Coronavirus hits sport: Indianapolis 500 postponed until August

England head coach Eddie Jones is the first international rugby coach to agree to a pay cut during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Jones has joined the Rugby Football Union's (RFU) highest-paid executives in accepting a 25 percent reduction to help limit the financial impact of the global crisis. 

According to the Guardian, Jones is the highest-paid coach in the international game, earning £750,000 (NZ$1.5m) annually.  

That means Jones will lose £187,500 (NZ$375,000) of his salary. 

"When I contacted Eddie regarding our executive pay reduction proposals, he immediately agreed," RFU chief executive officer Bill Sweeney told the BBC.

Jones would have been due a sizeable bonus at the end of June, after guiding England to the Rugby World Cup final.

The RFU also proposes a salary reduction across the board for other employees, as it faces revenue losses of up to £50m (NZ$100m) over the next 18 months, due to COVID-19. 

Earlier this week, All Blacks hooker Dane Coles told NZME that he was more than happy to take a pay cut to save rugby in New Zealand.

"Rugby players in New Zealand might have to prepare for that, but that's just my opinion," he said. 

"You don't want New Zealand Rugby to go under. It would be a bad thing, so hopefully, the rugby players around New Zealand can do their part."

Kiwi Scott Dixon has won the Indianapolis 500 once.
Kiwi Scott Dixon has won the Indianapolis 500 once. Photo credit: Reuters

Indianapolis 500 postponed until August

The famous Indianapolis 500 has been postponed until August 24 (NZ time), because of the coronavirus pandemic, IndyCar said on Friday.

The crown jewel of American open-wheel racing, which is traditionally staged each US Memorial Day weekend, was originally scheduled for May 25.

The race usually draws 350,000 fans to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Roger Penske, who took over IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last November, called May his favourite time of year and said he was disappointed to add the Indy 500 to the list of major sporting events hit by the coronavirus.

"The health and safety of our event participants and spectators is our top priority, and we believe that postponing the event is the responsible decision, with the conditions and restrictions we are facing," Penske said in a statement.

"We will continue to focus on ways we can enhance the customer experience in the months ahead, and I'm confident we will welcome fans with a transformed facility and a global spectacle, when we run the world's greatest race."

According to IndyCar, enhanced measures like higher frequency of cleaning, more hand-sanitising stations, and reducing hand-to-hand interactions between staff and customers will be in place, when activity resumes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Kiwi Scott Dixon has won the race once, back in 2008.

Rafael Nadal calls on Spanish athletes to raise money for coronavirus fight 

Rafael Nadal has issued a rallying cry and called on Spanish athletes to help raise €11 million (NZ$20m) to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Spain has the fourth-most confirmed cases of COVID-19 with more than 56,000 cases and 4000 deaths. 

On Friday (NZ time), the Spanish Government voted to extend the coronavirus lockdown to at least April 12, due to the rapidly increasing numbers. 

In a video, Nadal said he reached out to former NBA star Pau Gasol about what they could do to help. The pair decided to raise money to support the Red Cross and help supply medical equipment, build hospital infrastructures, as well as helping vulnerable families and creating brand new accommodation.

Rafael Nadal.
Rafael Nadal. Photo credit: Reuters

"I think that athletes are what we are, in large part, thanks to your support and now is the time that athletes cannot fail you," said Nadal.

"That's why I decided to call my friend, Pau. Together, we came to the conclusion of starting this initiative to which we trust that all Spanish sport will unite and give a good example of unity.

"We're teaming up with the Red Cross Respond project. In this project, the Red Cross is supplying medical equipment, they are building hospital infrastructures, they are helping the most vulnerable families, and they are also creating accommodation for special groups and many other things.

"The objective is clear - to get 11 million euros for helping 1,350,000 people. We trust that all Spanish sports will come together and support the initiative to achieve our goal. 

"Pau and I have already made our donation. We rely on you, because surely this is going to be our best victory."

Nadal's donation comes after Roger Federer and wife Mirka donated 1m Swiss francs (NZ$1.74m) to help vulnerable families in Switzerland.

The Swiss chose the charity 'Winterhilfe', which aims to help "working poor families, who are experiencing existential loss of income, due to the current situation with the coronavirus".

"These are challenging times for everyone and nobody should be left behind," Federer wrote on Instagram.

"Our contribution is just a start. We hope that others might join in supporting more families in need. We must help families in need, quickly and bureaucratically.

"Mirka and I have donated one million Swiss francs to a newly established emergency assistance fund for families in Switzerland.

"The fund is managed by 'Winterhilfe', a trusted partner of our foundation and highly experienced to support vulnerable people for decades.

"From tomorrow March 26, the 'Fund for families in need' will be functional and ready to make contributions, such as vouchers for food and child care services."

Ticket sales on hold for Rugby League World Cup

Ticket sales for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup in England have been postponed to September, as organisers plan to make more than 20,000 available free to healthcare workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

With the sports calendar set to be jam packed next year as events are moved from 2020 due to the pandemic, organisers will give themselves until September to release the match schedule for the tournament, which had been due to be released next month.

"Other sports, clubs, leagues and events have been acutely impacted by COVID-19 and our planning needs to be aligned and proportionate with the global crisis and respectful of more immediate needs," Jon Dutton, Chief Executive of RLWC2021 announced on Friday. 

"We have done various aspects of scenario planning and we believe the current plan is the most suitable at this point, however we know we are required to be flexible and adapt as and when appropriate."

The opening match is at this stage scheduled for October 23, 2021 between hosts England and Samoa at St James' Park in Newcastle.

Dutton also confirmed 20,021 tickets would be handed out to healthcare workers, saying their "work, effort, dedication and sheer determination needs to be recognised and hopefully we can provide these local heroes and their families with something to look forward to next year".

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