The sporting calendar has been thrown into uncertainty as the rapidly escalating coronavirus pandemic causes mass chaos around the globe.
Coronavirus suspends NBA
Already the NBA has announced it is suspending its season indefinitely, following the news that one of the biggest names in the sport, Utah centre Rudy Gobert, had tested positive to coronavirus, while the NHL is considering its position.
With the Tokyo Olympics just four months away, a gathering of more than 10,000 athletes from more than 200 nations seems almost reckless, and that’s not taking into account the massive numbers of support staff and spectators who will also descend on the Japanese capital.
Long-serving IOC member Dick Pound recently said that a decision on the future of the games could be put off until May, but the speed at which events have escalated this week might bring matters to a head much earlier than anticipated.
NRL and AFL
On the home front, the NRL season kicks off tonight, while the AFL season gets underway next week. The prospect either code would hold games with crowds locked out seemed fanciful just days ago, but with every passing hour the unthinkable becomes more likely. And a game without crowds may just be the best-case scenario. Should players test positive the NRL or AFL would have little option but to follow the NBA’s lead and suspend the season.
Melbourne has announced it’s segregating its teams, with the AFL and AFLW squads to train in different locations, while Richmond has closed its club to external visitors. AFL umpires have also been told to train alone, rather than holding their usual group sessions.
Melbourne is also the focus of much attention as debate continues over the viability of this weekend’s Australian Formula One Grand Prix. Already three team members have been placed in quarantine while they await the outcome of coronavirus tests, with the possibility the race could be cancelled should they test positive.
Rumours swept through the tennis world early on Thursday suggesting the ATP and WTA were on the verge of announcing a six week suspension of the tour, which would mean the Miami Open and the Monte-Carlo Masters, both top-tier ATP 1000 events, would be postponed or cancelled, as well as the Barcelona Open.
Such a move would also throw into doubt the French Open, scheduled to take place in Paris in late-May. Overnight the ITF announced the postponement of the inaugural Fed Cup finals, that were to take place in Budapest in mid-April.
The announcement by US President Donald Trump that those travelling from Europe will be banned from entering the United States for a month will also have implications for the first golf major of the year, the US Masters.
While most of the world’s top players are currently in Florida ahead of the prestigious Player’s Championship, any player currently in Europe who’s qualified for the Masters faces the prospect of missing the event, should it even go ahead.
And even if the tournament can be played as scheduled over the Easter weekend, will it have to take place on an empty course? One of the things that makes the Masters so special is the roars from fans as the tournament reaches its climax on Sunday. Think back to Tiger Woods’ magical victory last year, and how flat that would have been had it taken place with not a single spectator in attendance.
The European football leagues are also facing a period of uncertainty. Italy has already suspended all sports until at least April, while a match between Manchester City and Arsenal had to be cancelled after it was confirmed the owner of Greek team that recently played the Gunners had tested positive to coronavirus.
March is traditionally a quiet month for cricket, but it hasn’t escaped the impact of the pandemic. The Chappell-Hadlee one-day series between Australia and New Zealand gets under way in Sydney tomorrow, while the ICC board meeting scheduled for later this month is also in doubt. According to ESPNCricinfo, that meeting was to be key to the process of deciding host nations for future World Cup events.
Regardless of how the next few days unfold, sport is likely to look very different over the coming months.