Sport’s return from lockdown: live news and latest updates as return of EFL is questioned by LMA – The Telegraph

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FOOTBALL: Quarantine rules may scupper Serie A’s return

The fixture list is ready and the restart date is confirmed but the Italian football federation (FIGC) is still worried that the Serie A season might not finish due to rules for quarantining players infected with Covid-19.

In most countries where football has restarted, such as Germany, the general rule is that when a player tests positive for coronavirus, he has to be quarantined but his team mates can continue training and playing provided they test negative.

However, in Italy, where Serie A is due to resume on June 20, the government rule is that the entire squad must be quarantined for 14 days.

“It is creating anxiety for the whole football movement,” said FIGC president Gabriele Gravina, adding that he had asked sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora to reconsider the rule if the number of new cases in Italy continues to drop.

“There are clear rules which allow you to continue the activity, isolating (only) an athlete or a staff member,” he added, referring to the German Bundesliga.

The Serie A fixture list has teams playing two matches a week from June 20 to Aug. 2 to complete the season but this could be thrown into disarray if a team have to be quarantined for 14 days. If several teams were quarantined, finishing the season would become impossible.

Gravina has put forward a number of back-up solutions, which include a playoff system or simply declaring the current positions to be final, but none have been well received.

Last week, he came up with the idea of using an algorithm, based on team’s home and away form, to calculate their final points tally — and this also attracted widespread criticism.

According to a calculation by La Republican, the final standings using the algorithm would see AC Milan drop from seventh to ninth, potentially missing out on a Europa League place. There would be no other major changes.

“A lot of noise has been raised without even knowing what it’s about,” Gravina told Il Mattino in an interview. “Maybe we shouldn’t use the word algorithm. Let’s just call it a rating criteria inspired by sporting merit.”
Reuters

FOOTBALL: LMA insists EFL must answer its questions before restart

The League Managers Association has written to the English Football League with a list of complaints and questions over the restart of the season and demanded a meeting with chairman Rick Parry, writes Jason Burt.

The letter follows a conference call with the managers from the Championship and Leagues One and Two earlier this week and lists 16 questions which LMA chief executive Richard Bevan says need to be answered before the season can resume.

It includes an allegation that “different managers had been told different things” about the fixture scheduling for the Championship which is due to restart on June 20 and be completed by July 18 or July 22 at the latest with the play-off final scheduled for July 30.

Premier League fixtures announced

Premier League leaders Liverpool could clinch a first title in 30 years against Everton on June 21 after the first batch of fixtures of the restart were confirmed.

Jurgen Klopp’s side need a maximum of two wins to secure the top division crown and are due to play the Merseyside derby in their first game since football was halted in March.

If Arsenal beat Manchester City on June 17 – the date of the season’s resumption – Liverpool can win the title by beating Everton.

The venue is still unclear as it was scheduled to be played at Goodison Park, but was included on a list of matches which local forces had asked to be moved to neutral venues.

The Premier League will resume on June 17 after a 100-day hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Aston Villa will kick-off the second part of the season when they host Sheffield United, their game in hand on their relegation rivals, at 6pm before City welcome Arsenal later that evening.

Tottenham will host Manchester United on Friday June 19, with Southampton travelling to Norwich on the same day.

FOOTBALL: WSL final standings decided

Chelsea have been named champions of the Women’s Super League, with Liverpool relegated to the Championship after the FA decided on the final standings for the curtailed season. Read Fiona Tomas’s full report. 

FOOTBALL: The future of out of contract Championship players

Brentford goalkeeper David Raya believes there will be more contract rebels in the Championship but knows they have to put their careers first.

The division is due to restart on June 20 after being halted by the coronavirus pandemic in March.

The season will go beyond June 30, when contracts expire, and players have already signalled their intention not to return.

Out-of-contract Charlton stars Lyle Taylor and Chris Solly, along with Birmingham loanee David Davis, have all refused to return for the final nine games for fear of injury ruining any summer moves.

Raya understands their motives and expects there will be more players with deals expiring this month who feel the same.

He said: “There will be more players coming out, there’s the risk of their careers and future earnings. They have bills to pay and that’s something people need to bear in mind.

“They have families to look after, they have to look after their careers and it’s understandable as well.

“It’s something more personal because it’s not about getting infected, it’s about getting injured.

“With coronavirus, if you don’t feel safe to do something you’re not going to do it. People have lost loved ones so it’s understandable if people don’t want to go to training or work.

“Health is more important than football or work, everyone has the right not to do something if they don’t feel safe.”

PA

OLYMPICS: Organisers to make decision in spring

A Tokyo 2020 executive board member said on Friday organisers will need to monitor the novel coronavirus situation until next spring before deciding whether to go ahead with the Summer Olympics, Kyodo News reported.

The comment by lawmaker Toshiaki Endo, one of six vice presidents on the board and a former Olympics minister, marks the first time an organising committee executive has remarked on the timing for a decision on the Games, the news agency said.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Japanese government took the unprecedented decision in March to delay the Games, which had been due to start in July. A further delay beyond 2021 has been ruled out.

Previously, John Coates, head of the IOC’s inspectorate for Tokyo, said that if by October the new coronavirus outbreak was “being contained but not eradicated” decisions would have to be made on streamlining the Games.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said on Thursday that organisers were looking at ways to simplify the Games.

Also on Friday, public broadcaster NHK reported that organisers had decided against holding a large scale event marking the one-year countdown to the Games because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Organisers are seeking to cut costs related to the postponement and are also conscious of pandemic risks.

“We cannot hold a lively event while the risk of infection continues,” NHK quoted an unnamed organising committee source as saying.

Tokyo 2020 organising committee representatives did not immediately respond a request for comment.

Reuters

Tom Cary reports on the Benfica ordeal

Two Benfica players had to be taken to hospital on Thursday night after the team’s bus was attacked by fans following the club’s first game in three months due to coronavirus.

German midfielder Julian Weigl, 24, and Serbian winger Andrija Zivkovic, 23, were hit with shrapnel and taken to the Hospital da Luz in Lisbon to be treated as a precaution, Benfica said in a statement.

The attack took place on a motorway between the club’s Estadio da Luz and training ground in Seixal.

Reports suggest the players were hit by shards of glass from the bus’ windscreen after it was hit by rocks.

“Sport Lisboa and Benfica denounce and lament the criminal stoning the bus of its players was victim to,” the statement read.

“We guarantee total collaboration with authorities to whom we appeal for the greatest effort to be made in identifying the delinquents responsible for these criminal acts.”

Flags on seats at an empty Estádio da Luz Credit: LUSA POOL

Portuguese champions Benfica missed the chance to move clear of title rivals Porto at the top of the table after being held to a 0-0 draw by lowly Tondela. The top two are now level on 60 points with nine rounds of matches remaining.

With the Premier League set to resume later this month, the incident is a reminder of the potential for fan trouble even in ‘behind-closed-doors’ games. Unable to attend the match, Benfica fans gathered outside the gates of the stadium in Lisbon to support the team.

The Premier League has agreed in principle to use neutral venues for some of the remaining 92 matches, although this is now expected to involve very few games and will be dealt with on an individual basis in consultation with the police and local safety advisory group.

RUGBY: Premiership announces return date

Rugby has its own Project Restart in the diary: Premiership Rugby have announced they intent to resume the season on August 15. Tom Cary has the full story here.

FOOTBALL: Benfica’s team bus attacked

A bus carrying the Benfica soccer team was stoned on Thursday, breaking the glass and injuring two players, after they had played their first game since the novel coronavirus halted the season, broadcaster RTP reported citing Portuguese police.

German midfielder Julian Weigl, 24, and Serbian winger Andrija Zivkovic, 23, were taken to the Hospital da Luz in Lisbon to be treated for injuries as a precaution, RTP said.

The attack on a major motorway between the club’s Estadio da Luz and training ground followed Benfica’s first game in three months after the season was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Portuguese champions Benfica missed the chance to move clear of title rivals Porto at the top of the table after being held to a 0-0 draw by lowly Tondela. The top two are now level on 60 points with nine rounds of matches remaining.

Fans had gathered outside the gates of Benfica’s stadium in Lisbon to support the team because restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus outbreak prevented them entering the ground.

Benfica could not immediately be reached for comment.

Reuters

BASKETBALL: NBA to restart on July 31

NBA owners voted to restart the regular season for the 22 teams in contention for the playoffs in a near-unanimous vote of the league’s Board of Governors on Thursday afternoon.

In a reported 29-1 vote, the board approved a proposal that calls for each of the 22 teams to play eight regular-season games starting July 31, with the last possible date for Game 7 of the NBA Finals being Oct. 12.

“The Board’s approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season,” commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “While the COVID-19 pandemic presents formidable challenges, we are hopeful of finishing the season in a safe and responsible manner based on strict protocols now being finalized with public health officials and medical experts.

“We also recognize that as we prepare to resume play, our society is reeling from recent tragedies of racial violence and injustice, and we will continue to work closely with our teams and players to use our collective resources and influence to address these issues in very real and concrete ways.”

LeBron James will soon be back in action Credit: AFP

The league said the NBA draft lottery will be Aug. 25, and the draft will be held Oct. 15, if all goes according to plan. Free agency will begin Oct. 18, according to multiple reports.

Each of the 22 teams — 13 Western Conference teams and nine from the East — will play eight regular-season games for seeding purposes for the playoffs. The 16 teams currently in postseason position are joined by the New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings and San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference and the Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference.

FOOTBALL: Life behind closed doors in the Bundesliga

Various quirks of the Bundesliga’s return after a hiatus of more than two months due to the coronavirus have included disinfecting match balls, banning handshakes and installing cardboard cutouts of fans, but one factor has impacted results from top to bottom – the disappearance of home advantage.

Of the 37 fixtures played since the May 16 resumption, 22 have been won by the away sides with German clubs missing the chants from their own terraces in matches held behind closed doors.

Second-placed Borussia Dortmund lost ground on leaders Bayern Munich late last month as the Bavarians won 1-0 at an almost empty Signal Iduna Park which can hold 82,000 people and has Europe’s largest standing area behind one goal.

“It’s crazy, we didn’t expect it would be like this,” Borussia Dortmund’s manager Sebastian Kehl said.

Fifth-placed Bayer Leverkusen have had experiences of both sides of the coin.

They clinched victory in all three of their games on the road including a 3-1 win at Borussia Moenchengladbach but the loss against Wolfsburg at their BayArena leaves them currently out of the Champions League spots on goal difference.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence. The supporters help their team every time, and when we play away from home without fans it’s obviously easier,” Leverkusen coach Peter Bosz said.

Ambitious RB Leipzig, who sit two points ahead of Leverkusen in third, have failed to win just five times at their Red Bull Arena home this campaign.

Two of those occurences have come since the restart in draws against mid-table Freiburg and rejuvenated Hertha Berlin.

“It plays a part mostly for the teams who get their strength from the euphoria from the fans and the atmosphere in the stadium,” Leipzig’s sporting director Makus Kroesche said.

“Now we have the impression that the teams with better individual quality win more often,” he added.

AFP

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