Coronavirus hits sport: Wimbledon set for cancellation amid European lockdowns

Wimbledon officials are the latest sporting body to announce they are considering cancelling their 2020 championships due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The All England Club says it will decide at an emergency meeting next week whether or not to postpone this year's edition - scheduled to start to on June 30 (NZ time) - or abandon it altogether.

"The single most important consideration is one of public health, and we are determined to act responsibly through the decisions we make," AELTC chief executive Richard Lewis CBE said in a statement.

The AELTC has been contingency planning since January, working closely with the UK government and public health authorities to follow their advice and understand the likely impact of Covid-19.

"The government's emergency measures on The Championships, and our thoughts are with all those affected by this crisis at this time," the club said in a statement.

Wimbledon officials will consult the LTA, ATP, WTA, ITF - the respective governing bodies of British, men's, women's and international tennis - as well as all three other grand slam organisers - before making a final decision.

"The build for The Championships is due to begin at the end of April," the AELTC club said in a statement.

"At this time, based on the advice we have received from the public health authorities, the very short window available to us to stage The Championships due to the nature of our surface suggests that postponement is not without significant risk and difficulty.

"Playing behind closed doors has been formally ruled out.

"Following the government's advice, the AELTC's sites at the All England Club, Wimbledon Park Golf Club and Raynes Park are currently closed with physical operations reduced to the practical minimum to maintain the grass courts and the security of the sites.

"The AELTC, through our charity the Wimbledon Foundation, is offering support within our local communities and more broadly for the London and UK population through our partnerships with the British Red Cross and City Harvest.

"The unprecedented challenge presented by the COVID-19 crisis continues to affect our way of life in ways that we could not have imagined," Lewis said.

"And our thoughts are with all those affected in the UK and around the world."

COVID fears hits tennis world 

Former Australian Open champion and world No.1 Lindsay Davenport fears the first positive coronavirus case in professional tennis is just the tip of the iceberg and worries about "horror stories" emerging from fellow players across the globe.

Talented young Brazilian Thiago Seyboth Wild, whose last match was a loss to John Millman just 19 days ago in Australia's Davis Cup victory in Adelaide, revealed on social media that he was in self-isolation after contracting Covid-19.

"I really applaud Thiago for coming out publicly - first tennis player, that's not easy," Davenport told the Tennis Channel.

"But I know there's a lot of players going through a lot right now in Italy and Spain and France and I think, when this is all said and done, we're going to hear a lot of almost horror stories from a lot of these players of what they're going through right now.

"I think this will be a huge wake-up call to all the players, if they weren't already alarmed by this virus.

"Or for some of the players that were still confused over why tour events that have been cancelled for the next couple of weeks also.

"It's going to be really hard. I really don't think he's the only player who has it. We have so many players all over the world.

"All these countries that are struggling so vitally right now."

The 20-year-old world No.114 Seyboth Wild - who also won his maiden ATP title this month in Santiago - said on Twitter he'd been taking care of himself and following doctor's instructions.

Acclaimed American coach Paul Annacone, the former mentor to all-time greats Pete Sampras and Roger Federer, said the revelation was a major concern - and warning - for a sport, which like all others, was universally on hold.

"This is one of the problems that we're facing in tennis and why the delay is going to be really challenging," Annacone said.

"It's an individual, international sport. We are on planes SO much, travelling the globe, so many different continents so that not only are we susceptible but what we're finding out now is that there's a lot of pathways to pass this [disease] on to others.

"So we have to be really careful."

Although Seyboth Wild is officially the first tennis player to test positive to coronavirus, Australian Bernard Tomic 10 days ago reported to having "all the symptoms" before moving into self isolation in Miami.

"Look, let's be honest, there are a lot of tennis players that have done a lot of travelling this year," Annacone told the Tennis Channel.

"So we've got to be smart, we've got to self-isolate and we've got to do everything we can to try to wrestle this to at least neutrality for the time being."


EPL clubs supporting frontline workers

English Premier League clubs have announced plans to offer support to frontline health workers who are battling the coronavirus outbreak.

Brighton have started an initiative for clubs in the Premier League, English Football League, Scotland and Northern Ireland to donate 1,000 tickets for future matches to frontline NHS staff.

Seagulls chief executive and deputy chairman Paul Barber proposed a club-to-club baton system and nominated Bournemouth, who said they would match Brighton's pledge.

Barber said: "We are working on a range of things across all areas of the community and I hope this will just be the start.

"We fully appreciate football is the last thing on anyone's minds at this moment, but we feel this is a small way in which we can show our gratitude for those NHS staff on the frontline, who are fighting the battle on behalf of everyone and give them something to look forward to."

Bournemouth chairman Jeff Mostyn said: "We are absolutely delighted to match Brighton's gesture and commit to 1,000 tickets, and we will pass the baton to another club with the aim of reaching a significant target, so football as a whole, can show it's appreciation for our country's NHS workers."

Watford have offered the use of their Vicarage Road stadium to the nearby Watford General Hospital 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.

"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."


'All options on table' for Tokyo dates

The head of the global Olympic movement has said that the rescheduled Tokyo Games faced "thousands" of logistical and financial problems, but could go ahead before the northern summer of 2021.

Though most people have assumed the Games will be held around roughly the same July-August timetable as they were planned for this year, International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach said earlier dates in 2021 were possible.

"The agreement is that we want to organise these Games at the latest in the (northern) summer 2021," he said.

"This is not restricted just to the summer months. All the options are on the table including the summer 2021."

Bach said he could not guarantee all elements would remain as initially planned after the decision to postpone the Games from their original date in July-August this year.

He said he did not know what would happen with the athletes' village, for example, where apartments were set to be sold after the Games, at the back end of 2020.

"This is one of the many thousands of questions this task force will have to address.

"We hope and we will do whatever we can so that there is an Olympic village, the village is where the heart of the Games beat," he said.


Super League players set for unpaid leave

Super League players have been warned they face being placed on unpaid leave as clubs battle to survive the financial onslaught of the coronavirus.

Clubs are planning to introduce furloughing for both employees and players during the enforced lay-off, but executive chairman Robert Elstone remains confident all 12 clubs will be ready to resume.

In a media briefing conducted online, Elstone said: "We're looking at all sorts of cost-cutting, saving measures.

"Super League has spent a week looking at every single line in its budget. We're doing all we can to ensure clubs are able to pull through this in the best possible shape.

"Clearly furloughing was a very welcome initiative the clubs put on the table.

"I think every club and Super League is looking very closely at how that allows us to get through this situation.

"We've spent an awful lot of time looking at our staff base and looking at furloughing as an option for a large number of our employees.

"We have to do that professionally and sympathetically and that principle applies across all clubs who I know are speaking to their employees about looking at furloughing. They're doing that sensibly and collaboratively.

"It is an opportunity that will allow clubs and Super League to protect themselves economically over a difficult period ahead.

"We're all sharing best practice on what furloughing might look like and I think there are more announcements expected.

"We are speaking to professional advisers about what it means."

With no matchday income and other sources of revenue severely impacted, it is thought some clubs could soon be on the brink of collapse without financial aid, but Elstone believes all 12  in Super League will be around for the resumption, whenever that comes.

"Right now absolutely yes," he said. "We have added the complications of a French team and a Canadian team with different Government advice that needs to be managed.

"But our big priority right now is economic survival for us and for our clubs and everything we're doing is about that.

"So we are looking very closely at the support the Government is offering all businesses to make sure we're as well placed as we can be to access that as quickly as we can be.

"The good news is that everybody is working together to find a solution. There are all sorts of options."


England rugby union bosses take pay cut

The RFU's executive team will take a pay cut of more than 25 percent as part of efforts to mitigate the effects of heavy losses over the next 18 months.

The governing body was already expecting to make a loss in 2020 due to the costs of last summer's Rugby World Cup campaign, and only hosting two Six Nations games, but that has escalated significantly because of the coronavirus crisis.

Chief executive Bill Sweeney said in a statement: "Based on our planning assumption, we estimate RFU revenue losses over the next 18 months to be approximately STG50 million [NZ$100 million] and have a firm plan in place to mitigate this.

"The RFU executive team will be taking a cut in remuneration in excess of 25 percent. In addition, combined board fees will be reduced by 75 percent."

Sweeney also announced a funding package worth STG7 million (NZ$14 million) to provide support for community rugby clubs in England, including STG5 million (NZ$10 million) in loans.

The RFU will provide an update in mid-April on whether to end the season early.


NBA star reveals mum is in coronavirus coma

Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns is urging fans on social media to protect themselves, after his mother was placed in a medically induced coma as she battles coronavirus.

Towns said in an emotional video posted to his Instagram page that both of his parents went to the hospital after feeling ill for a few days.

While his father was discharged to quarantine, the health of his mother, Jacqueline Cruz, "kept getting worse" because her cough and fever weren't improving.

The Timberwolves confirmed to ESPN that Cruz has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

"She just wasn't getting better," the 24-year-old Towns said.

"She was very uncomfortable. Her lungs were getting worse, her cough was getting worse.

"She was deteriorating and we always felt that the next medicine would help. 

"This is the one that's going to get it done. This mixture is going to get it done."

Towns said that he hopes his story helps others during the coronavirus pandemic and that "everyone understands the severity of what's happening in the world right now."

Towns' club issued a statement that read: "The Timberwolves organization extends its support and prayers to Jackie and the entire Towns family during this difficult time.

"Jackie is a part of our extended family and we, along with the rest of the NBA and its fans, will fight this battle with the Towns family.

"We are proud of Karl's commitment to helping others, most recently with his donation of $100,000 to Mayo Clinic to further testing for COVID-19 ... Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone impacted by this pandemic."