Coronavirus: US Masters postponed, English Premier League suspended

The New Zealand Basketball League (NBL) has addressed the threat of COVID-19, by asking all players and team management arriving from overseas to self-isolate before joining teams.

More than 50 players across both the men's and women's leagues will arrive from overseas in coming weeks, including New Zealand citizens, and NBL general manager Justin Nelson doesn't want them showing up to practice without being cleared.

"The health and safety of our players, coaches and team staff is paramount, particularly at this time during our preparations for the coming season," said Nelson. "But it is also a business decision.

"We have seen other sports around the world suspending all activity when a player has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

"If a case was brought into the NBL community, it would affect the league's ability to play games. The ramifications of that possibility are significant and we are taking this very real threat seriously.

"It appears New Zealand is fortunate that cases have been kept to a minimum and people appear to be following self-isolation requests, if they feel unwell. 

"In the current climate, we may still be able to play a full season and broadcast all games. We are making this call to try and protect that." 

Round one of the NBL tips off on April 9.

US Masters golf tournament postponed 

Augusta National Golf Club has announced the 2020 Masters will be postponed, due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley revealed on Satuday (NZ time) that the Masters would be held at a later date, with some predicting that could be in September.

"Considering the latest information and expert analysis, we have decided, at this time, to postpone the Masters tournament," Ridley wrote.

"Ultimately, the health and well-being of everyone associated with these events, and the citizens of the Augusta community led us to this decision. We hope this postponement puts us in the best position to safely host the Masters tournament and our amateur events at some later date."

The Masters hasn't been interrupted since World War II, when the tournament was cancelled from 1943-45.

A possible date for the Masters is early September, when conditions and weather are similar to April in the southeast of the United States.

The US PGA Tour Championship is scheduled for August 27-30 (local time) in Atlanta, Georgia, only two hours' drive from Augusta in the same state.

The news follows the US PGA Tour's cancellation of the prestigious Players Championship, which had already completed round one, as well as the next three tournaments leading up to the Masters.

Premier League and EFL postponed until April

All elite soccer matches in England, including the Premier League, have been suspended until April 5 (NZ time), due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Following a meeting of shareholders today, it was unanimously decided to suspend the Premier League, with the intention of returning on April 5," said the Premier League.

The English Football League, which oversees all professional tiers of English soccer below the top-flight, had announced the suspension of all football activity earlier in the day.

The Football Association (FA) said the professional game in England would be postponed until April 3 at the earliest.

England's upcoming friendly internationals against Italy and Denmark at Wembley on March 28 and April 1 will not take place, the FA said in a statement.

Meanwhile, all matches in UEFA competitions, including the Champions League and Europa League, will not take place next week due to the virus, the governing body announced.

"Further decisions on when these matches take place will be communicated in due course," it said.

The English shutdown follows news Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta and Chelsea forward Callum Hudson-Odoi have contracted COVID-19.

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta. Photo credit: Reuters

Three Leicester players are also being tested, while on Friday, Everton announced its squad was in self-isolation, after a player reported symptoms consistent with the virus.

Watford said one of their players was also awaiting test results, while Bournemouth have placed goalkeeper Artur Boruc and four members of staff under isolation, after displaying symptoms.

The Premier League joins counterparts in Italy, Spain and Scotland in suspending its season.

The German football league has also suggested suspending the Bundesliga and second division from next week until April 3.

Start of IndyCar season suspended

IndyCar has suspended the opening four races of the season, due to the coronavirus.

The Grand Prix of St Petersburg had been scheduled for Monday. The three-day event typically draws more than 130,000 fans, but IndyCar had previously announced that the race would be held without spectators, because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Grand Prix of Long Beach, scheduled for April 20, had already been postponed, because of a ban on large-scale gatherings in the California city.

The next scheduled race is the GMR Grand Prix on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 9, where Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin is expected to make his debut.

Wales v Scotland in Six Nations postponed

Wales' Six Nations clash against Scotland in Cardiff on Sunday has been postponed in a U-turn from Friday's insistence that the game would go ahead.

Less than five hours after the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) said the Principality Stadium encounter remained on, the governing body announced its postponement.

"The Welsh Rugby Union has maintained an open dialogue with, and continued to seek advice and direction from the Welsh Government and other stakeholders, including the Six Nations, on this fast-moving issue," says the WRU.

"Whilst medical advice remains consistent, we have decided that it is in the best interests of supporters, players and staff to fall in line with recent measures taken across the UK and global sports industries".

The match becomes the fourth gamepostponed in this season's Six Nations.

Ireland's games against Italy and France had already been called off, along with England's appointment with Italy in Rome.

Had the test gone ahead, Alun Wyn Jones would have equalled Richie McCaw's test record of 148.
Had the test gone ahead, Alun Wyn Jones would have equalled Richie McCaw's test record of 148. Photo credit: Getty

No dates for rearranged games have yet been announced, although late October is thought to be an option.

Had the game gone ahead, Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones would have equalled the world record held by New Zealand's World Cup-winning skipper Richie McCaw of 148 test match appearances.

But that feat will now be put on hold, probably until July, when Wales play tests against New Zealand in Auckland and Wellington.

F1 season to begin in May, Bahrain and Vietnam races called off

Formula One bosses are set to delay the start of the new season until May, after the Bahrain and Vietnam Grands Prix were postponed.

The sport's traditional Australian Grand Prix curtain-raiser at Melbourne's Albert Park, due to take place this weekend, was officially axed by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) on Friday, after a McLaren mechanic tested positive for coronavirus and the team withdrew.

Next weekend's behind-closed-doors race in Bahrain and the inaugural round in Vietnam's capital Hanoi, which had been pencilled in for April 6, have since been called off.

"Following the announcement of the Australian Grand Prix's cancellation this week, and the ongoing and fluid nature of the COVID-19 situation globally, F1, the FIA and the promoters have taken these decisions in order to ensure the health and safety of the travelling staff, championship participants and fans, which remains our primary concern," a statement read.

Fans react to the Australian Grand Prix getting cancelled.
Fans react to the Australian Grand Prix getting cancelled. Photo credit: Getty

"F1 and the FIA continue to work closely with the race promoters in Bahrain and Vietnam, and the local authorities to monitor the situation and take the appropriate amount of time to study the viability of potential alternative dates for each Grand Prix later in the year, should the situation improve.

"As a result, Formula 1 and the FIA expect to begin the championship in Europe at the end of May, but given the sharp increase in Covid-19 cases in Europe in recent days, this will be regularly reviewed."

The Dutch Grand Prix - the first in Holland for 36 years - is due to take place on May 4, but that may now be moved to August, with the sport's customary summer break scrapped. As many as 18 races may be staged in six months.

Scheduled to be the fourth race, the Chinese Grand Prix was postponed in February, after government officials said it could not go ahead.

Formula E races are also impacted, with the season suspended for two months. 

Start of Indian Premier League delayed 

The start of the Indian Premier League (IPL), considered to be a leading tournament for Twenty20 cricket, has been delayed from March 29 to April 15, due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The statement by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) came hours after authorities in Delhi announced that they will not allow any sporting activity in the national capital, due to the health crisis.

"The BCCI has decided to suspend IPL 2020 until April 15, 2020, as a precautionary measure against the ongoing coronavirus situation," the board said.

The BCCI said it was "taking all necessary steps to ensure that all people related to IPL, including fans, have a safe cricketing experience".

Six New Zealaders are due to play in the IPL this season - Jimmy Neesham (Kings XI Punjab), Lockie Ferguson (Kolkata Knight Riders), Mitchell McClenaghan and Trent Boult (Mumbai Indians), Kane Williamson (Sunrisers Hyderabad) and Mitchell Santner (Chennai Super Kings).

Boston, London Marathons postponed 

April's Boston and London Marathons have been postponed and rearranged for September 15 and October 5 respectively, because of the coronavirus outbreak.

On Saturday, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced the race would be delayed for the first time in its 124-year history. The race sees more than 30,000 runners from 120 countries.

"Our priority right now is the health and safety of our runners… we want to keep people safe," said Walsh. 

The London Marathon will be postponed for the first time since its launch in 1981.

"The world is in an unprecedented situation, grappling with a global pandemic of Covid-19, and public health is everyone's priority," said event director Hugh Brasher.

Cycling's Giro d'Italia postponed

This year's Giro d'Italia cycling race has been postponed, due to coronavirus fears, race organisers confirmed on Saturday. 

No new date for the first Grand Tour of the season, originally set for May 9-31, has been announced.

On Friday, Hungary's government announced the three opening stages of the race, set for the country, had been cancelled, due to emergency measures introduced in Budapest.

"[Organisers in Italy and Hungary] have agreed that both parties are determined to work together to enable Giro d'Italia to depart from Hungary at a later time," Hungarian organisers said.

Other sporting events affected by the coronavirus epidemic this week, include:

  • The NRL will continue as normal, but starting on March 19, games will be played behind closed doors.
  • The US Masters at Augusta National has been postponed, the tournament's first postponement since World War II.
  • The Formula One season has been suspended until May with races in Bahrain and Vietnam postponed. 
  • All games in England's Premier League, EFL, FA Women's Super League and Women's Championship are postponed, along with matches in Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland.
  • Germany's Bundesliga and France's Ligue 1 join the Dutch Eredivisie, Spannish La Liga and Portugal's Primeira Liga to suspend fixtures. 
  • The start of the Indian Premier League has been delayed 
  • The Football Ferns' April 11 match against Japan has been cancelled. 
  • The inaugural Piha Pro surfing event has been cancelled due to coronavirus. 
  • The Blackcaps' Chappell-Hadlee series against Austraia will be played behind closed doors. 
  • 'March Madness' - arguably the United States' biggest sporting event, along with the Super Bowl - has been cancelled.
  • Tennis' ATP Tour has shut down for six weeks. 
  • The Pro14 rugby season has been suspended indefinitely.
  • Kiwi NBA star Steven Adams was caught up in the US coronavirus scare, when the scheduled game between his Oklahoma City Thunder v Utah Jazz was abandoned just before tipoff.
  • The NBA has suspended the current season due to the coronavirus outbreak. Other American leagues include the NHL, MLS and MLR.
  • Black Sticks men and women will not travel to Europe for the latest round of Pro League games in Netherlands and Germany.
  • NZ Breakers and Tall Blacks star Corey Webster has been derailed for a second time, with the Italian basketball league closed down by the epidemic.
  • WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) has requested its performers decline handshakes with fans at autograph and meet & greet sessions.
  • All Six Nations rugby matches due to take place on March 15 and 16 have been postponed. Wales were due to host Scotland, Italy were facing England and France were hosting Ireland.
  • The Olympic flame lighting ceremony at ancient Olympia on March 19 will take place without spectators, only 100 accredited guests from the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo 2020 organising committee.
  • FIFA 2022 World Cup Asian qualifiers scheduled for March 23-31 and June 1-9 have been postponed.

More to come