‘The world is going to need football’: Lincoln Riley keeps an open mind about 2020 season

Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley’s typical days consist of virtual staff meetings, players meetings, recruiting and film study.  

That is not so much different than most social-distancing Americans during the continued spread of COVID-19 across the United States. 

“Every waking hour is in front of a screen,” Riley said on a teleconference Tuesday. “It’s the new normal. … A lot of times you take a step back and wonder if it’s real. In a lot of ways, it feels like we’re living in a movie.” 

Despite that, Riley is maintaining a forward-thinking and open-minded approach about when and how the 2020 college football season will be played. On March 31, six months before the first week of the season, that is the best script for now. 

“I feel like by September the world is going to need football,” Riley said. “A lot of that will be determined by our country’s response to this.” 

There are more than 180,000 reported cases of COVID-19 in the United States as of Tuesday afternoon, and that has led to speculation about whether college football will be played in 2020. That scenario gained traction after ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit’s comments that he would be “shocked” if college football is played this year. Riley, who is 36-6 and has led the Sooners to three straight College Football Playoff appearances, is not thinking in those terms.  

“I haven’t considered it just because that’s so far out in front that I don’t know that it will do me or us any good,” Riley said. “There are still so many unknowns, but we do have a plan if it does happen.” 

Riley knows the coaching staff should have 20 hours a week with his players and the limitations to the virtual football world. He still is looking at ahead — and June 1 is a target date that could be telling.

Riley said there are a few players still in Norman, Okla., but the first step is getting players back on campus safely.  

“The next realistic time most people are going to be looking at are the summer period and whether or not you have camps,” Riley said. “Whether or not you are able to have prospects on campus. That’s going to be the next realistic possibility. What we do the rest of the summer will probably hinge on how that plays out.”  

Riley is flexible on a possible start date for the season and whether fans will be allowed to be in attendance. He was asked what it would be like to play Texas in the Cotton Bowl without fans.  

“It would be very, very unique,” Riley said. “If that what it comes to do for games to still be able to be played and guys to still be able to play and then for our fans to connect and be a part of it virtually, that may be where we could end it.”  

Riley also was open to a later start date, which would be easier than logistically than a summer season. How much preparation would a team need in order to be ready to play a regular-season game?  

“We could have 15 to 20 practices and be ready to go play, without a doubt,” Riley said.   

Would that football be good enough? Riley said it would resemble spring football or early fall camp to the coaches, but most fans would still enjoy the experience.  

In that regard, Riley is right. The return of football would mean the threat of COVID-19 has been mitigated on some level. In that respect, Riley is willing to take all the necessary precautions and adjust the time frame as needed.  

By September, that might be what every needs. Riley is willing to wait longer, too.  

“I don’t know that we can put on a limit,” Riley said. “Football, just purely the game, can be played anytime, anywhere. I think we all have to be open-minded about it.”  

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Pay dispute ‘very difficult for all players’: Lever

Melbourne defender Jake Lever has described the stalemate between the AFL and the AFL Players Association over how much of a wage cut the players should take as "very difficult".

With the 2020 season shut down until at least May 31 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and essentially no money coming into the game from the broadcasters as a result, the league has asked its 800-odd players to take significantly less money than what they’re supposed to receive.

Lever was frustrated by the public perception that the pay dispute illustrates how footy players haven’t yet fully grasped the magnitude of the coronavirus crisis and the impact it’s having on millions of Australians who have lost their jobs and are lining up outside Centrelink for financial assistance.

But the former Crow insisted he had a handle on how the community was being affected and said that AFL players weren’t immune from the economic catastrophe that is gripping the country.

“For me it is really hard, it’s not just the everyday Australian, it’s some of my close mates are doing the exact same thing as these guys at Centrelink,” Lever told SEN on Thursday.

“And you do definitely get to see the everyday Australian life that you do see, but for us I think it’s really important to put out there that footballers are going to be the exact same.

Melbourne’s Jake Lever says AFL players are sensitive to the struggles of the community at this time.Credit:Getty Images

“I just saw on Instagram, I’m not sure if it was for real, but a Richmond Tiger, a person that I played football with, he was out working this morning trying to earn money as a sign man on road construction.

“There’s going to be people in the AFL world, especially players, that are going to have to put up their houses for sale because of this situation and we’re just like everyone else.”

The AFLPA wants a 50 per cent cut of wages for the next eight weeks, but the AFL wants them to take a much bigger cut.

“For me at the minute it’s understanding that it [the negotiation] is probably something that could potentially take three, four months but it has to be done in a very short amount of time,” Lever told SEN on Thursday.

“You’ve already seen that the players are happy to be able to take a pay cut in the months that we’re not playing, and then the AFLPA and AFL are working together on what that looks like.

“I look at it as something bigger than football at the minute, it’s a world health pandemic and there’s things going on in the world right now that AFL football is probably a minute thing in it.

“But obviously it’s very hard at the minute.”

Making things harder for Lever was earlier this week hearing AFL legend Leigh Matthews say he had lost respect for the players in the way they’ve conducted themselves.

“In the end I think it’s just a situation that no one’s ever been through, so for us as players, for the AFL, for the AFL clubs, it’s obviously a really difficult situation we’re going through right now,” Lever said.

“I’ve heard a lot of people say there’s no textbook to be able to get out and actually be able to look at and then obviously go off that.

“I guess the comments like that, you do sit back and do ponder,” Lever said of Matthews’ comments.

In the meantime, Lever is continuing to train by himself in the hope that the season resumes in a couple of months.

“It was interesting for me yesterday handballing the ball against the wall and kicking against the wall down at my local park in Kew,” he laughed.

“That was difficult but I think that every single AFL player will be motivated to get back and put on a show for the fans, whether that’s with crowds or without crowds.”

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Watford offer Vicarage Road stadium to help NHS staff in battle against coronavirus

Watford have offered the use of their Vicarage Road stadium to the nearby hospital to help them battle the coronavirus pandemic.

The Hornets’ home is in close proximity to Watford General Hospital and, with football postponed until April 30 at the earliest, the Premier League club are set to open up the ground for a range of NHS purposes.

“We need to forget football right now and concentrate on doing all we can to support the NHS and, in particular, Watford General Hospital,” Watford chairman and chief executive Scott Duxbury said in a joint statement announcing the move.

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“Our proximity as a football club next door to a hospital puts us in a great position to offer help and we’re keen to do whatever we possibly can to support NHS staff and their families.”

Vicarage Road is now set to host NHS staff inductions, offer spaces for urgent meetings, childcare facilities and warehouse space.

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“The UK Government’s message has been about doing ‘whatever it takes’. Likewise, we’ll do ‘whatever it takes’ here at Vicarage Road to offer our fullest support to the NHS and its people at a time when it’s clearly needed most,” Duxbury added.

The gesture has been acknowledged by the hospital, with Christine Allen – the chief executive of West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust praising Watford for their support.

“Right now, we are doing all we can to make sure we can focus on caring for our sickest patients. We have found ourselves needing extra space very quickly,” she said.

“For example, we are running refresher training to our clinical staff so that they can care for patients with breathing difficulties.

“And we also need more space so that we can stick to important guidance about social distancing for our staff induction sessions and for key meetings when we need our senior leadership teams around the table.

“The club’s support is helping us to run our organisation safely and we are very grateful for their support at this challenging time.”

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Doc Emrick did play-by-play for a windshield-wiper installation — and it was brilliant

If you think the current lack of sports has hit you hard, spare a thought for the play-by-play announcers of the world.

Their entire livelihood consists of talking into a microphone while sports are taking place and, believe it or not, live commentary is a skill that requires a lot of practice. But without sports, some broadcasters have been forced to get creative. 

Fox Sports’ Joe Buck has already revealed his plan to avoid getting rusty: do play-by-play for videos of everyday events submitted by his Twitter followers. However, it seems that NBC’s Doc Emrick is one step ahead of him. 

Take a listen to this absolute gem of a call from the legendary NHL commentator:

That, ladies and gentlemen, is poetry. 

Notice how he sets the scene at the beginning by describing the setting. A car repair shop that’s been open for over 100 years? Right away he emphasizes the tradition of success at this establishment. 

Emrick then introduces us to the star of the show: the mechanic. He’s a Red Wings fan, which makes him relatable to a large part of the audience that knows what it’s like to be a fan of a struggling team. Standing at 5-9, he’s the kind of plucky underdog America can’t get enough of.

He’s also a master at his craft, a veteran with 34 years of service under his belt.

“This is like having Gordon Ramsey come to your house,” Emrick quips, “and having him make microwaved popcorn.” 

He uses the joke to draw in viewers before diving into the nitty-gritty analysis. A thorough explanation of how a windshield-wiper works leads us right up to the moment of truth. The mechanic, cool under pressure, puts on a clinic. 

While some commentators have been criticized for their “announcer voice” during broadcasts, we like to think this is how Doc Emrick sounds during any daily interaction. For the sake of hockey fans across the country, we hope we’ll hear him calling games from the booth again before too long.

In the meantime, we’ll have to be content with broadcasters commentating events from their everyday lives, which is certainly better than nothing. 

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Coronavirus: Portsmouth’s James Bolton, Andy Cannon and Sean Raggett test positive

Three Portsmouth players, James Bolton, Andy Cannon and Sean Raggett, have tested positive for coronavirus.

The League One club’s squad and first-team staff all underwent testing earlier this week and are still waiting on further results.

“The second batch of results received by the club last night (20 March) showed that James Bolton, Andy Cannon and Sean Raggett all have the virus,” a statement read.

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“They are all self-isolating in accordance with government guidelines and will continue to follow medical advice. The club have also notified Public Health England.

Chief executive Mark Catlin added: “I received the news last night and immediately spoke to Kenny and head physio Bobby Bacic. Kenny and I then spoke to all three players.

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“Football is not immune from this virus and I can assure you that it only really hits home when those that you know contract it.

“All three players were in good spirits and perfectly calm – showing mild or no symptoms – and are looking forward to overcoming it as quickly as possible.

“We once again urge everyone to follow the current government guidelines.”

Portsmouth’s players were tested following their FA Cup tie against Arsenal, due to several of the Premier League club’s players and staff coming into contact with Olympiacos owner Evangelos Marinakis, who later tested positive for Covid-19.

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Football agents set to lose fortunes and face going out of business

Football agents set to lose fortunes and face go out of business due to the coronavirus crisis with money owed by clubs for deals completed in summer and January transfer windows

  • Football agencies are set to lose fortunes and face going out of business  
  • Several are owed significant amounts by clubs for completed transfer deals  
  • Agents receive little protection in relation to the money they are owed by teams 
  • One agent has written off a fee of £3,000 owed to him by a League One side 
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

Football agencies will lose fortunes in owed fees and face going out of business as the Coronavirus crisis continues to rip through the sporting community.

A host of lower level intermediaries fear they will go under due to the crippling financial implications caused by the pandemic, with agents standing to lose hundreds of thousands of pounds, if not more, owed to them by clubs for deals completed in the summer and January windows.

Agents receive little protection in relation to the money they are owed by club because they are not recognised as football creditors.

Several football agents are owed money for deals completed in the January transfer window

Many face going out of business due to crippling financial implications of the coronavirus

For instance, if a club is sent into administration then agents are not required to be paid.

Therefore, paying agents is not viewed as a priority by clubs – particularly those whose futures have been placed into jeopardy because of Covid-19.

Sportsmail knows of one agent who has written off a £3,000 fee owed to him from a League One side, because he knows the club simply cannot not pay him.

Clubs are required to pay relevant agent fees and paperwork to the Football Association, who ratify the forms before forwarding the money on to the representatives.

But clubs are often guilty of delay that process with agents now fearing they will not receive what is owed to them given the financial difficulties clubs in the EFL are now faced with.

Intermediaries could consider taking legal action or attempt at having the club wound up – but that would only serve to antagonise officials who would likely refuse to work with that agent again.

Agents are not recognised as football creditors so receive little protection for the money owed

The losses smaller agencies are likely to incur in the coming weeks will leave them facing worrying cash flow problems, leaving the future of their companies in jeopardy.

Top agencies, including Wasserman Media Group, Stellar and Unique Sports Management, are expected to survive despite the huge uncertainty given they are built on far more financially sound platforms.

Indeed, clubs are more likely to pay those leading agencies due to the fact they tend to represent more desirable players.

Football agents, particularly those who operate higher up the leagues, are unlikely to garner much sympathy given their reputations.

But many smaller agents earn in the region of £50,000-a-year and their livelihoods are now under a cloud.

HOW CORONAVIRUS HAS HIT THE WORLD OF SPORT SO FAR

2020 OLYMPIC GAMES  

The Olympic torch relay in Greece was cancelled on Friday March 13 – just a day after the flame was lit in Olympia.

Large crowds mobbed Hollywood actor Gerard Butler as he lit the cauldron in the Greek city of Sparta despite repeated warnings for spectators not to attend because of coronavirus.

That forced the decision by the Greek Olympic Committee to halt the torch relay on Greek soil on just the second day of its scheduled eight-day journey. It is the only the third time that a relay to Athens for the summer Games has not been completed.

The Olympic flame will still be handed over to the Tokyo 2020 organising committee at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens on Thursday March 19, but without fans present. The start of the Japanese relay, in Fukushima, will take place without fans, and local governments are cancelling their welcoming ceremonies. 

The scale of the outbreak in Japan saw senior International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound describe the disease as ‘the new war’ threatening Tokyo 2020 and he warned the Games may have to be cancelled if the virus was still around by May.

Olympic organisers told athletes to train as normal with no decision on cancellation

The Japanese government later insisted Pound’s comments were not the IOC’s official stance but there remains doubts over whether the summer showcase can still go ahead with health concerns.

Athletes have been told to keep training and the plan remains to hold the Games in Japan as planned but training for around 80,000 volunteers has been delayed for at least until May – it was due to begin on February 22. 

On Friday March 13 US president Donald Trump’s suggestion to postpone the Tokyo Olympics for a year because of the coronavirus was immediately shot down by Japan’s Olympic minister.

‘The IOC and the organising committee are not considering cancellation or a postponement – absolutely not at all,’ Seiko Hashimoto, an Olympic bronze medalist, told a news conference in Tokyo.

On Tuesday March 17, Kozo Tashima, one of the Japanese Olympic Committee’s vice presidents and president of the Japanese Football Association, tested positive for coronavirus.  

The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo organisers have stayed on message since the viral outbreak in China three months ago spread across Asia and then the globe: The games will open as scheduled on July 24. 

Tokyo 2020 organisers received the Olympic flame in a scaled-down handover ceremony in the Greek capital on March 19.

World Athletics chief Lord Coe claimed it is too early to cancel this summer’s Tokyo Olympics but has warned it could be done if necessary on March 19.

ATHLETICS 

The World Athletics Indoor Championships, which was due to be held from March 13-15 in Nanjing, is postponed until March 2021.

The World Athletics Indoor Championships in Nanjing, China, has been postponed due to concerns over the danger of the coronavirus and its ability to spread

North Korea cancelled the Pyongyang Marathon scheduled for April after imposing a border lockdown due to the level of outbreak in South Korea, where the Seoul Marathon is cancelled in a bid to protect runners.

The Paris half-marathon is cancelled and the French government also decided to ban all public gatherings of more than 100 people, before ordering people to stay at home from March 15 for at least 15 days. The race involving some 44,000 competitors was scheduled for Sunday March 1. Organisers said the race will be postponed to a date yet to be determined.

The London Marathon, which had been scheduled to take place on April 26, has been postponed until October 4. Over 40,000 runners were due to take part. 

The Barcelona marathon scheduled for March 15 has been postponed until October.

BOXING 

Olympic boxing qualifiers to be staged in Wuhan were cancelled by the International Olympic Committee, but went ahead in Amman from March 3-11.

The IBF title fight between Daniele Scardina and Andrew Francillette in Milan on February 28 was postponed by Matchroom due to restrictions in Italy following the outbreak.

The Japanese boxing commission cancelled all fight cards scheduled for March on government advice to suspend all pending sporting fixtures. They will not be rescheduled.

Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce’s Battle of Britain has been pushed back from April to July

The British Boxing Board of Control announced on Tuesday March 17 that all boxing events under their jurisdiction for March will be postponed due to the coronavirus.

That decision has lead to the heavyweight clash between Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce being postponed. That fight, which had been penciled in for April 11, has been rescheduled for July 11 at the O2 Arena. 

Matchroom Boxing has also postponed all events scheduled for March and April, including Josh Kelly’s European title fight against Russia’s David Avanesyan (scheduled for March 28). 

The European Olympic boxing qualification tournament in London has been suspended. It was due to secure qualification for Tokyo 2020 for 77 male and female boxers, with 322 taking part. 

Matchroom Boxing chief Eddie Hearn has said Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight title defence against Kubrat Pulev, which is scheduled for June 20, could be rearranged for July. All Matchroom promoted fights in March and April have been postponed. 

Canelo Alvarez vs Billy Joe Saunders, earmarked for May in Las Vegas, was postponed before even being announced, however the Mexican is reportedly still planning to make the bout happen in June. 

CRICKET 

England’s tour of Sri Lanka was postponed on March 13, with the England and Wales Cricket Board citing ‘completely unprecedented times’.

The decision was confirmed while Joe Root’s side were in the field at Colombo’s P Sara Oval, contesting a warm-up game for a two-Test series.

On March 18, the West Indies offered to host England’s upcoming home Tests against them in the Caribbean instead of in the UK – should the coronavirus outbreak not have improved by then. England are due to face the Windies in a a three-Test series, which is due to start at the Oval on June 4 but could be delayed until September. If playing the series in England proves unworkable, CWI have offered to step in for this series, and also for England’s three Tests against Pakistan, due to start on July 30. Although there are Covid-19 cases in the Caribbean, its impact there has been limited so far. 

The start of the Indian Premier League season has also been delayed until April 15. The 2020 campaign had been set to start on March 29. The IPL franchises are also ready to quarantine their foreign players for a period of 14 days, if travel restrictions are lifted to allow them to arrive.

On March 13, India’s ongoing one-day international series against South Africa was postponed, while Australia’s one-day internationals against New Zealand will be played behind closed doors.

Scotland’s one-day series against the United States and UAE have been postponed. The games were scheduled to be played in Florida in April. 

England’s cricketers would not play any rescheduled Test series against West Indies in the Caribbean until December at the earliest, it emerged on March 19.

CYCLING 

Cycling’s Giro d’Italia has been called off, with the race scheduled to start in Hungary in May. 

The final two stages of the UAE Tour were cancelled after two members of staff on the race were suspected of having the disease. 

Danish cyclist Michael Morkov was tested for coronavirus after being put in isolation

The Tour de France is under threat of cancellation, with the scheduled start in Nice taking place in just over three months, on June 27. With British and French governments anticipating that the pandemic will last until the summer, race organizers are studying alternative scheduling. 

The Paris-Roubaix cycling race, another major event on the French sports calendar, was postponed due to the pandemic, while the April 5 Tour of Flanders, only previously cancelled during World War I, was also postponed in a further sign that Le Tour is under grave threat.

FOOTBALL 

This summer’s Euro 2020 tournament has been moved to next summer (2021) following a UEFA conference held on March 17. The postponement provides a chance for European club competitions to be completed.

All football in England is suspended until at least April 30 – but the 2019-20 season should eventually be completed after the FA bend their own rules to extend the campaign INDEFINITELY after holding crisis talks on March 19.

The decisions to suspend follows players and staff becoming affected by the virus, or individuals self-isolating as a precaution after reporting symptoms consistent with Covid-19.

The Premier League has moved to cancel games following the global outbreak of coronavius

The Premier League clash between Manchester City and Arsenal, scheduled for March 11, had already been postponed as a ‘precautionary measure’ after Olympiacos and Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis tested positive for coronavirus weeks after watching his Greek team play at the Emirates Stadium. 

On March 13, UEFA announced all Champions League and Europa League fixtures scheduled are postponed, as well as the quarter-final draws for both competitions. UEFA hope to conclude the competitions in the summer but no dates are yet set. 

All Chinese domestic fixtures at all levels were postponed and the season pushed back, the first football to be affected by the outbreak in the country of its origin. However, reports suggest that the league could resume on April 18 as China gets to grip with the virus.

Asian Champions League matches involving Guangzhou Evergrande, Shanghai Shenhua and Shanghai SIPG are postponed until April.

The start of the Korean K-League season is postponed. The four teams in the AFC Champions League are playing their matches behind closed doors.

Japan’s J-League postponed all domestic games until the middle of March, but further delays are inevitable. 

Ludogorets players were taking no chances after the coronavirus outbreak in Italy

Italy, the country worst hit by the virus outside China, suffered a spate of cancellations before the government put the population on lockdown. All sport, including Serie A games, were suspended until at least April 3 to contain the virus.

In France, it was announced on Friday 13 March that there will be no top-flight football in France for the immediate future after their governing body postponed all matches.  

In Spain, April 18’s Copa del Rey final between between Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad has been postponed. LaLiga is also postponed until the end of March at least.

Germany’s Bundesliga, the other major European league, is also suspended until April 3 at least. 

The Dutch Eredivisie and Portugal’s Primeira Liga are also suspended.

The Football Association of Ireland announced that all football under its jurisdiction will cease until March 29. 

Major League Soccer has been suspended for 30 days until mid-April with David Beckham’s first Inter Miami home game delayed.  

The South American Football Confederation postponed this year’s Copa America, due to take place from 12 June to 12 July, until 2021.

FIFA said that the newly-expanded Club World Cup, originally scheduled to take place in China in June 2021, will be postponed and a new date announced when ‘there is more clarity on the situation’.

On March 13, the FA announced that all of England’s games scheduled for the month would be postponed, including those of development teams. It means that England’s friendlies with Italy and Denmark have been called off.    

Euro 2020 play-off matches due to be held on March 26, including Scotland v Israel have been put off until June. 

Olympiakos’ owner Evangelos Marinakis has tested positive for the coronavirus

Manchester United clash at Austrian side Lask was behind closed doors, with United handing out £350 to each fan to help with travel and accommodation after they sold 900 tickets for the Europa League game. 

Newcastle United banned their players from shaking hands with each other amid coronavirus fears. 

Cristiano Ronaldo went into isolation in Madeira after it emerged that his Juventus team-mate, Daniele Rugani, has coronavirus. Blaise Matuidi of Juventus also tested positive for coronavirus.

Elsewhere in Italy, Fiorentina striker Patrick Cutrone, who is on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers, tested positive for coronavirus.

In Spain, 35% of Valencia’s squad staff tested positive for coronavirus, with all cases being asymptomatic. 

Real Madrid’s first-team squad were in quarantine after a member of the basketball team tested positive for Covid-19. The two teams share the same training facility.   

Liverpool have announced a charity match between a Reds Legends side and Barcelona Legends, due to be played at Anfield on March 28, has been postponed.

FIFA says it will postpone South American World Cup qualifying matches due to take place in March. 

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta tested positive for coronavirus on March 12 with the entire first-team squad being put into isolation. The Gunners’ game against Brighton, scheduled for Saturday March 14, has been postponed.

In the early hours of Friday, March 13, Chelsea announced that winger Callum Hudson-Odoi had been diagnosed with the illness.

The club’s first team went into self-isolation, while two buildings at their training ground in Cobham were closed. 

Premier League clubs, including Manchester United and Manchester City, have sent players home to train alone following the British government’s increasing crackdown on mass gatherings and unnecessary social contact.   

West Ham chief Karren Brady called for the season to be null and void while Aston Villa believe no team should be relegated. In this situation Liverpool, the runaway league leaders, could face the horror of being denied the title despite being on the brink of securing their first league trophy in nearly 30 years.

Reports suggest football bodies across England and the rest of Europe are bracing themselves for a reported total shutdown of every league until September.

Top-level English and Scottish football was initially suspended until April 3 at the earliest. The Football Association, the Premier League, the English Football League, FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship all agreed to call a halt to competitive action with immediate effect. 

FORMULA ONE 

The season-opening Australian Grand Prix was called off after a McLaren team member came down with Covid-19, leading to the British team pulling out prior to a decision being made on whether the race would still go ahead. 

The announcement came hours after Lewis Hamilton said it was ‘shocking’ that the race was going ahead. 

The Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai on April 19 was the first race to be postponed, with no decision over whether it will be reinserted into the 2020 calendar for later in the season. 

The Bahrain Grand Prix, scheduled for March 20-22, is also called off, as is the inaugural Vietnam Grand Prix, which was scheduled to take place in Hanoi on April 5. 

It is hoped that the Dutch Grand Prix on May 3 will be the first race of the new season but there are increasing fears that a large chunk of the Formula One calendar will be missed due to Covid-19. 

The iconic Monaco Grand Prix on May 24 still looks under threat. 

The Chinese GP was first to be cancelled and other races could yet follow that lead

GOLF 

On March 13, the Masters was postponed. In a statement released online, Fred Ridley, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, emphasised that the decision makers hope to hold the championship ‘at some later date’. The first men’s major of the year was due to begin on April 9.

The US PGA Championship, the second major of the year, has now joined the  Masters in being postponed. It had been due to take place at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco from May 11-17, but has been rescheduled for later this summer.

After deciding to play with no spectators from the second round of the Players Championship onwards, the PGA Tour cancelled the event entirely after the first round on March 12. 

They also scrapped the following three events leading up to the Masters, but after that was cancelled four further events in April and May – the RBC Heritage, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, the Wells Fargo Championship and the AT&T Byron Nelson – also bit the dust. It is hoped that the season can be resumed in late May.

The European Tour have cancelled all tournaments until the popular Made in Denmark event on May 21. Many of them were due to be held in China or east Asia in countries badly hit by the outbreak.

The women’s game has also been hit by postponements and cancellations, with the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration, the highest profile casualty.

The Masters has been postponed for the first time since the Second World War

Lorenzo Gagli and Edoardo Molinari were withdrawn from the Oman Open on medical grounds after Gagli showed symptoms of the virus. He shared a hotel room with Molinari and he was told to self-isolate. They were later reinstated to the tournament after testing negative for the virus. 

HORSE RACING 

The Grand National was called off following new British government restrictions to fight the spread of coronavirus made it impossible to stage the Aintree showpiece on April 4. The Cheltenham Festival went ahead amid some criticism before the social distancing measures were tightened. 

The Japan Racing Association revealed that ‘government-sanctioned races’ will go ahead behind closed doors.  

Racing in Ireland is to take place behind closed doors starting until March 29.  

The Dubai World Cup meeting will go ahead on March 28 ‘without paid hospitality spectators’. 

The Cheltenham Festival went ahead despite travel disruption caused by the virus

RUGBY 

This year’s Six Nations will have to wait for its conclusion with all remaining games postponed.

England’s game with Italy and Ireland’s trip to France had already been called off with Wales and Scotland leaving it until the day before before calling off their game. 

Saturday, 31 October is a possible date for the final weekend of matches. 

The Women’s Six Nations has also been hit by postponements.

Ireland’s Six Nations encounter with Italy on March 7 has been postponed

The RFU has suspended all levels of rugby in England until April 14, with the announcement coming shortly after the Premiership was halted for five weeks. 

The quarter-finals of the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup have also been postponed. Those games were scheduled for April 3, 4 and 5.   

The RFL and rugby league’s Super League have now followed suit and postponed all fixtures for at least three weeks. Eight Leeds Rhinos players had been confirmed to be self-isolating.  

TENNIS

The French Open, one of the four Grand Slam tournaments, is postponed until September amid a wide lockdown in France.

The clay-court major was scheduled for May 24 to June 7, but that has shifted to September 20 to October 4, after the US Open, which was due to be the final major of the year. 

Players have been quick to criticise the move, which has created a conflict with the Laver Cup men’s team event spearheaded by Roger Federer, and a women’s tournament in China.

All events on the ATP Tour have been suspended for six weeks. 

The BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells in California, set to start on March 9, was postponed at the eleventh hour.  It came after a confirmed case of the coronavirus in the nearby Coachella Valley.

The final of an ATP Challenger event in Bergamo, Italy, between Enzo Couacaud and Illya Marchenko of Ukraine was cancelled. Both players received ranking points and prize money for getting to the final. They were denied the opportunity to play behind closed doors.

China forfeited a Davis Cup tie because the men’s team were unable to travel to Romania for the March 6-7 play-off.

WTA events have also been cancelled. The WTA announced they are assessing their schedule with a number of events set for China in the second half of the season.

The International Tennis Federation has announced that the Fed Cup finals have been postponed. The event was due to be held in Budapest in April and the competition’s play-offs, which were set to take place in eight different locations, have also been placed on hold.

The WTA also announced no tournaments will be staged for at least five weeks.   

OTHER SPORTS 

The NBA has been suspended indefinitely after two Utah Jazz players contracted the virus. On March 17 Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant confirmed he had tested positive for the virus alongside three unnamed team-mates.

In an aid to decrease risks of exposure to the virus, the NBA had told players to avoid taking items such as pens, markers, balls and jerseys from autograph seekers. 

The NHL has announced it has paused the 2019-20 season with no date confirmed for when it will resume. 

The UFC has cancelled its next three events, although president Dana White is still pushing ahead for the highly-anticipated lightweight title fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson. 

MotoGP have cancelled their first two races of the season in Qatar and Thailand. 

South Korea’s baseball league cancelled all 50 pre-season game which were slated to take place from March 14-24. It is the first time since the leagues inception in 1982 that an entire set of exhibition matches are off. 

The first-stage draw for the Table Tennis World Championships, scheduled for South Korea from March 22-29, is postponed.

A beach volleyball tournament, due to be held in Yangzhou from April 22-26, is postponed until after the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

World Short track speed skating championship in Seoul is cancelled.

The World Triathlon Series event in Abu Dhabi was postponed as a precautionary measure.  

The Women’s World Ice Hockey Championships in Canada have been cancelled.   

All 72 pre-season baseball games in Japan are to take place behind closed doors

In badminton, the German Open (March 3-8), Vietnam Open (March 24-29) and Polish Open (March 26-29), all Olympic qualifying events, are cancelled due to ‘strict health protection’. 

The Japanese professional baseball league made the decision to play their 72 pre-season games behind closed doors until March 15. Baseball is among the most popular sports in Japan.  

Doubts remain as the Asian weightlifting championships, scheduled for March, are relocated from Kazakhstan to neighbouring Uzbekistan. They could still be postponed. 




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Brighton vs Arsenal postponed after Mikel Arteta tests positive for coronavirus

Arsenal’s match against Brighton this weekend has been postponed after Mikel Arteta tested positive for coronavirus.

The Seagulls confirmed the decision shortly after the Gunners confirmed their manager had tested positive for COVID-19.

The decision comes just hours after the Premier League announced that all games this weekend would go ahead as planned.

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But within the hour, the Gunners confirmed Arteta had tested positive for the virus and that their players and staff were self isolating.

Chief executive Paul Barber underlined the importance of prioritising the health and wellbeing of those involved.

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Barber said: “First and foremost our thoughts are with Mikel Arteta and we wish him a speedy recovery.

“It’s absolutely essential the health and wellbeing of individuals takes priority and with that in mind Saturday’s match has been postponed.

“We apologise to all fans for any inconvenience but trust everyone will understand that we are all facing an unprecedented situation.

“The Premier League has announced this evening that they will convene an emergency meeting of all clubs tomorrow morning, and we will update supporters on future fixtures as and when we are in a position to do so.”

It is the second successive game Arsenal have had postponed after the match at Manchester City, scheduled for Wednesday, was called off.

With the Gunners squad now self isolating, it means their FA Cup quarter-final on 22 March will now almost certainly be called off.

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Alexandre Lacazette keen to force his way into Mikel Arteta's side

‘My job is to give the manager a big headache’: Alexandre Lacazette keen to force his way into Mikel Arteta’s side after Arsenal forward bagged winner against West Ham

  • The France international striker has been playing second fiddle to Eddie Nketiah
  • Alexandre Lacazette scored the winner against West Ham in a 1-0 win for Arsenal
  • Mikel Arteta admitted choosing one of either Lacazette or Nketiah was difficult
  • The victory keeps Arsenal’s hopes of European qualification for next season alive

Alexandre Lacazette came off the bench to score the only game of Saturday’s win over West Ham before declaring he is pleased to have given head coach Mikel Arteta a headache.

The France international striker has been playing second fiddle to Eddie Nketiah of late following an indifferent run of form in front of goal.

But he came to the rescue as his 78th-minute strike, awarded by VAR after originally being ruled out for offside, secured a 1-0 win over the Hammers.

Alexandre Lacazette (centre) celebrates after giving Arsenal the lead against West Ham

Arteta admitted after the game that having to choose one of either Lacazette or Nketiah was making his life difficult – but Saturday’s match-winner would have it no other way.

‘This is my job, to give the manager a big headache because he’s putting together the first 11,’ he told the club’s official website.

‘I am happy to score and we won so everything is good. We have to play well to get a game.

‘Everybody wants to give their best and normally when everyone does we perform well.’

Lacazette finished from close range after being teed up by a header from Mesut Ozil

The victory keeps Arsenal’s hopes of European qualification for next season alive – but Lacazette does not want to start working out what is required from the run-in to achieve their goals.

‘It’s too early I think to count the points,’ he added.

‘We’re going to play and see at the end of the season where we finish. We won three points (against West Ham) and that was important for us in the table. It was hard, and a difficult game, we are lucky I think.’

Arsenal certainly did ride their luck for large portions of the game as West Ham missed a host of good opportunities to take the lead before Lacazette struck.

The defeat ultimately leaves West Ham outside the relegation zone by virtue of goal difference alone and forward Jarrod Bowen – who hit the post in the early stages – knows the Hammers need to be more clinical to avoid the drop.

‘We need to be more ruthless in front of goal, but again the performance levels and the work ethic were there. It’s just that final bit which is crucial,’ he said.

‘It was a case of us working hard, being disciplined without the ball, have a good shape and frustrating them.

‘We’re focused on ourselves and we can’t worry about what’s going on around us.

‘We know the quality we have got and we know that we need to keep on performing as we have done in recent weeks – but being more ruthless in front of goal to get the three points we need.’




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Tony Romo to re-up with CBS for about $17M annually

Tony Romo made about $127 million as an NFL quarterback. He’s on his way to making more than that as an NFL broadcaster.

CBS and Romo have agreed to a multi-year contract worth approximately $17 million per season, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, via sources informed of the deal.

The New York Post first reported the news.

With Romo’s rookie deal set to expire, CBS avoided a potential bidding war with the most coveted football broadcaster by making him the highest-paid ever. In fact, his new contract is worth about twice as much as the reported high of $8 million for John Madden.

The former Cowboys quarterback will also be earning more on an annual basis as a color commentator than he made in all but three seasons of his 14-year career. Romo went straight from the playing field to the broadcast booth in 2017 and instantly made his mark alongside esteemed partner Jim Nantz with his penchant for accurately predicting plays.

The 39-year-old has since proven to be just as bankable on TV as he was in the league.

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Dillian Whyte blasts Wilder for 'pathetic' video on comeback and Tyson Fury

Dillian Whyte took aim at Deontay Wilder after the dethroned WBC champion vowed to gain revenge over Tyson Fury.

Wilder released a video on his Instagram addressing his fans a week on from his first pro defeat and it appears certain the American will call the immediate rematch with Fury.

A trilogy fight with Fury is expected to happen in the summer and Wilder promised he would come back stronger and regain his title.

Wilder posted the video to his social accounts and Whyte took a swipe at his rival by commenting ‘pathetic’.

While Eddie Hearn campaigns for three-belt champion Anthony Joshua to fight Fury next, Wilder has the right to trigger a third fight.

Bob Arum and Frank Warren do not expect Wilder to accept any step-aside money and the knockout artist told Fury ‘the war has just begun’ in his video.

‘Hello my people, my Bomb Squad army, my Bomb Squad nation, to all my loved ones around the world, I just want to let you know I am here,’ Wilder said.

— Dillian Whyte (@DillianWhyte) February 29, 2020

‘Your king is here. And we ain’t going nowhere, for the war has just begun.

‘I will rise again. I am strong. I am a king, you can’t take my pride.

‘I am a warrior. I am a king that will never give up. I’m a king that will fight to the death.

‘And if anyone don’t understand that, don’t understand what it is to go to war, don’t understand what it is to fight, we will rise again. We will regain the title.

‘I will be back. We will hold our heads up high. Your king is in great spirit.

‘We will rise like a phoenix from the ashes and regain the title.

‘I’ll see you in a few months, for the war has just begun. All my love to all my people.’

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