Pakistan confirm England cricket tour
Pakistan have announced they will tour England for three Tests and three Twenty20s in August and September.
England are scheduled to play the West Indies across three Tests next month in ‘biosecure’ environments because of coronavirus and it was widely anticipated Pakistan would make the trip to these shores later this summer.
But this is the first time they have confirmed definitively that they will travel to England, with the Pakistan Cricket Board intending to send 28 players and 14 support personnel.
Left-arm paceman Mohammad Amir and middle-order batsman Haris Sohail will not be among that number, withdrawing for personal reasons.
“Amir has withdrawn so that he can be at the birth of his second child in August, while Haris will miss the tour because of family reasons,” a PCB statement said.
Shaq’s got The Cobblers’ back
NBA great Shaquille O’Neal will be in the crowd when Northampton take on Cheltenham in the League Two play-offs next week.
With coronavirus guidelines meaning no fans will be present when football makes its return, clubs are finding novel ways to populate the stands for their behind-closed-doors clashes.
Like many others, Northampton are offering supporters the chance to have their image on a cardboard cutout and taking pride of place at the PTS Academy Stadium will be four-time NBA winner O’Neal.
O’Neal is a business associate of Cobblers chairman Kelvin Thomas and has been vocal in his support of the club in the past.
Northampton said O’Neal had “thrown his support” behind having his image in the crowd next Thursday, as Keith Curle’s men face Cheltenham over two legs, aiming to make the June 29 Wembley final.
India postpone Sri Lanka tour over Covid-19 fears
India have postponed their limited-overs tour of Sri Lanka scheduled later this month because of coronavirus.
Virat Kohli and his men were scheduled to play three one-day matches and an equal number of Twenty20 internationals but the Indian board (BCCI) has informed Sri Lanka Cricket that the tour “will not be feasible”.
The Indian cricketers, who have not even started training, will follow advice from the Indian government health regulatory authorities before resuming cricket, the SLC has been told.
BCCI treasurer Arun Singh Dhumal said India remained committed to the Future Tours Programme (FTP) and would tour Sri Lanka at a more opportune time.
“We’re committed to FTP, but given the current situation, it’s not possible for the team to travel, it’s not safe,” said Dhumal.
“So we’ll see whenever there is an opportunity, we’ll try and make up for this series.”
A select group of 13 Sri Lankan cricketers are currently undergoing a 12-day residential training camp at the Colombo Cricket Club.
Irish rugby to return in September with ‘modified season’
Tom Cary has the latest news from the world of rugby in Ireland. You can read the whole piece here and below is a snippet:
Domestic rugby in Ireland will return in September according to the plans unveiled on Thursday by the Irish Rugby Football Union.
In a statement, Irish rugby’s governing body said it was now in a position to add a ‘competition stage’ to its return to rugby guidelines for clubs, with an unspecified date in September earmarked for the beginning of a modified season for 2020-21.
“Given the changing nature of the reopening of society and the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, a specific date will not be issued until further clarity is available and will remain subject to change,” read the statement, adding that the given date would factor in “a minimum window of five weeks permitted for contact training ahead of a return to rugby matches”.
Fans in Spain?
La Liga president Javier Tebas outlined his aim of getting supporters to return to stadiums before the end of the season, insisting that 10-15 per cent of usual attendances would be a significant achievement.
The Spanish top-flight resumes on Thursday evening with the derby between Sevilla and Real Betis, becoming the second major European league to restart amid the coronavirus pandemic following the Bundesliga.
Matches will initially be held behind closed doors but Tebas is hopeful that some fans will be back inside grounds before the campaign concludes on July 19, albeit in vastly reduced numbers.
Conversations between La Liga and the Spanish Government will be held in a fortnight to determine such an outcome, according to Tebas, who admitted stringent measures would have to be adhered to in the stands.
Tebas said: “Let’s see in two weeks and we will sit down again with the Government and see when we will be able to get the public back into the stadiums.
“But of course it won’t be the entire stadium and there will be special precautionary measures.
“If we can have even 10 per cent or 15 per cent by the end of the season, if that happens we will be very happy about that because that’s a sign that we are getting back to some form of normality.”
Tebas, though, is not getting carried away amid a global health crisis, in which Spain has been among the worst countries hit with nearly a quarter of a million confirmed cases and more than 27,000 deaths.
He said: “When we celebrate will be when we actually finish the competitions, both the First Division and the Second Division. This crisis still hasn’t come to an end.”
In the event spectators are unable to return to stadiums before the end of the year, Tebas has forecast losses of between 700 and 800million euros in a worst case scenario for clubs.
However, he believes most are already in robust health and any losses can be mitigated by financial help from LaLiga and salary reductions.
He said: “We think 90 per cent of the clubs are not going to have any financial problems for next season.
“The other 10 per cent, I really don’t think there’s any club that’s going to have problems. Maybe they are going to delay certain payments but I don’t think they’re in danger.”
Tebas, who confirmed the 2020-21 LaLiga season will start on September 12, admitted that the financial impact of the pandemic is likely to see the transfer market contract, with fewer big-money moves.
Paris St Germain forward Neymar has been for several months linked with a return to Barcelona, but Tebas said: “Neymar, it’s a big cash deal. There was no exchange there. I don’t think it’s going to happen.
“What we have to consider is the market and I think for this year, there are going to be less transactions, there’s going to be a lot less movement than what we’ve seen in other transfer windows.
“That’s the way things are going to be done. There will be exchanges, swaps and a couple of important transactions but there’s not going to be as important ones.”
Dele Alli suspended for Tottenham’s return
Some breaking Premier League news courtesy of Mike McGrath:
Dele Alli has been suspended Tottenham’s fixture against Manchester United next week for his social media post mocking coronavirus.
The England midfielder has been banned for one match by the Football Assocation and fined £50,000 after his Snapchat video made fun of an Asian man.
Dele said: “In response to the FA decision, I would like to apologise again for any offence caused by my behaviour.
“It was an extremely poorly judged joke about a virus that has now affected us more than we could ever have imagined.
“I’m grateful that The FA has confirmed that my actions were not racist because I despise racism of any kind. We all need to be mindful of the words and actions we use and how they can be perceived by others.”
MotoGP season to resume in July with Spain double-header
The MotoGP season stalled by the novel coronavirus pandemic will begin with back-to-back races at the Jerez circuit in Spain on July 19 and 26, the sport’s governing body said on Thursday.
Five circuits will host double-headers and there will be a total of seven races in Spain as part of the revised 13-round European calendar here for the 2020 season.
Eight races have been cancelled so far this season including the Qatar, Dutch, German, Finnish, British, Australian, Japanese and Italian rounds.
The third round will take place in the Czech Republic on August 9 before two races in Austria on August 16 and 23. Misano will then host two rounds in September.
MotoGP said a minimum of 12 rounds would be held in the championship. The total number of races could increase to 17 with four outside Europe between November 22 and December 13.
The only long-haul races yet to be cancelled due to the pandemic are those in Thailand, Malaysia, the United States (Texas) and Argentina.
Those events and their dates will be confirmed before July 31, MotoGP added.
Moto2 and Moto3 were able to start their season in Qatar in March because they were already there for testing but MotoGP was unable to race due to quarantine restrictions.
UEFA to determine how to decide European tournaments
UEFA is set to decide next week on how to conclude this season’s Champions League and Europa League competitions which have been put on hold since March because of the coronavirus pandemic, the European soccer body said Thursday.
UEFA said in a statement that its executive committee would meet in a video conference on June 17 where the agenda would include “round of 16 onwards and related determinations” for both competitions.
The Champions League final was originally scheduled to be played in Istanbul and the Europa League showpiece in Gdansk, Poland, however last month UEFA said “a variety of options” were being looked at for completing the two competitions.
These could include playing the remaining stages of each competition in a single venue and reducing the quarter-final and semi-final ties to one leg instead of two.
The second legs of four Champions League last-16 ties still need to be played, while Atletico Madrid, Paris St Germain, Atalanta and RB Leipzig have already booked their places in the last eight.
Scrums could be removed when rugby league resumes
By PA Sport
Rugby league clubs have been asked to consider the removal of scrums when the 2020 season resumes after the coronavirus pandemic.
The Rugby Football League Laws Committee has proposed removing scrums as medical experts believe players would be at far less risk of contracting or spreading Covid-19 without the set-piece for the remainder of the campaign, subject to further guidance from Public Health England.
It is one of a number of rule changes that will be considered by Super League, Championship and League 1 clubs ahead of possible implementation at the RFL board meeting next month.
The RFL is hoping to restart the season in mid-August and run through until November or December.
Other changes mirror those adopted in the NRL, including the restart of the tackle count instead of a penalty after a ruck infringement, while teams will not be penalised for late changes to squads, with the strong possibility of midweek fixtures when the season resumes.
RFL chief executive and chair of the Laws Committee Ralph Rimmer said: “These are major recommendations, but these are unprecedented times, presenting the game with unique challenges.
“The Committee recognised the importance of consulting widely within the game before the recommendations are put to the RFL Board, and that process has already started. But we believe Rugby League is well-served by its agility, in terms of being able to consider and implement such significant changes.
“The recommendation to adopt a number of the rule changes that have been introduced in the NRL in 2020 will also assist in the important process of aligning the rules across both hemispheres.”
Danielle Collins slams ‘serious contradiction’ of Novak Djokovic
American tennis player Danielle Collins has hit out at men’s world number one Novak Djokovic for his opposition to the Covid-19 protocols proposed by the U.S. Open organisers, saying players need to start earning money again.
The hard court major is scheduled to begin on August 31 and Djokovic has said that it would be “impossible” to play under the protocols, which would restrict players to their hotels with only one support staff.
The 17-times Grand Slam winner earlier urged players to contribute to a fund to help lower-ranked professionals affected by the shutdown which began in early March and will continue at least until end of July.
“This is a serious contradiction,” Collins, who made the semi-finals of the 2019 Australian Open, wrote on Instagram. “No one has been able to play sanctioned events or make money since February.
“This is a massive opportunity for players to start making money again, and here we have the top player in the world saying only being able to bring one person with (him) will be too difficult.”
Credit: Getty Images North America
Collins urged Djokovic, who heads the men’s ATP Tour players council, to support the U.S. Open organisers.
“It’s easy when someone’s made $150 million throughout their career to try and tell people what to do with their money, and then turn down playing in the U.S. Open,” she said.
The United States is still in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic and has seen daily anti-racism protests over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in police custody.
Australian Nick Kyrgios presented a contrasting view to Collins and said the U.S. Open plans should be shelved.
“The ATP is trying to make the U.S. Open go ahead,” Kyrgios said on Twitter, after an initial post asking Djokovic, Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer if the Grand Slam should be held.
Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury reach agreement over two-fight deal
This is what Eddie Hearn told Sky Sports yesterday:
“We’re making great progress. There is still a lot to overcome. We are looking at venues and dates. It’s fair to say [Joshua and Fury] are in agreement regarding the financial terms of the fight.
“The most difficult part of any deal is the financial element. I believe we’re in a great place where both guys have agreed to what that should be.
“The main positive news is that Joshua and Fury have agreed to a two-fight deal, in essence. The point of Fury, Joshua and the teams agreeing to the structure of the deal? The first fight could happen next summer. It will be 2021.”
Credit: Getty Images Europe
Premier League revenues plummet
From last night, here is Ben Rumsby on the financial black hole that top-flight football clubs are facing. A taster:
The grim forecast was contained in Deloitte’s report into the finances of English and European clubs for last season, which predictably yielded record revenues.
It projected Premier League club revenues would plummet from £5.157 billion in 2018-19 to £4.3bn this season, primarily due to a loss of broadcast income of almost £850 million. But it also forecast a £1bn-plus bounce-back next term, generating further record revenues of £5.4bn.
‘I’m prepared to do it, 100 per cent’
Crystal Palace defender Patrick van Aanholt says he will join the chorus of outrage from athletes protesting the death of a black man in Minneapolis by taking a knee before the club’s Premier League game against Bournemouth on June 20.
Video footage showed a white police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, 46, for nearly nine minutes before he died on May 25, triggering outrage and protests across the world.
Premier League clubs have posed taking a knee akin to former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who popularised the gesture as a way to protest racial issues, and Aanholt, 29, says he is ready to follow suit.
Credit: Action Images via Reuters
“I’m prepared to do it, 100 per cent. They’ve done it in Germany and Premier League teams have done it in training. We have a platform and as a global sport, we have to come together,” Aanholt told Sky Sports.
The Dutch full-back echoed Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling’s call for increased representation of ethnic minorities in coaching positions, but said he does not plan to take up a managerial role in the future.
“I don’t know if I want to be a coach yet. Ashley Cole is trying. Clarence Seedorf got his badges then got sacked at AC Milan. Many black coaches have to start from the bottom and again, I don’t know why,” Aanholt added.
The Premier League will restart on June 17 after a three-month stoppage due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Palace are 11th in the standings.