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The Sporting Calendar State of Play: What We Know So Far
The Bundesliga became the first major European football league to allow clubs to resume training this week. Players gathered in small, separated groups in a bid to work on their fitness and technique ahead of a return to action. It sparked optimism among fans that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that live sport could finally return in the not too distant future. On that note, we have analysed the state of play in all the key sports that fans are currently missing.
Right now, the only football taking place is in Belarus and Nicaragua. With all due respect to the likes of Dinamo Minsk and Real Esteli, fans are desperate for the return of big games featuring household names. News from Germany is reasonably optimistic, as players hope to be back in full training soon and then playing matches again as early as next month. Premier League chiefs have advised clubs to prepare their players for a return to full training by the end of May. Some reports claim the season could resume in June, probably behind closed doors.
The Champions League and Europa League campaigns could be finished within a two-week window in August, according to media reports this week. UEFA chiefs hope that domestic seasons will be wrapped up by the end of July, allowing the remaining European games to take place without fans and at neutral grounds. There are four second legs of last-16 ties still to be played: Bayern Munich v Chelsea, Barcelona v Napoli, Manchester City v Real Madrid and Juventus v Lyon. The Europa League last 16 second legs are still yet to be played.
“It is an extraordinary situation we are in, so we are flexible on dates and kick-off times, said UEFA president Alesaknder Ceferin. “We are confident that football can restart in the months to come - with conditions that will be dictated by public authorities - and believe that any decision of abandoning domestic competitions is premature.” The FA Cup is in the quarter-final stage, with seven fixtures remaining. Euro 2020 was pushed back to next year, the 2019/20 season could run until mid-July and then allow a four-week break until the 2020/21 campaign begins on 8 August. However, that would throw transfer plans and contract renewals into chaos, so there needs to be some leeway from the authorities.
The Open Championship has been cancelled, meaning there will just be three majors in 2020. The Masters was scheduled to run in March, but that has now been pushed back to 12-15 November. The US Open is now set to take place at Winged Foot in New York from 17-20 September, while the US PGA Championship has been moved from May to 3-9 August at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. World number one Rory McIlroy is excited by the prospect of the Masters taking place later in the year, as he believes the pressure will be off and he has a better chance of clinching that elusive green jacket.
The end of the National Hunt season was wiped out and racing fans had to content themselves by watching a virtual Grand National earlier this month. The start of the 2020 flat season has also been heavily disrupted. The Guineas meeting at Newmarket was called off, the Derby at Epsom was cancelled and there is talk of Royal Ascot being held behind closed doors in June.
Racing in Ireland is also on hold, but it has continued in South Africa, Hong Kong and Australia during the current lockdown. A number of US races have also taken place, although the Kentucky Derby has been pushed back to September, while the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes were also postponed. There is talk of a limited programme returning behind closed doors in Germany next month, and England could follow suit later in the summer. There is still a chance that the 1000 Guineas, 2000 Guineas and the Derby can be held later in the year.
England were sitting top of the Six Nations table when the action was called off last month. There is now talk of a second Six Nations being played in November as authorities try to mitigate the financial blow that the sport has suffered as a result of the lockdown. The All Blacks, Wallabies and Springboks are all slated to tour Europe for the autumn Tests, but if that is not possible then another Six Nations could be held. The Super Rugby season was put on hold, and the Australians may call off their tour in order to complete the season. In total, there are 55 Test matches featuring Tier 1 nations still to be completed in 2020, and it is unlikely that they will all be played.
County champions Essex are still planning for a truncated season and fans are hoping for some exciting Twenty20 Blast action later this year. A revised fixture list is due to be presented to the England Cricket Board on 23-24 April, and we should have a better idea of how 2020 will play out then. England limited overs captain Eoin Morgan is hopeful that cricket can return behind closed doors soon. “Sport could play a huge role in uplifting the world and people’s perspective on things,” he said. The IPL is among the tournaments that have been postponed, but organisers say they will keep monitoring developments.
Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time since World War II following an emergency meeting at the All England Club. The French Open was postponed to 20 September, which would come after the US Open. All ATP Tour events were suspended for six weeks and the WTA Tour was put on hold for five weeks, and those suspensions could be extended.
The NBA was suspended indefinitely in March, but organisers are now considering a 25-day training programme in a bid to get players ready for a return to action. The NHL season was also suspended, and the MLB season is yet to start. The NFL season does not begin for several months.
The Olympic Games have been pushed back to 2020, while the UFC has finally stopped hosting events after pressure from Disney and ESPN. Many Formula 1 races have been called off, and the Tour de France is now set to be postponed after the French government extended a ban on mass gatherings.
Anthony Joshua’s world title fight against Kubrat Pulev has also been put on hold, while Tyson Fury’s trilogy fight against Deontay Wilder was postponed too.