Coronavirus hits sport: Tour de France focused on postponement over cancellation

Tour de France organisers are focusing on a postponement of this year's race rather than a cancellation due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to an email seen by Reuters, which was sent to the publishers of the official Tour programme.

The Tour's main publisher said in the email it was "freezing the administrative aspects of our collaboration" ahead of the sport's most prestigious race which is due to run from June 27-July 19.

"The unpredictable nature of the global crisis that we are all caught up in means that we will have to be patient until there's an official announcement of [Tour organisers] ASO about the 2020 race, bearing in mind that the current focus is on a postponement until later in the summer rather than a cancellation," the publishing arm of L'Equipe newspaper, which is owned by the same family as the Tour de France organisers, wrote.

Tour de France organisers declined to comment.

The Tokyo Olympics, soccer's European Championship, Wimbledon and French Open tennis, and golf's British Open are among the major sporting events this year which have been postponed or cancelled.

Postponing cycling's greatest stage race would be a major challenge for organisers as some 4500 people - riders, sponsors, organisers and media - are directly involved in the three-week event.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) said last month that the grands tours (France, Italy, Spain) and the major one-day races would have priority on a revised scheduled once racing resumes.

May's Giro d'Italia, as well as the Milan-Sanremo, Tour of Flanders, Paris- Roubaix and Liege-Bastogne-Liege classics, have already been postponed.

Briton Geraint Thomas, the 2018 Tour winner, said he hoped the race would go ahead.

"That's a bit of a shame at the moment but there's a lot of serious things which need to take precedence over that," the Team INEOS rider told the BBC.

"It is a shame but hopefully it can go ahead. Obviously there are bigger things that need to be sorted out first but ... tt's the pinnacle of the sport, it's what it's all about. I'm not sure when but hopefully it goes ahead this year."

Since its inception in 1903, the Tour de France has only been cancelled amid the two World Wars with no races held from 1915-18 and 1940-46.

F1 team Haas furloughs UK staff

The US-owned Haas Formula One team have furloughed most of their British-based employees, meaning half of the grid has now taken similar measures in response to the new coronavirus pandemic.

McLaren, Williams, Racing Point and Renault had already furloughed staff.

Seven of the 10 teams are based in Britain, with only champions Mercedes and Red Bull yet to announce salary reductions.

Romain Grosjean.
Romain Grosjean. Photo credit: Reuters

Haas drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean have also taken paycuts.

Under the British government's furlough scheme, employers can claim for 80 per cent of employees' usual monthly wage costs up to £2500 (NZ$5000) per month.

Formula One teams are currently on a mandatory factory shutdown, brought forward from August in the hope of using the European summer to reschedule some of the postponed races.

The season has yet to start, and Formula One bosses are looking at a range of options, including holding races into the New Year if necessary.


Rogers Cup postponed until 2021

The women's Canadian Open tournament in Montreal in August has been postponed until 2021 due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Women's Tennis Association has announced.

The WTA said on Saturday it had postponed the tournament as a result of the measures imposed by the Quebec government prohibiting holding events until August 31, 2020.

"The WTA reiterates that health and safety will always be the top priority. We understand this was a difficult decision and we look forward to being back in Montreal in 2021," the WTA said in a statement.

"As it currently stands, the WTA Tour is suspended through July 12. We will continue to work with our tournament partners in evaluating when we will be able to get back on the court. We do not foresee any further decisions until next month."

The men's side of the Rogers Cup is scheduled for Toronto on the same dates.

It is, for now, still on the schedule of the ATP, which has suspended all competition until the end of June.

The Rogers Cup, on both the men's and women's side, is part of the elite global series below only the four grand slam tournaments.


Rangers question Scottish league boss' integrity 

Rangers have called for the suspension of Scottish Professional Football League 

(SPFL) chief Neil Doncaster saying they have evidence that raised "serious concerns" over the league's voting process to end the current season due to the coronavirus crisis.

Scotland's 42 professional clubs voted digitally on the SPFL's proposal to end the season across the lower tiers and the Premiership if and when it becomes clear the season cannot be completed.

Championship (second tier) side Dundee are yet to vote and their vote will decide whether the Premiership standings are decided on a points-per-game basis. 

Rangers are currently second in the standings, 13 points behind Celtic with a game in hand.

"We have been presented with evidence via a whistleblower that raises serious concerns surrounding the SPFL's processes relating to its stewardship of the voting on the resolution presented to member clubs," Rangers said in a statement on Saturday.

"Rangers... attempted to discuss this evidence with SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster, who initially refused to do so. The SPFL followed up that call with an email, which we believe was a thinly disguised attempt to silence legitimate concerns.

"Rangers will not be bullied into silence. We believe it is in the interests of all Scottish clubs and supporters that the alarming evidence is addressed as quickly as possible."

SPFL did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Rangers interim chairman Douglas Park said he was shocked by the lack of leadership from the SPFL.

"If ever there was a time for complete openness and transparency, it is now," he said.

"Crucial decisions are being made on the issues of promotion and relegation behind closed doors and without proper time for consideration or debate."

The SPFL said on Friday that 10 Premiership clubs had voted in favour of the resolution while seven from the Championship had done the same.


Nicklaus hopes for PGA Memorial in July

Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods
Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods

Golf's prestigious Memorial tournament is likely to slot into the calendar on the July dates of the cancelled British Open, tournament host Jack Nicklaus says.

Nicklaus thinks it unlikely the Memorial can be staged in its original June 4-7 timeslot due to the coronavirus outbreak gripping the United States and much of the world.

Instead, the PGA Tour plans to postpone the event until July 16-19, Nicklaus says.

The tour's website currently lists a "potential" tournament on those dates. Speaking on a podcast, Nicklaus sounded flexible and willing to 

work with the tour.

"They're looking at probably British Open (week)," the 18-time major champion said.

"Right now the Memorial tournament is still on in its regular date. Whether we'll be ready on the first of June, I seriously doubt it.

"Whether we'll be ready in the middle of July, I don't know but we certainly hope."

The Memorial, founded by Nicklaus in 1976 at his home Muirfield Village course in Dublin, Ohio, is one of the biggest tournaments outside the majors.

Tiger Woods has won the tournament a record five times.

The PGA Tour, as with the rest of the sports world, is having difficulty planning for a resumption given the coronavirus crisis.

It hasn't played since March 12, when it shut down after the first round of the Players Championship.

The official schedule still has competition resuming at the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas, on May 21-24.

While the British Open has been cancelled, the other three majors have been postponed.

The PGA Championship was rescheduled for August 6-9, the US Open for September 17-20 and the Masters for November 12-15.