa is in next-from-last place in the Premier League and two points from safety with 10 games remaining.
TENNIS: Next year’s Australian Open could be at risk
Next year’s Australian Open could be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and even if the first Grand Slam of 2021 goes ahead fans from abroad will not be able to attend, Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley said on Wednesday.
The tennis season was halted in early March due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has infected more than 3.68 million people around the world while killing over 256,000, according to a Reuters tally.
The Australian Open was able to take place in January as scheduled but French Open organisers have moved the clay-court major back to September from its May start while Wimbledon has been cancelled.
The fate of the U.S. Open in New York is expected to be decided next month.
Tennis Australia Chief Executive Tiley said next year’s Australian Open (AO) would not escape the impact of the pandemic.
“Worst-case scenario is no AO,” he told the Australian Associated Press.
“Our best-case scenario at this point is having an AO with players that we can get in here with quarantining techniques and Australian-only fans.”
FOOTBALL: Portugal’s second division season ends
Portugal’s professional soccer league has declared the second division season to be over with 11 rounds of matches to play and promoted C.D. Nacional and Farense, it said in a statement.
The league said it was “forced to decide on the definitive suspension of the LigaPro” following the government’s decision that only the top-flight Primeira Liga and the Portuguese Cup could restart following the coronavirus stoppage.
The Primeira Liga is due to resume on May 30.
The league said the standings at the time of the suspension on March 12 would be final, meaning Madeira-based Nacional and Algarve-based Farense would go up.
The decision was taken in line with recommendations from the Portuguese football federation and European soccer’s governing body UEFA, it said.
Nacional return after a one-year absence while Farense last played in the top flight in 2001-02. At one point, Farense dropped down to the amateur league after a series of financial crisis.
FOOTBALL: June return for Bulgarian league
The final part of Bulgaria’s top-flight soccer season could be played from June 5 or June 12, Sports Minister Krasen Kralev said, as the Balkan country begins to ease its lockdown to kick-start an ailing economy.
Soccer has ground to a halt in all major leagues in Europe and none have yet to resume. European soccer’s governing body UEFA has set a May 25 deadline for leagues to outline their plans to re-start.
Kralev said he had submitted a detailed plan, developed by the Bulgarian Football Union, to the health minister on Tuesday with final approval expected in the coming days.
“Our desire is for team training to restart on May 15 and the championship to resume in June,” Kralev told bTV television late on Tuesday. “The league could resume on June 5 or June 12 as matches will be played without spectators, of course.”
Testing in Spain
La Liga will test 2,000 players and staff at first and second division clubs starting today, according to reports in Spain.
Results will be announced on Friday, but individual outcomes will be kept private and confidential. Those who test positive will have to report to their club and quarantine for 2 weeks
More from Richard Bevan
Bevan said he was expecting to receive the protocols in document form on Thursday, ahead of the meeting next week.
“It covers testing, tracking, PPE (personal protective equipment) available, clear guidelines on social distancing and obviously a safe environment to train and play.
“There will be guidance on cardiology, mental and emotional well-being and I think the message is health is the guiding principle to any decision-making.”
A seven-page document, drawn up by the Premier League’s director of football Richard Garlick, talks about players wearing masks or snoods at training.
Epidemiologist Rowland Kao told the PA news agency last month that masks were a “sensible” precaution.
“It’s unclear how much protection those masks would be, but it would seem sensible to put as many precautions as you could in place,” he said.
Bevan said there was no suggestion that managers would be involved in any coercion of players.
“They’re the voice and leaders of clubs and teams but they always demonstrate calm leadership and that’s what we need,” he said.
“Whatever the pressures, physical, psychological well-being of players, coaches and indeed all the personnel, that will come first and foremost.”
FOOTBALL: Premier League protocols to be presented next week
Players and managers will be presented with medical protocols related to the Premier League’s Project Restart next week.
The English top flight is working on plans to complete the 2019-20 season amid the coronavirus pandemic, dependent on Government advice.
League Managers Association chief executive Richard Bevan said there was no suggestion players or managers were being “coerced” into a restart and that plans to ensure safety – including testing procedures – would be outlined next week.
Credit: Getty Images
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Next week the medical and operational protocols are going to be presented to the managers and indeed the players.
“Hopefully there will be solutions that create this safe environment, in the meantime we’re staying very open-minded and as always the managers take their responsibility to the game very seriously on all these issues.”
FOOTBALL: More from Germany – slightly later restart mooted
German soccer could be cleared to resume when Chancellor Angela Merkel meets with the governors of the country’s 16 states.
The dpa news agency reports that May 15 and 22 are being considered by the federal government as start dates for the Bundesliga.
The league has introduced blanket coronavirus testing at clubs and is eager to finish the season by the end of June. That is when some player contracts expire.
The push to resume has faced a backlash. There have been at least 11 positive tests of players and staff since testing began last week and Hertha Berlin forward Salomon Kalou was suspended after posting a video showing social distancing measures being flouted at the club.
FOOTBALL: Juventus return to training as Ronaldo quarantines
Giorgio Chiellini led the way as Juventus players returned to individual training at the team’s sports centre on Tuesday, while Cristiano Ronaldo began two weeks’ coronavirus quarantine after returning to Italy.
Captain Chiellini, 35, arrived early with Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci, wearing a black face mask, just after midfielder Aaron Ramsey. Playmaker Miralem Pjanic showed up in the afternoon, along with Juan Cuadrado, Mattia De Sciglio, Federico Bernardeschi and Daniele Rugani.
Serie A champions Juve said the training sessions, which are allowed thanks to Sunday’s green light from the Italian interior ministry, “will take place on an individual basis and with staggered arrivals to allow full compliance with the regulations in force”.
“After a day of tests and exams carried out yesterday at J Medical, some of the Juventus players started training at the Continassa Training Centre, where they officially began their recovery to regain competitive form,” Juve added.
Ronaldo’s return is more uncertain after two months of confinement on his native island of Madeira, having played in Juventus’ last match against Inter Milan on March 8 behind closed doors.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner returned with his family to Turin by private jet late on Monday, and is in quarantine awaiting tests.
The interior ministry’s go-ahead has allowed players to return to club training facilities two weeks ahead of schedule, offering a glimmer of hope that the 2019-20 season might yet be saved.
As well as Juventus, top-flight clubs Atalanta, Bologna and Udinese also got back to training on Tuesday, with Sassuolo and Lecce leading the way on Monday.
But sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora warned training in groups must wait until May 18, and it remains uncertain whether matches can restart as the country battles the COVID-19 pandemic which has killed more than 29,000 in Italy.
Stokes: We would do anything to get cricket back on TV
England all-rounder Ben Stokes says playing in closed stadiums would not dampen the competitive side of matches and that players “would do anything” to get cricket back on television screens for fans to watch during the Covid-19 crisis.
The spread of the novel coronavirus has brought sport to a standstill. Staging games without spectators has been suggested as one way to resume professional cricket.
England’s home series against West Indies scheduled for June has been postponed, with the likelihood of those three tests being played later in the summer without fans.
When asked if cricket might lose its competitive edge in such an atmosphere Stokes, 28, said that even without fans the players would still be going out to win.
“Think about it, we are walking out to represent our country, we got three lions on our chest and there is a game that we are supposed to win,” Stokes told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“So whether it’s in front of nobody or, like we are used to, in front of full crowd, I don’t think it’s going to take that competitive side away.
“It’s a completely different scenario to get our heads around, that there isn’t going to be the atmosphere or cheering that we’re used to when we play international game.
“We would do anything to get cricket back on the TVs and for people to follow and watch. If that means you have to play in front of nobody then so be it,” he added.
Stokes, a key part of England’s 2019 World Cup triumph, was not sure when cricket would resume but felt bigger issues were at stake.
“We are still not 100% sure when that’s going to happen,” he said.
“… at the end of the day, cricket is just a sport and the safety, health and wellbeing of everybody involved, not just in the team but around cricket community, is important right now.”