Sport’s return from lockdown: Indefinite ban on crowds leaves sports in fear for future – The Telegraph

Professional sport was cleared on Monday to resume within three weeks, but many teams and competitions have been left fearing for their future amid an indefinite ban on crowds.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a path for major sport to restart from June 1 and declared that staging events such as Premier League football and international cricket would “provide a much-needed boost” for the country.

Leading footballers and cricketers are preparing to restart training as early as next week, although sports must provide detailed plans for how they can safely resume – that would include coronavirus testing for participants – and have these passed by Public Health England.

Sports that would involve players coming from abroad, such as England cricket matches, Formula One and Uefa Champions League or Europa League football games, will hold talks about potential exemptions from government travel plans for a 14-day quarantine periods.

Governing bodies have been in regular dialogue with the Government and a committee of medical representatives have been meeting to establish protocols for a phased return of training, initially with social distancing, before moving towards full contact and then matches.

The Government’s aim is to introduce “step two” of its coronavirus lockdown exit plan next month, which would include “cultural and sporting events to take place behind closed doors for broadcast, while avoiding the risk of large-scale social contact”. The caveat is that sufficient progress has been made on controlling the virus and that allowing large crowds in sports stadiums “may only be fully possible significantly later”.

This will prevent some sports and leagues from even attempting to resume as they are not financially viable without paying crowds attending their events.

The English Football League and the National League, which together make up the six divisions of football immediately below the Premier League, have repeatedly questioned how sustainable it would be to begin a new season in August without crowds. For many clubs, who are already facing huge losses, it would only worsen an already desperate financial situation to face the cost of staging fixtures behind closed doors. County cricket clubs and Superleague netball may also take that view, as could professional basketball which, like rugby league, is seeking a government bail-out loan to cope without the income of crowds.

Some governing bodies, such as the England and Wales Cricket Board, would also need to convince their opponents that it is safe to travel at a time when the United Kingdom’s coronavirus death toll is among the highest in the world. This issue was highlighted on Monday by Wasim Khan, the chief executive of the Pakistan Cricket Board. England are hoping to still stage a series of matches against Pakistan and the West Indies from July and so avert a potential £280 million rebate from Sky Sports.

“The situation in England is poor right now, and we will ask them about their plans,” said Khan. “We will assess and decide in the next three to four weeks. Health and safety is paramount for our players and officials and we are not going to compromise on it. The longer they stay there, the more our players will be exposed.”

Other sports with significant television income are also working towards some sort of professional resumption this summer, with only British racing having harboured realistic hope of coming back any sooner. It had wanted to resume in the middle of May ahead of bigger events such as Royal Ascot and the Derby in June and July.

The assumption that professional sport will necessarily transform Britain’s mood has been challenged by a YouGov poll which has reported 73 per cent of respondents as saying that having Premier League football back on television would not boost their morale

Golf and tennis under the new guidelines

James Corrigan and Simon Briggs write:

The Government has given golf and tennis the green light to lead the return of recreational sport in England on Wednesday after dramatically changing their advice to allow players to share the fairways and the courts with someone from outside their own households.

The clarification that came at 2pm on Monday – nearly 19 hours after the Prime Minister had indicated that these sports, along with angling and sailing, could resume this week – inevitably provoked celebration for golfers and tennis players alike, although behind the scenes, official elucidation is still being sought as the hours count down to the long-awaited grand re-opening since clubs were shut two months ago. 

England Golf has lobbied the Government “to publish the best operational guidance for our clubs and golfers”, while David Lloyd Leisure, easily the biggest provider of tennis facilities in the country, also called for added guidance. 

Inevitably, the news also caused anger and consternation in certain quarters of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, whose national governments have, as of now, insisted sports clubs of all descriptions remain closed. Of course this grievance is only expected to build tomorrow when pictures emerge of people enjoying their hobbies again. 

“There is no reason tennis, golf, fishing etc shouldn’t resume in Wales,” Andrew Davies, the AM and former leader of the Welsh Conservatives, said. “If the First Minister [Mark Drakeford] can ride his bike through a busy field of people in Cardiff meeting a friend or relative then these sports should be able to resume.”

The mood in English golf had been buoyant enough anyway after Boris Johnson’s speech on Sunday, despite the apparent “household” restrictions. Golf clubs reported phones “ringing off the wall” as members and visitors desperate to book tee-times.

However, unless partners or children also played, golfers were initially having to be satisfied with playing as a “one-ball” and this was causing issues with so few tee-times up for grabs. Say a club has 700 members, with approximately 80 tee-times available each day, the math were as clear as they were potentially incendiary.

Yet when the 50-page strategy document was eventually released, the “household” requirement was absent and the game in England breathed a sigh of relief. Two-balls featuring friends who do not live together will be permitted. 

“From Wednesday May 3, the government will also allow outdoor sports facilities – such as tennis and basketball courts, golf courses and bowling greens – to open, but you should only use these alone, with members of your household, or with one other person from outside your household, while keeping two metres apart at all times,” it read.

Golf’s governing bodies have already provided guidelines to clubs, including removing bunkers rakes and ensuring the 2-metre social distancing rule is observed, and although greenskeepers – who may have previously been furloughed – are scrambling to ensure the courses ready in time, the scenario is overwhelmingly optimistic.

The same does not necessarily apply to tennis. The fact that clubhouses must remain closed complicated matters considerably. Glenn Earlam, the chief executive of David Lloyd Leisure, explained that it will be difficult for his company’s 99 clubs to reopen because of the staffing and security required onsite.

“If there was sufficient demand from members we could open a full range of these facilities safely at once in many of our clubs,” Earlam said in a statement. “However this also requires Government to acknowledge the practical logistical issues in their guidelines.”

Less highfalutin’ clubs – where you can simply walk on to the courts straight from the car park – will find it easier to resume. Yet many of these are wondering how to enforce the latest rules. 

You can play singles with an opponent from outside your own household. If you want to play doubles, however, that can only be done with household members.  

 This last point sounds impossible to enforce. Most local clubs are organised by volunteers. In the words of one such volunteer, “Any intervention in the business of the people on the court would probably be met with ‘Who are you to tell me?’”

Fancy a dip in the sea, river, lake, stream? Good news!

Tom Cary reports:

Open water swimming will be permitted in England from Wednesday. However, Swim England is “advising that only competent and experienced open water swimmers use this form of exercise, whilst adhering to social distancing guidelines”.

A Swim England spokesperson told Telegraph Sport: “Our interpretation is that open water swimming is considered a form of outdoor activity within the new guidelines coming into force from Wednesday ( May 13).  

“We recognise this will be welcomed by our open water community. However, we are advising that only competent and experienced open water swimmers use this form of exercise, whilst adhering to social distancing guidelines.

“Even then, we ask that swimmers consider the risks to themselves and others whilst participating in this activity as the majority of locations will not have lifeguards and there is a real risk of cold water shock at this time of year. 

“We are working with British Triathlon and RLSS, as well as the relevant public health bodies, to ensure that any return to open water swimming can be done in a safe manner. These guidelines will be published shortly.

“The government guidelines state that you can only exercise with up to one person from outside your household. This means that any type of club activity would not be permitted.

“This guidance only relates to England.”

Women’s cricket and the roadmap

Nick Hoult writes:

Women’s cricket is on hold at the moment and nothing has changed. The same protocols around nets will have to be sorted out with the Government this week but a return for the women’s game will also depend on persuading India and South Africa, this summer’s touring teams, to come to England.

Any hope for cricket fans wanting to go to international games?

Nick Hoult reports:

England are not expected to return to official training until next week at the earliest. Sources have told Telegraph Sport a revised summer schedule is still a long way off and dependent on talks with the West Indies and Pakistan cricket boards about biosecurity arrangements.

An ECB spokesman said: “The ECB will monitor government guidance and continue its planning accordingly. 

“If and when appropriate, we will announce our return to training protocols in due course, which will incorporate the implementation of core training principles for our elite players.”

For cricket supporters there is little prospect of watching any live action this summer. England are planning to play only behind closed doors and it would not be cost effective to play county cricket without crowds being present given clubs rely on ticket and beer sales from Twenty20 matches to make money.

Latest on Premier League clubs’ opposition to neutral venues

Majority of clubs want Government to reconsider Premier League games being played at neutral grounds

The Premier League has been urged to ask the Government to reconsider its stance on football having to restart at neutral venues by as many as 12 of its clubs.

Telegraph Sport understands that opposition to having to play out the season at between eight and 10 neutral venues has grown and that Premier League chief executive Richard Masters is expected to raise the subject when he meets with the Government later this week …

Click here to read the full article.  

Government roadmap’s implications for professional rugby union

Gavin Mairs:

Premiership Rugby still remains in the dark about hopes of completing its league campaign as the clubs are yet to receive any guidelines from the Department of Culture Media and Sport about when and how it will be possible for their players to return to training.

There is an expectation that that picture will become clearer with an update on restrictions later this week but until then the clubs remain in a holding pattern, with the Rugby Football Union also awaiting further details.

It is understood that the Premiership clubs, who are holding an owners’ meeting on Monday night, remain united in their commitment to finish the season but there is an acceptance that the return of matches remains a significant way off – by the start of July at the earliest – even if they are behind closed doors.

Testing arrangements for players however are also yet to be disclosed.

Will roadmap hasten Premier League return?

Jason Burt‘s verdict:

The Premier League still hopes to return by June 12 behind closed doors although it will now have to try to see if the Government will relent on demanding the remaining 92 games are played at neutral venues. They need the co-operation of the police who have to be convinced fans will not congregate for home games. Clubs have rebelled against neutral venues which means the plan could collapse.

The English Football League is expected to call off Leagues One and Two at a meeting on Thursday. There are still hopes to press ahead with the Championship – although it may just be the play-offs – but everyone is waiting to see what happens with the Premier League who will put it to the vote next Monday.

No one expects crowds at football matches before January 2021.

Elite cycling and the roadmap

Tom Cary reports:

British Cycling has not responded to the Government’s latest announcement. But nothing has really changed since Sunday. All federation-sanctioned activity is suspended until June 30. Major events planned for this period such as the Women’s Tour and the National Road Race Championships have already been cancelled or postponed.

Elite riders can train as much as they want on the road – while respecting social-distancing – but elite facilities such as the national velodrome in Manchester and Adrenaline Alley in Corby remain locked up. British Cycling says it is working with the operators of those venues on a return to preparations for Tokyo 2021.

Tennis: the road ahead

Simon Briggs assesses the options:

British tennis will no doubt join the trend for local exhibition events, played without crowds, which began in Europe with Germany’s Tennis Point Exhibition Series on May 1. That eight-man tournament sequestered the players in their own 3m Perspex cabins, wearing facemasks, while they awaited their turn on court.

The Murray brothers have already been mentioned as possible participants in a British version of the same idea, involving the eight best singles players in the country plus some doubles action. Beyond that, the Lawn Tennis Association will come under pressure to stage money events, and so pump some blood through the capillaries of a struggling sport.

Will the Murray boys be back in town?  Credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Roadmap heralds a step-up in preparation for international cricket

Nick Hoult reports:

England are poised  to resume one on one net sessions with coaches as they prepare to return to action behind closed doors on July 8 against West Indies.

There are plans to use county coaches to help with the workload and minimise travel and the number of people in one area at one time. 

The precise details of how a net session will be held under social distancing regulations will be thrashed out between the ECB and Sport England this week. It is likely players will be told to arrive in their kit, ready to net and leave as soon as their session is over.

For county players it will depend on their employment status. Lancashire and Surrey have not furloughed their players so can follow England and resume netting on a one to one basis. The other 16 counties will not return to training because then they will have to pay their players, which would be a gamble when there is no clarity on if any county cricket will be held this season.

How will the roadmap affect racing?

Marcus Armytage reports:

British racing was optimistic of a green light for a mid-May resumption. June 1 will have come as a body punch but, at least, there is clarity and the sport will be ready to go on that day.

 Its original plan was to start off with a low-key week of races, then run the Guineas at the start of June, Royal Ascot from June 16 and the Derby in early July.

 Those timings become very tight, it raises a question mark over Ascot quite apart from the phrase ‘venues attracting big crowds not being allowed to open before July’ and there would be no time for prep-races for anything other than the Derby. But racing’s attitude will be where there is a will, there is way.

What do Government guidelines mean for boxing? 

Let’s ask Gareth A Davies:

Boxing still has its proposal document “to return some time in July”, the Boxing Board of Control general secretary, Robert Smith, told The Telegraph. Weekly events will be behind closed doors, with no world title fights or 12-round contests at the beginning.

Early events are being planned for promoters with television deals, with five or six fights of 4, 6, 8 or maximum 10-round contests. That rules out the major money contests involving the likes of Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua and other world champions. The likely scenario is that all fighters, cornermen, medical staff, officials and television staff will have to test negative for Covid-19 and work through isolation at a hotel during the days leading up to the event, with the emphasis on medical safety standards in relation to the spread of coronavirus.

“We are still in the process of planning, we are on track for July, and we will also be prepared for the eventuality if there’s a another spike. Will the Government then change their minds ? We just need everything in place for gyms to be sanitised as well so that preparation and sparring can take place properly,” Smith said in the wake of the Government document made public on Monday.

Confusion reigns over implications for club cricket practice

Nick Hoult reports

Club cricket remains suspended by the England & Wales Cricket Board and there is confusion over whether amateur players can return to nets on a one-on-one basis.

The board is reluctant to give the go ahead at this stage because it worries that allowing nets at club level will lead to players rushing back and a business as normal approach. It is too early to reopen cricket clubs. 

They will talk to the government and Sport England this week about what a return to nets would have to look like for amateur teams. For example what medical protocols and cleaning regimens would have to be put in place, whether a medical officer would need to be present in case a player is injured, whether net lanes would have to be booked individually and time slots in advance and if players or coaches will have to wear masks.

What latest rules mean for F1

Oliver Brown writes: 

Two races at Silverstone now appear highly likely to go ahead in late July, after Government permission was granted for behind-closed-door events, but huge complications await later in the year due to quarantine restrictions. Seven of the 10 F1 teams are based in this country, with hundreds of staff potentially needing to self-isolate for 14 days each time they arrive back in the UK. This threatens to be an insurmountable obstacle for a sport already planning races in Austria, Hungary, Spain and Belgium before the end of August. F1’s one hope is to negotiate an exemption for essential team personnel.

What do the changes mean for the world of bowls?

Jim White has written this to answer all your questions on what happens now to bowls:

Nothing much has changed for the sport of bowls. The government’s 50 page advice document made no mention of  how it might reopen. And, despite the late briefing that it is possible to now play sport with one other person from outside the household, those involved in bowls do not believe that village greens are going to be full of players any time soon. 

“Without it being clear enough, no governing body can issue guidance to restart in case the R number goes up and we all have to shut down again,” suggests Matt Hamilton of Ilminster Bowls Club, Bowls England’s club of the year in 2018. “Maybe a family group – a father and son or mother and daughter who have been living in the same household – could play, but how could they get access to a green? Clubs aren’t going to open for one or two people. Given the fact there is no clear information at all, I can’t see anything happening until July 1.” Bowls England is in the process of producing a protocol for how the game might proceed. But whatever the next stage is, much of the responsibility for ensuring that rules of social distancing are maintained will rest with individual clubs.

“Bowls has just restarted after lockdown in Australia, and I’ve been studying what they have done,” Hamilton says. “No sensible club will open their green without having put in place the sort of controlling measures they have introduced there. You would need a one way system round club, a procedure for using and cleaning toilet facilities, and a plan about who can play and how they can book.”

Given that once clubs can restart hosting games, there will need to be protocol to ensure social distancing is not jeopardised a strict booking strategy will have to be undertaken, Hamilton reckons. 

“Normally in bowls if you want to book a session you go down to the club and sign into the rink book,” he says. “Obviously that is not going to work, especially since most clubs will not be staffed. It will need to be done online, which is not something that many clubs have the facility to implement.”

There will, too, be an issue with insurance. 

“Since no club can be fully open in terms of their clubhouse, bar and so on, many clubs will initially just have members using the green without any staff present,” Hamilton says. “That may well jeopardise their insurance. To be honest, I haven’t even looked at the small print of our policy.”

Whatever happens, the reopening of the game will be dependent on its small army of volunteers overseeing things to ensure social distancing is maintained.

“I think things could look very different in different parts of the country, largely due to whether a club has enough volunteers to make it work,” Hamilton adds. “The old ways of someone turning up to unlock the clubhouse and everyone getting on with it are not going to come back for a while.”

Rotherham chairman says he would be amazed if season restarts

This in from PA, featuring quotes from another lower league person of interest discussing what they’d like to happen but that they still don’t know what will happen:

Rotherham chairman Tony Stewart expects a decision to be made on the fate of the League One and League Two seasons by Thursday and would be “amazed” if they are not cancelled.

Stewart, whose club currently occupy second position in League One, says it is time for a decision one way or the other to be made.

“We need a decision, we need to get some direction from the Football League,” he told the PA news agency. “They are our masters. We have been waiting patiently and it will be nice to know where we are at this time.

“I have got doubts, it will be very difficult to restart. I don’t see League One and League Two starting.

“I would be amazed. They are talking about mid-June, we are talking about just weeks that we have got to prepare for it.

“I don’t think there is the time to get it organised and together. But if instruction comes we have to do what we have to do.

“The EFL are meeting on Wednesday-Thursday, we are led to believe something will come out of that.

“I just think that what we need is to get instructions so we know which way we are going.

“We don’t know what the decision is, but what I am told is that Thursday at the latest, maybe Wednesday, but certainly Thursday a decision will be made and we will know where we stand on this season and the start of next season.”

If the campaign is scrapped the next major decision will be the ruling on promotion and relegation.

Stewart, with acknowledged self-interest, says he thinks the current top three clubs should be promoted, which would see Coventry, the Millers and Oxford go up.

“I am biased because we are in second place,” he said. “By my reckoning we have played 78 per cent of the games, I think the top two should go up, or top three go up but no one gets relegated.

“That would go down well with the clubs at the bottom. Over the number of matches we have played, I think the top two have certainly proved a point.”

What’s happening with golf?

Plenty of questions yet to be answered today.

Formula One: Williams appoint Simon Roberts as managing director

From PA

Williams have appointed Simon Roberts to the newly-created position of managing director for Formula One.

Roberts, who joins from McLaren, is due to take up his new role from June 1, the day after the initial furlough period announced by Williams last month is due to end.

Roberts has extensive experience in Formula One, having joined McLaren as operations director and general manager in 2003 and spent time at Force India before returning to McLaren as chief operating officer.

Deputy team principal Claire Williams said: “Simon will bring enormous experience and knowledge to the Williams team, and we are delighted that he is joining us when we head back to work after this long enforced F1 shutdown.

“He will lead a highly talented team that’s looking forward to designing and developing the next generation of Williams F1 cars.”

The announcement comes in the wake of a hugely disappointing 2019 season for Williams.

The team has a number of staff on furlough and senior management have joined drivers George Russell and Nicholas Latifi in taking pay-cuts while racing is suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Formula One is hoping to be able to begin the 2020 season in July and is looking at plans to host back-to-back races at the Red Bull Ring in Austria.

Lyon want Ligue 1 to rethink premature end of the season

Ligue 1 side Lyon have hit out at the decision to end the season early by announcing that “French football is currently moving in the wrong direction”.

To no great surprise, PSG were declared champions last month, as French authorities decreed no sporting events could be held in the country until September at the earliest.

Lyon have noticed that neighbouring countries like Germany and England are trying to resume their own domestic leagues, and aren’t best pleased.

A statement on the club’s website said: “It was therefore quite possible to envisage another scenario allowing the championship to end in August, for example with a play-off system, subject of course to the development of the health situation and while respecting the instructions given by the government.

“Olympique Lyonnais continues to think that French football is currently moving in the wrong direction but that it may not be too late to try to imagine, in the light of what is happening everywhere in Europe, something that is coherent in political, health and sport terms.

“The league took this premature decision which penalises in sporting and economic terms a large number of French clubs while other institutions have done everything possible to ensure that their events which are part of the heritage of French sport.”

Confusion at non-league level

Stockport County’s Lois Maynard has revealed that non-league players have no idea – like everyone else really – about what happens with player contracts once they expire. Are they still employed? Can they look for a new club? When will they get an answer?

Mike McGrath has more in this interview with the player in question.

Real return

 La Liga hope to get the season back underway from June 12.

Sport after lockdown: what does the future of sport look like? 

Jeremy Wilson examines what’s next for the return of sport following the government’s latest announcement on Sunday.

Sport resuming will be seen in many quarters as a sign that normality is returning but little in the near future will look much like what we had before.

Virtual darts, where competitors play in their own homes, was one of the first innovations and, while the German Bundesliga is set to be the first big sporting competition to come back from Saturday, there will be big changes. The players must be quarantined for a week before the competition starts, they are being regularly tested and will arrive in several vehicles, so that they can still socially distance by 1.5m, and will be wearing face masks up until they get changed to play.

TENNIS: Pique pessimistic over Davis Cup

Gerard Pique has said he is not confident that the 2020 Davis Cup will take place due to Spain’s restrictions on spectators attending events because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Barcelona defender’s investment group Kosmos paid three billion euros in 2018 to acquire the rights to the sport’s flagship team event, transforming it into a week-long competition akin to a tennis World Cup.

The 2019 Davis Cup in Madrid, won by Spain, was the first to be held in one city and the competition is also scheduled to take place in the Spanish capital in November.

“I’m a bit pessimistic, to have the Davis Cup without fans is difficult,” Pique told Spanish television network Movistar on Sunday.

“There is a lot of uncertainty. We are listening to what the sport’s ministry and the government are telling us about whether we’ll be able to have fans in the stadium.

“There are different opinions and no-one is sure if we’ll be able to have fans or if it’ll have to be behind closed doors.”

Spain’s Rafael Nadal (2R) and teammates celebrate after winning the Davis Cup Madrid Finals 2019 Credit: AFP

Pique added that Spain’s strict lockdown has made it harder to make preparations for the event, although he said his team were continuing to work on making it happen if the government eventually decides to allow spectators at sporting events.

“I think in the next few weeks we’ll have more clarity but right now we’re trying to be prepared,” he added.

“People are working from home and obviously we can’t go to Madrid to look at facilities, we are prepared in case we end up being able to organise it.”

FOOTBALL: Spain aims for June 12 restart

 La Liga president Javier Tebas has said he hopes Spanish football will resume on June 12 after being halted for over three months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

All clubs in Spain’s top two divisions began testing players for the virus last week and many including La Liga champions Barcelona started individual training, the second step of the league’s four-phase protocol for returning to action.

Real Madrid resume individual training on Monday.

“I’d like to restart on June 12 but we have to be prudent and it’s not just up to football, it’s also up to society, we all need to focus on complying with measures to protect health,” Tebas told Spanish television network Movistar on Sunday.

Tebas confirmed all matches will take place without spectators, as will be the case when Germany’s Bundesliga restarts next week, and he said the league was working on ways to add to the atmosphere although he did not give details. He also said fixtures would be spread out so that there are matches every day.

Denis Cheryshev of Valencia arrives for a training session on Sunday Credit: GETTY IMAGES

“Now that we are not going to have fans in the stadiums we are going to have some innovative ideas for broadcasting the games,” Tebas added.

“There’s going to be football every day once La Liga returns.”

The league reported on Sunday that five players across the two divisions had tested positive for the virus and had been ordered to stay isolated at their homes. They will not be able to return to training grounds until they have tested negative.

Tebas added that three staff members had also tested positive for the virus but he said the number of cases was far lower than expected, insisting there would be no increase in the risk of players getting infected once matches started.

“We were expecting around 25 or 30 based on the numbers in the Bundesliga and how much the virus has penetrated Spain. Out of 2,500 people tested we have only eight positive cases, which is good news,” he said.

“Infection during a match is practically impossible as we have done a study which we’re releasing which will show there is a minimum risk in matches if we all respect the health measures.”

Reuters

FOOTBALL: Bundesliga clubs enter one-week quarantine ahead of restart

German teams started the week in isolation on Monday after going into seven-day quarantine ahead of the Bundesliga season restart on Saturday, with club bosses saying completing the campaign amid the coronavirus outbreak will not be easy.

The German Football League (DFL) decided last week to resume the first and second division from May 16 after a two-month suspension, making it the first major sports league to attempt a restart.

Teams have been sent into mandatory seven-day isolation after testing for the virus in order to reduce the risk of infection before playing in empty stadiums with only a handful of staff and officials, to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Several clubs, including champions Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and VfL Wolfsburg, have picked hotels in their cities to cut travel times to training locations and airports for the weekend matches.

Others like Schalke 04, who face Dortmund in the Ruhr valley derby, and Borussia Moenchengladbach are using hotels at their stadiums.

Players of FC Bayern Muenchen warm up on the pitch during a training session on Sunday Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Bayer Leverkusen and Union Berlin have moved to more isolated hotels in the countryside, as have bottom club Paderborn who will spend the week in a nearby thermal springs town.

Players and staff wore face masks as they departed for hotels where distance between tables at team lunches and dinners will become routine, as will single rooms where players will make their own beds to reduce unnecessary contact with other people.

Plans to restart, however, suffered a setback on Saturday after the entire team of second tier Dynamo Dresden was placed in two-week quarantine following two positive coronavirus tests. “We always expected that the remainder of this season will not be trouble-free,” Borussia Dortmund Chief Executive Hans-Joachim Watzke told the Funke media group. “These tests and results are also a sign of our transparency.”

The league, desperate to complete the season by June 30, has drawn up a detailed set of regulations for training and matches, including stringent testing that helped it get the government’s green light to restart.

But with the virus far from gone in Germany where almost 170,000 people have been infected and over 7,400 have died, the DFL is concerned any positive virus cases could seriously damage chances of finishing the season, and inflict potentially “existence-threatening” financial damage to some clubs.

“I expect everyone now to live up to their responsibilities,” DFL CEO Christian Seifert said at the weekend.

Reuters

RUGBY: Brumbies return to training in Australia

The ACT Brumbies returned to the training ground in Canberra on Monday, the first of Australia’s four Super Rugby sides to do so after social isolation measures introduced to combat COVID-19 were eased around the country.

Neighbouring New Zealand, which has enjoyed similar success in containing the novel coronavirus, announced on Monday its Super Rugby sides would take part in a domestic competition and Australia is expected to follow suit.

With the resumption of Super Rugby impossible because of international travel bans, interim Rugby Australia chief executive Rob Clarke said last week the governing body was hoping to have a domestic competition in place by July.

There are still some restrictions in place, however, so the first Brumbies players to return on Monday were limited to training in groups of 10 with no contact permitted.

Wallabies prop Scott Sio missed what looks like being the final Super Rugby match anywhere in the world this year — against the New South Wales Waratahs on March 15 — because of a hand injury and has spent the lockdown rehabilitating.

“It was really cool to put the kit back on,” he told reporters via Zoom from Canberra. “I think you draw a lot of energy even though we’re not right next to each other, just from being in each other’s presence there as well.

“It’s a lot of good feel stuff at the moment. A lot better vibes than this time a month ago. I guess we’ll see once we really get going up tomorrow.”

Reuters

F1: British GP could still go ahead

Formula One is working to put on a British Grand Prix in July even if the country imposes quarantine measures on visitors during the COVID-19 crisis, F1 sources said on Sunday.

The Sun newspaper quoted a government source as saying there would be an exemption for sports, with Formula One and football teams free to travel from Britain and return without restriction once competition resumes.

It said athletes and teams would be expected to undergo a rigorous testing regime and isolate themselves immediately if they tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Formula One sources told Reuters conversations with the government were ongoing.

Reuters

TENNIS: French Open could be played behind closed doors

The French Open, which was postponed to September from May due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, could be held without fans, the organisers of the claycourt Grand Slam have said.

Roland Garros had been scheduled for May 24 to June 7 before the French tennis federation (FFT) pushed it back to Sept. 20-Oct 4 in a bid to save the tournament from falling victim to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last week the FFT said all tickets purchased for this year’s French Open would be cancelled and reimbursed instead of being transferred.

“Organising it without fans would allow a part of the economy to keep turning, (like) television rights and partnerships. It’s not to be overlooked,” FFT President Bernard Giudicelli told French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche. “We’re not ruling any option out.”

Rafael Nadal plays a forehand during his semi-final match against Roger Federer at the 2019 French Open Credit: GETTY IMAGES

The tennis season was suspended in early March due to the pandemic and the hiatus will continue at least until mid-July with many countries in lockdown.

Wimbledon has been cancelled while the status of the U.S. Open, scheduled to take place in late August, is still unclear.

The FFT was widely criticised when they announced in mid-March that the French Open would be switched, with players bemoaning a lack of communication as the new dates clashed with the hardcourt season.

Organisers said last week they had been in talks with the sport’s governing bodies to fine tune the calendar amid media reports that the Grand Slam tournament would be delayed further by a week and start on Sept. 27.

The delayed start would give players a two-week window between the end of the U.S. Open, played on the hardcourts of New York, and the Paris tournament. “The 20th or the 27th, that does not change much,” Giudicelli said. 

Reuters

Super Rugby return date confirmed

New Zealand’s five franchises are set to play each other home and away over a 10-week period starting from June 13. More information here.

Tom Christie of the Crusaders makes a break Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Good morning

Live Premier League football could return by the middle of next month, with a government paper on elite sports expected to be published on Tuesday.

We will have the latest developments on that news and the possible return of all other sports throughout today’s live blog.

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