Government officials are warning that coronavirus restrictions could continue for another six months and yet we’re continually hearing plans to conclude the football season.
Initial hopes that the domestic campaign in England, and perhaps the European competitions as well, could be completed by the summer now look increasingly optimistic.
With social distancing restrictions making any sport impossible, football’s authorities face a reckoning over whether to simply cancel the season right away or play to a finish when the situation becomes safer.
Liverpool are on the verge of winning the Premier League – but will they get to lift the trophy?
But, as Sportsmail revealed on Tuesday, the Premier League are working on an ambitious plan to restart the season behind closed doors on the first weekend of May and finish it on July 12.
Scrapping the season and expunging all the results so far would lead to an avalanche of lawsuits, especially from those who’ll miss out on silverware or promotion.
But restarting the season, even behind closed doors with players isolated in quarantine camps, raises all manner of health issues.
So how should football proceed? We asked our reporters for their opinions on how the season should be concluded and how the key issues should be dealt with.
CHRIS WHEELER – FINISHING SEASON IS UNFEASIBLE
My initial reaction to football being shut down was this: there are more important issues affecting the world right now and, sadly, hopes of finishing the Premier League season are likely to have disappeared long before the coronavirus does.
My view is unchanged on both counts.
The daily bulletins on a pandemic gripping the world puts football into stark perspective and renders the debate about when – indeed if – to resume the 2019-20 campaign largely irrelevant. Still, here goes.
If a national lockdown is extended to at least three months and the football shutdown continues significantly beyond the current date of April 30, it’s hard to see how the season could be revived.
When would the Premier League come back? How long would it have to complete the remaining nine or 10 games of the season?
Football in England and beyond is on hold as the world deals with the deadly coronavirus
Putting aside the chaos it would cause in terms of players’ contracts, the transfer window and the Premier League’s £9.2billion TV deal, how would it work?
The government has talked about a gradual return to normality rather than an overnight easing of restrictions.
Would the players be able to resume training en masse with managers and coaching staff because, let’s face it, they would need a mini pre-season before playing competitive matches again after such a long lay-off?
Staging games behind closed doors would be preferable to no games at all, but as we witnessed with Manchester United’s Europa League tie in Linz earlier this month, even games with no fans can still involve several hundred people – players and staff from both clubs, officials, TV crews and police to ensure supporters don’t get in – which would be unacceptable in the current climate.
Unless we’re prepared to wait this thing out and finish off the season in mid-summer or as we head into autumn – severely impacting next season as well – I just don’t see how it would be feasible.
Manchester United’s Europa League game with LASK was played behind closed doors
In recent days, key figures in football – notably UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin – have begun to talk about the prospect of abandoning the season and I think that’s understandable.
Unfortunately I think the odds stacked against salvaging it are simply too great. The only option is to void the current campaign and start again with a clean slate in August or September.
That would be a nightmare scenario for the likes of Liverpool and Leeds, but I’m not sure we have any other choice. Start the 2020-21 season as we did the 2019-20 one and go again.
Some clubs will have dodged a bullet, others will cry foul. But we keep being told that these are unprecedented times, and it requires an unprecedented solution. There are more important things in life at the moment than football.
Leeds United are on course to return to the Premier League – but they could yet be denied
MIKE KEEGAN – RESTART WHEN IT’S SAFE
Why on earth should football be treated any differently than the rest of society?
I genuinely believe we will look on this part of our history in years to come and be ashamed that we placed so much attention on playing out the remainder of the season when the world is in the grip of a pandemic and people are gasping for their final breath in hospital.
Football, at a time like this, is not important. We follow the government rules until this dreadful storm is finally ridden out. If that means the season restarts in October then so be it. If that means next season needs to be cut short, so be it.
While the proposals to play behind closed doors and have squads staying in hotels are just that, they are impossible to manage. What about the cleaners? The receptionists? The maids? The chefs? What about their families?
A padlocked gate at Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium during the virus lockdown
I get that there is money and livelihoods at stake – there are in every industry, including journalism. But football must play by the same rules as everyone else.
And if Sky and BT do try to sue for breach of contract then good look to them when they put their case in front of a judge.
I am no legal expert but this has to be a force majeure – an unforeseen circumstance that has prevented a contract from being filled. And the PR surrounding such a move should be unpalatable.
Football should restart when it is safe to do so, and not a minute before. To suggest anything else is crass.
Our heroes are not the men and women paid to kick a bag of wind around a field, they are the doctors, nurses, supermarket workers, delivery drivers and everyone else who is working to keep the country healthy. Take as long as you need, football.
Wembley Stadium illuminated in blue as a thank you to NHS workers last Thursday night
JOE BERNSTEIN – THIS SEASON MUST BE COMPLETED
I am firmly of the belief that season 2019-20 must be completed no matter how far away in the future, even if it runs into 2021. There is no reason for it not to.
The Tokyo Olympics will still be marketed as the 2020 Games even though it will take the following year. Theoretical perfection has to go out the window.
The priority is the integrity of the league competition, clubs should be rewarded for seven months of good work and penalised for bad. That’s sport.
I don’t see the practical difficulties. We are already committed to having a World Cup during winter so lots of things are possible if there is a will.
To create room in the fixture list, you could sacrifice the month-long pre-season tours around the world. You could abandon the 2020-21 League Cup.
The League Cup, won this season by Manchester City, may have to be sacrificed next year
You could make the Champions League knockout stages one leg or have knockout games from the start rather than group stages.
All would be worthwhile to finish the season that, let’s face it, was 75 per cent complete already.
Will the clubs go for it? I’m not sure. Financially they have banked the 2019-20 season tickets and TV receipts. All they’ll care about is collecting for 2020-21.
But for me, pretending no football was played after August 2019 is akin to Bobby Ewing stepping out the shower in Dallas claiming the first few series were all a dream.
SAMI MOKBEL – FINISH SEASON WHEN SAFE FOR EVERYONE
The season, of course, should be finished. That’s what, as football supporters, we all want. But only if it is safe to do so.
And I mean safe for everyone – supporters, players, backroom staff, the grounds man, the tea lady – everyone. While the country remains in lockdown, even partially, no football should be played.
The idea that games can be played behind closed doors is criminal. Yes, it protects the fans – but what about the players? Don’t they count? People will say they earn fortunes, but what has got to do with their health?
Liverpool fans could face the frustration of seeing their record-breaking season expunged
If all that means the season should be voided, then so be it. Hopefully that scenario is avoided, but if there is no football played by mid-June a decision should be made to scrap the season.
One Premier League medic says ‘we’ll be dropping like flies’ if, as expected, players are asked to play two to three times a week to finish the season.
No matter how the season climaxes, there will be winners and losers. Of course, the fairest way to resolve the season is to complete it but if that is not possible then I believe this season and it’s results should be erased.
Liverpool, Leicester, Leeds and West Brom won’t like that. But it is what it is.
CRAIG HOPE – END SEASON OR PLAY BEHIND CLOSED DOORS
First of all, I do not see how football can be played in front of a crowd for the foreseeable future.
Remember, we are not going to wake up one day and coronavirus will be gone – social distancing is here to stay as a means of protection for some time yet.
That being the case, I believe there are only two options: either curtail this season or finish it behind closed doors.
A match in the Belarusian Premier League is played last weekend – Belarus is the only football league in Europe that has continued amid the pandemic
Of course, I would like to see this season played to its conclusion, I just do not believe it will be. Ever since the initial suspension I have feared that this campaign is done, and everything I have read and heard since has reinforced that opinion.
Aside from the logistical and health concerns, I honestly feel that, come the time when football does return, there will be little appetite to revisit a season from five, six, seven months previous.
A fresh start will be what the majority of people crave, especially given the hardship of what is almost certainly ahead of us.
But if, somehow, we can return to action before, say, June is out, then yes, let us find a way to finish this season in a condensed period, even if that is behind closed doors and live on television.
For now, the majority of Premier League clubs will want the same. Over time, however, I suspect attitudes will change and talk will turn to fitting next season into what already threatens to be a shortened calendar.
So how do you deal with relegation and promotion if we have seen the last of this season?
Arsenal, like most football clubs, have been forced to close their training ground
Why not promote the top two teams in each division (using a points-per-game ratio if needed) and do away with relegation. That would mean only the Premier League had bloated numbers – 22 teams.
To accommodate the four extra fixtures, remove the League Cup for next season, as well as FA Cup replays and the winter break.
This, of course, is assuming we are ready to return no later than August. As for now, the only certainty – in life and in football – is uncertainty.
DOMINIC KING – THIS SEASON SHOULD NOT BE VOIDED
One of the big questions I have had all along was answered in Sportsmail’s story by Martin Samuel and Matt Hughes.
The contractual demands of the TV companies – and the watertight nature of them – means the season is now effectively operating to a deadline of July 31.
My initial feeling was that there was no rush to get business concluded and a delay to this campaign could have a positive impact for the next two years, in that we could try seasons that ran from January to October to prepare for the 2022 World Cup.
Sky Sports and other broadcasters could demand as much £762m if the season is not finished
I am absolutely adamant, however, that the season should not be voided.
People would expect me to say this as the Merseyside Correspondent but Liverpool are the tip of this particular iceberg. What about Sheffield United, who can qualify for Europe?
What about Leeds, so desperate to end 16 years outside the Premier League? What about West Brom, who have benefited from Slaven Bilic’s sure touch? What about poor Barrow, who are dreaming of reaching Football League status?
If you void the season, do clubs give back all the season ticket revenue they took for 2019-2020 as none of the games will have counted?
Do subscribers to TV channels ask for refunds because the action that has been beamed into their living rooms has stood for nothing?
John Rooney and Jason Taylor of Barrow, who were bound for League Two before the lockdown
There will not be a unanimous verdict on this matter. Clubs who stand to benefit from the season being voided will argue vociferously for that outcome, those who are on the verge of achieving something significant will want the season played to a conclusion.
The safety of players and supporters is paramount and until social distancing measures are relaxed, we cannot think about playing football again – how, for example, could players do the basic process of training without coming into contact with each other?
Playing behind closed doors won’t look good aesthetically but these are extraordinary times and it could be that stadiums are out of bounds for spectators until 2021. We just don’t know.
If the 2019-2020 season can be played to a conclusion without any fans in the background, so be it.
The Champions League game between PSG and Borussia Dortmund was played in an empty stadium at the Parc des Princes in Paris
JACK GAUGHAN – HONOURS CANNOT BE HANDED OUT
If the league season was cancelled tomorrow then divisions should remain as they are. Not all teams have played the same amount of games.
As an example, Aston Villa have a game in hand at the Premier League’s foot so relegating them based on points accrued from one match fewer is absurd.
That does also mean, for me, that honours cannot be handed out either – however unfortunate and unlucky that may be to those teams currently topping their respective leagues.
There are far greater issues to be dealt with than sport right now and, while live games on television would offer a degree of escapism, the impact that might have on the emergency services is too much to bear.
Initially I backed the idea of behind-closed-doors matches but if the pandemic fails to slow in the coming weeks those would seem ill-advised.
Sheffield United will be eager to complete what has been an outstanding top flight season
If players are having to quarantine in the same hotels for weeks on end, you wonder whether it is all really worth it.
How long the authorities are willing to wait to make a definitive decision remains to be seen, and could become clearer by the end of this week.
Broadcasting contracts are a major problem, of course, and the ramifications of that will, be felt by almost every club.
As a result, the majority of Premier League clubs will have a willingness to find a solution, to finish the current campaign.
Those in the EFL might not be quite as anxious. Two-thirds of the pyramid are probably not hugely concerned about the integrity of competition on sporting grounds.
Slaven Bilic has West Bromwich Albion on course to return to the Premier League
Ultimately, if football is not ready to resume by the end of June – providing the United Kingdom finds itself in a stable position – then the focus perhaps ought to be on 2020-21 instead.
Additionally, that represents more clarity on player contracts and the transfer window moving forward.
DANIEL MATTHEWS – PLAY BEHIND CLOSED DOORS
Among the chaos, this much is clear: even in the past week, the goalposts have moved markedly. You imagine they will keep doing so for some time.
It’s no wonder trying to come up with solutions feels about as worthwhile as urinating into a particularly strong headwind.
When it was first suggested that games should be played behind-closed-doors, many argued that football needed fans.
It now seems obvious that only in empty stadiums can the Premier League hope to finish the current campaign. That seems the best possible outcome now. It’s not ideal, but what is in these times?
I initially saw no insurmountable problem in delaying the season a few weeks or months. I still don’t.
Bury have already gone to the wall this season and other EFL club could follow if a hardship fund isn’t put in place during the lockdown
Yes, the ripples will continue to be felt over upcoming seasons, but football’s calendar is ever changing, anyway. That really should be the least of people’s concerns.
The issue is whether even a belated finish will be safe. If it is, ending the domestic season over a few weeks seems the smoothest course to take – provided no player or worker is put at unnecessary risk of illness or injury.
Using World-Cup style quarantine camps is not the worst idea we’ve heard.
The same applies to the Champions League and Europa League. A skeletal, quick-fire end to the tournament would be ideal, but is inherently far more difficult because more countries need to be safe enough to take part.
Should the health crisis fail to improve towards the end of July, you would expect the implications on professional football to be low on the nation’s priorities.
Unfortunately, though, when you consider the sums involved – and the potential collateral damage to clubs and jobs at both ends – it’s obvious why that deadline matters. And why it must be met if possible.
Two mask-wearing fans pose for a selfie outside Newcastle United’s St James’ Park
The costs of cancelling the season could be eye-watering. And that’s before you try to work out the logistics over promotion, relegation etc.
Taking a points-per-game total seems the fairest solution of an awful situation. But, even then, you would imagine the clubs that lose out will not take the implications quietly.
At worst, many clubs will surely go under if masses of money isn’t made available. But even saving them is more complex than asking bigger clubs to cough up. Many of them will feel the pinch if this drags on. I simply can’t foresee any end to this which isn’t messy.
Not least because unanimity will surely be all-but impossible. For footballing and business reasons, everyone will be pulling their own way at a time that requires some compromise all around.
But hey, who knows, maybe football clubs, broadcasters, national associations, UEFA, FIFA, players, agents, and the emergency services will find some common ground to suit everyone. Sounds likely, doesn’t it?
Fortunately I don’t have to make the decisions. As this senseless ramble illustrates, I’m more confused than most.
The locked gates at Everton’s Goodison Park stadium with football suspended for some time
MATT BARLOW – BE PATIENT AND FINISH THE SEASON
The key is to complete the season. Just as it was the key when the season was suspended. The deeper we all go into the pandemic then the less relevant football seems and the less people will care.
So there might be an increase in support across the country to wipe out the season, forget about it and jump ahead into a new one.
That might seem to be cleaner and simpler but it won’t be at all clean and simple when the legal complaints erupt and the integrity of English football is damaged.
Completing the season remains the best solution. Ideally, with a crowd rather than behind closed doors. It will require patience. Something not easy to find in modern life.
It will require compromise and will involve some hardship for clubs, especially those lower down the leagues. The immediate priority for all those clubs in the Premier League and the EFL should be to help each other, make sure all 91 survive and in turn help their communities.
Use the collective brainpower of all those well-paid executives in the game to tackle this problem first.
A lack of ticket money and matchday revenue will push EFL club budgets to breaking point
Then, the season can restart when it is able to restart and the 2020-21 season can be adjusted accordingly. If it takes 12 months then cancel 2020-21 and go straight into 2021-22.
If necessary, when football is in a position to start again then finish the incomplete season as quickly as possible.
Cram the calendar with matches and coaches will have to use their full squad and man-management skills to placate those players who fear they simply cannot play three times in a week.
All of this is preferable to a premature recall for football. It might lift morale around the country if the season restarted sooner rather than later and it would certainly provide entertainment for those stuck indoors but nothing which diverts medical staff away from the frontline of healthcare can be justified.
If the outlook changes in a month or six weeks then by all means reconsider the options.
As for the notion of finishing the season imminently with a series of games played at one or two venues with the players somehow kept in complete isolation between matches, it sounds like a terrible idea, fraught with problems of a practical nature and probably conjured up TV executives.
Television companies will have an influential say in when and how the league season resumes
TOM COLLOMOSSE – ABANDON CURRENT SEASON BY JUNE
Slowly but surely, the mood is shifting. A couple of weeks ago, no Premier League club would have seriously considered writing off the 2019-20 season due to the coronavirus crisis.
A majority still hold that view, but cracks are starting to appear. We read of senior executives who doubt the moral case for bringing back football when the country remains in the grip of the pandemic.
Since the day the season was suspended, I have believed strongly that everything possible should be done to finish it – but only when it is deemed safe for football to take place in a ‘normal’ context: players preparing for matches as they usually would, fans attending games as they usually would.
If we reach, say, late June and there is still no prospect of that happening, then perhaps it is time to abandon 2019-20 and look forward. Aim for a late-August/early-September start and play 2020-21 with as little disruption as possible.
Yes, there will be disappointment – no title for Liverpool, no promotion for West Brom, Leeds or any of the other sides striving for a higher division. Yes, there will be legal threats and financial wrangling.
But given what is happening in the wider world, maybe football can find a way to come together, settle its differences with as little damage as possible, and focus on the future.
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool have a 25-point lead at the top of the Premier League table
The further the pandemic progresses, the more unworkable the ideas become. The latest is to ‘quarantine’ players in a hotel for most of June, in order to squeeze in the remaining top-flight games.
An innovative suggestion, maybe, but how on Earth could it work in practice? What about the hotel, medical and other staff required to deliver this? How would the necessary social-distancing measures be observed in this context?
If we are raising suggestions like these in late March, maybe the writing is on the wall.
It is also worth considering what happens in other countries, too. If seasons start to be abandoned in major European leagues like Serie A and La Liga, it would be hard for competitions like the Premier League and the Bundesliga to continue.
The Serie A match between Juventus and Inter Milan was played out behind closed doors
How to decide European qualification when some championships finish, but others don’t?
Let’s hope the reality proves brighter than the current outlook. Let’s hope in six weeks, two months’ time, it is realistic to think about playing football again.
At the moment, though, there is little evidence for such optimism. The more time passes, the likelier it becomes that the authorities will have to give up on 2019-20.
IAN HERBERT – WE MUST FINISH THE SEASON
Let the season finish as and when it can. If that’s August, with a November ending, then so be it.
Why do we have stick to same cycles that we always have? Only by August will we actually be emerging from a situation the likes of which we have never known in our lifetime and will hopefully never know again.
So, start the football when it is safe and when audiences are able to assemble with confidence at stadiums. Complete the 2019-20 season. Then, a break, and a new season starting in December and running, perhaps, until the following July. Because playing a plastic, soulless form of football behind closed doors is a terrible idea.
The sanctity of domestic football should prevail. It is more important to complete the domestic campaign, fulfil the contracts already put in place, resolve promotion and relegation, allow the rightful title winners their crown. This would impact on Euro 2020. To which I would say, let it go. The concept of a Europe-wide tournament was a terrible one in the first place.
Even if Britain is beginning tentatively to get back on its feet again, a year from now, there are such uncertainties about other countries. We are already hearing about new, intermittent shut-downs. How will Italy, one of the host countries, be faring by next summer? What about Spain, which has also suffered grievously. The thought of ploughing millions into host city status will surely seem crass to them.
Manchester City beat Real Madrid 2-1 in the first leg of their Champions League tie – but will the competitions have to be condensed to single-leg games?
A re-ordered domestic football impacts on the European club competitions. So abbreviate them. Make them 32-team knockouts. Let the League Cup go, too. Some clubs will miss out. Well, that’s just the way it is. If these times have given us one thing, then it is surely a sense of perspective.
Beyond the gilded world of the Premier League, the EFL clubs will also need months to rebuild when we are over this hill. We are already hearing that some Championship clubs are £5m down in just two weeks without football. League 1 and 2 clubs will be hit by a £250m black hole. Many argue that a wage cap will be needed. Revenues will not just recover overnight. The mop-up will be monumental.
We need a slowing down, in other words. An acceptance that football cannot just pick up as it left off, at the same breakneck speed. That, as we stagger back into the daylight, there will be less of it for a time. And that we must savour what we have that little bit more. (No men’s Euros, incidentally, means a proper spotlight for the women’s Euros, on British soil.)
This will mean contractual arrangements being reneged on, of course. But let us at least agree on one thing. That there will be a moratorium on any legal claim lodged within sport because of this crisis. That those who seek to bring them – agents, sponsors, clubs – be assigned the pariah status they deserve.
People, clubs and companies will all lose money because of the road we are currently travelling. Millions more will have lost those they love. In the broader scheme of things, a few lost or diminished football tournaments is not of the remotest significance.
England’s Lionesses may receive more of the spotlight if the Women’s Euros are put back
STEVEN FLETCHER – END THE SEASON NOW
I would end the season now, with a binding decision taken as soon as possible so that all clubs can start to plan for the future.
I don’t say this lightly. Of course Liverpool would be deserved Premier League winners and clubs like Leeds and West Brom have come so far this season.
But I think we’re wearing rose-tinted spectacles if we think football is going to be played in the next couple of months.
This lockdown is here for quite some time yet. And, when restrictions are gradually lifted, it seems likely social distancing will still be required of us all, including footballers.
Advocates for finishing the season say we should then have a quick festival of football, with dozens of games crammed into a short timeframe and clubs playing every couple of weeks behind closed doors.
But I think they are basing that argument on an assumption we’ll be back playing sometime before the end of June.
I sincerely doubt that will be the case. And the problem with this virus is that we’re battling the unknown. So my best guess is as good – or bad – as yours.
German club Borussia Dortmund returned to limited training on Monday after weeks away
So I say we end the uncertainty now. There will be an inevitable outcry but what we’re going through is so much bigger than that.
When we come out of the other side, whenever and however that may look, the only certainty is that our lives will be very different.
Thousands will be dead, there will be huge numbers unemployed and communities wrecked by the economic impact of this pandemic. Your high street won’t look the same… nothing will.
So why expect we can just dust ourselves off and carry on where we left off with the football calendar?
I don’t think it’s feasible or likely that we’ll have any sort of football for a while.
So I think we take the tough decisions now; let clubs then focus their energies on supporting their employees and local communities through the dreadful few months ahead.
And then let’s start again with a fresh new season – with inevitable changes to the calendar – that can get fans excited about football again.
OLIVER TODD – SEASON SHOULD BE NULL AND VOID
The Premier League are doing the right thing in exploring every avenue to complete the season but we need to be ready for a less-than-ideal ending: the current campaign being called off.
The ambitious plans to restart the season behind closed doors in early May, as revealed by Martin Samuel and Matt Hughes’ story, are incredible – but they compromise the state of the competition.
Clubs with a tough list of remaining fixtures miss out on home advantage, games are played in a completely different atmosphere to the other three quarters of the season and there is already talk about fielding weakened teams.
That’s before we even get into issues like insurance for players while a deadly virus is going around.
I want to see this season finished. Liverpool richly deserve their first title in 30 years, there is a thrilling race of deeply-flawed teams chasing the top four and the relegation battle still has plenty of life in it. Below that, Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United would be a breath of fresh air back in the top flight. There are great storylines throughout the EFL.
But I fear that with the country likely to still be gripped by the coronavirus pandemic for months to come, we may be some way off completing it in a satisfactory manner. Even after the lockdown conditions are lifted, when will we be comfortable in big crowds again?
Bielsa’s Leeds United would be a breath of fresh air back in the Premier League
So I am erring towards the season being put down as ‘null and void’ – the words the Premier League are so keen for their clubs to publicly avoid.
Within that, assuming the European competitions follow suit, the same teams would return to the Champions League and Europa League next season.
Perhaps we leave out the Carabao Cup for a year and resume the FA Cup at the quarter-final stage again to give the calendar the breathing space that we now know is important in a world vulnerable to the disruption we’ve seen of late.
The Premier League, and its 20 member clubs, will want this season concluded in some form to avoid a £762million TV rebate bill.
One way or another, clubs will go to the wall and potentially go under with the financial strain this crisis brings. But focus on health and these latest Premier League plans cannot work in the current timeframe.
And the further down the line we get, the more this season’s events will fade into irrelevance.
‘Null and void’ might go from the option that nobody wants to the most sensible choice.
HOW CORONAVIRUS HAS HIT THE WORLD OF SPORT SO FAR
2020 OLYMPIC GAMES
The 2020 Olympic Games has been postponed until 2021 on March 24 – becoming one of the last major sporting events this summer to fall victim to the coronavirus.
Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe held a crucial conference call with Olympics chief Thomas Bach on Tuesday to formally decide a plan and they have chosen to postpone for 12 months.
The decision also means the Tokyo Paralympic Games will be subject to a one-year delay.
Despite the delay, the name of the delayed Games will still be Tokyo 2020, the city’s governor Yuriko Koike revealed.
A joint statement from the IOC and Tokyo 2020 organising committee read: ‘In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the WHO today, the IOC President and the Prime Minister of Japan have concluded that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.
‘The leaders agreed that the Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present.
‘Therefore, it was agreed that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan. It was also agreed that the Games will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.’
There was plenty of scepticism whether the Olympics would pull through and continue as scheduled while events linked to the games were called off. The Olympic torch relay in Greece was cancelled on Friday March 13 – just a day after the flame was lit in Olympia.
Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games have been postponed by one year due to the coronavirus
Large crowds mobbed Hollywood actor Gerard Butler as he lit the cauldron in the Greek city of Sparta despite repeated warnings for spectators not to attend because of coronavirus.
That forced the decision by the Greek Olympic Committee to halt the torch relay on Greek soil on just the second day of its scheduled eight-day journey. It is the only the third time that a relay to Athens for the summer Games has not been completed.
The Olympic flame will still be handed over to the Tokyo 2020 organising committee at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens on Thursday March 19, but without fans present.
Athletes were told to keep training but many struggled considering the government lock-down measures put in place.
On Friday March 13 US president Donald Trump’s suggestion to postpone the Tokyo Olympics for a year because of the coronavirus was immediately shot down by Japan’s Olympic minister.
‘The IOC and the organising committee are not considering cancellation or a postponement – absolutely not at all,’ Seiko Hashimoto, an Olympic bronze medalist, told a news conference in Tokyo.
On Tuesday March 17, Kozo Tashima, one of the Japanese Olympic Committee’s vice presidents and president of the Japanese Football Association, tested positive for coronavirus.
The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo organisers have stayed on message since the viral outbreak in China three months ago spread across Asia and then the globe: The games will open as scheduled on July 24.
Tokyo 2020 organisers received the Olympic flame in a scaled-down handover ceremony in the Greek capital on March 19.
The World Athletics Indoor Championships, which was due to be held from March 13-15 in Nanjing, is postponed until March 2021.
The World Athletics Indoor Championships in Nanjing, China, has been postponed due to concerns over the danger of the coronavirus and its ability to spread
North Korea cancelled the Pyongyang Marathon scheduled for April after imposing a border lockdown due to the level of outbreak in South Korea, where the Seoul Marathon is cancelled in a bid to protect runners.
The Paris half-marathon is cancelled and the French government also decided to ban all public gatherings of more than 100 people, before ordering people to stay at home from March 15 for at least 15 days. The race involving some 44,000 competitors was scheduled for Sunday March 1. Organisers said the race will be postponed to a date yet to be determined.
The London Marathon, which had been scheduled to take place on April 26, has been postponed until October 4. Over 40,000 runners were due to take part.
The Barcelona marathon scheduled for March 15 has been postponed until October.
Olympic boxing qualifiers to be staged in Wuhan were cancelled by the International Olympic Committee, but went ahead in Amman from March 3-11.
The IBF title fight between Daniele Scardina and Andrew Francillette in Milan on February 28 was postponed by Matchroom due to restrictions in Italy following the outbreak.
The Japanese boxing commission cancelled all fight cards scheduled for March on government advice to suspend all pending sporting fixtures. They will not be rescheduled.
Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce’s Battle of Britain has been pushed back from April to July
The British Boxing Board of Control announced on Tuesday March 17 that all boxing events under their jurisdiction for March will be postponed due to the coronavirus.
That decision has lead to the heavyweight clash between Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce being postponed. That fight, which had been penciled in for April 11, has been rescheduled for July 11 at the O2 Arena.
Anthony Yarde, who was due to fight Lyndon Arthur on the undercard of the all-British clash, announced on March 29 that his father had died as a result of contracting the coronavirus.
He revealed in an Instagram post that he had no underlying health issues and urged everyone to stay at home.
Matchroom Boxing has also postponed all events scheduled for March and April, including Josh Kelly’s European title fight against Russia’s David Avanesyan (scheduled for March 28).
The European Olympic boxing qualification tournament in London has been suspended. It was due to secure qualification for Tokyo 2020 for 77 male and female boxers, with 322 taking part.
Matchroom Boxing chief Eddie Hearn has said Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight title defence against Kubrat Pulev, which is scheduled for June 20, could be rearranged for July. All Matchroom promoted fights in March and April have been postponed.
Canelo Alvarez vs Billy Joe Saunders, earmarked for May in Las Vegas, was postponed before even being announced, however the Mexican is reportedly still planning to make the bout happen in June.
England’s tour of Sri Lanka was postponed on March 13, with the England and Wales Cricket Board citing ‘completely unprecedented times’.
The decision was confirmed while Joe Root’s side were in the field at Colombo’s P Sara Oval, contesting a warm-up game for a two-Test series.
On March 18, the West Indies offered to host England’s upcoming home Tests against them in the Caribbean instead of in the UK – should the coronavirus outbreak not have improved by then. England are due to face the Windies in a a three-Test series, which is due to start at the Oval on June 4 but could be delayed until September. If playing the series in England proves unworkable, CWI have offered to step in for this series, and also for England’s three Tests against Pakistan, due to start on July 30. Although there are Covid-19 cases in the Caribbean, its impact there has been limited so far.
The start of the Indian Premier League season has also been delayed until April 15. The 2020 campaign had been set to start on March 29. The IPL franchises are also ready to quarantine their foreign players for a period of 14 days, if travel restrictions are lifted to allow them to arrive.
On March 13, India’s ongoing one-day international series against South Africa was postponed, while Australia’s one-day internationals against New Zealand will be played behind closed doors.
Scotland’s one-day series against the United States and UAE have been postponed. The games were scheduled to be played in Florida in April.
England’s cricketers would not play any rescheduled Test series against West Indies in the Caribbean until December at the earliest, it emerged on March 19.
Cycling’s Giro d’Italia has been called off, with the race scheduled to start in Hungary in May.
The final two stages of the UAE Tour were cancelled after two members of staff on the race were suspected of having the disease.
Danish cyclist Michael Morkov was tested for coronavirus after being put in isolation
The Tour de France is under threat of cancellation, with the scheduled start in Nice taking place in just over three months, on June 27. With British and French governments anticipating that the pandemic will last until the summer, race organizers are studying alternative scheduling.
The Paris-Roubaix cycling race, another major event on the French sports calendar, was postponed due to the pandemic, while the April 5 Tour of Flanders, only previously cancelled during World War I, was also postponed in a further sign that Le Tour is under grave threat.
This summer’s Euro 2020 tournament has been moved to next summer (2021) following a UEFA conference held on March 17. The postponement provides a chance for European club competitions to be completed.
All football in England is suspended until at least April 30 – but the 2019-20 season should eventually be completed after the FA bend their own rules to extend the campaign INDEFINITELY after holding crisis talks on March 19.
The decisions to suspend follows players and staff becoming affected by the virus, or individuals self-isolating as a precaution after reporting symptoms consistent with Covid-19.
The Premier League has moved to cancel games following the global outbreak of coronavius
The Premier League clash between Manchester City and Arsenal, scheduled for March 11, had already been postponed as a ‘precautionary measure’ after Olympiacos and Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis tested positive for coronavirus weeks after watching his Greek team play at the Emirates Stadium.
On March 13, UEFA announced all Champions League and Europa League fixtures scheduled are postponed, as well as the quarter-final draws for both competitions. UEFA hope to conclude the competitions in the summer but no dates are yet set.
Birmingham City become the first Championship side to see players take temporary 50 per cent wage cuts to ease financial pressure. Leeds United soon followed in a bid to keep paying all of their non-football staff.
All Chinese domestic fixtures at all levels were postponed and the season pushed back, the first football to be affected by the outbreak in the country of its origin. However, reports suggest that the league could resume on April 18 as China gets to grip with the virus.
Asian Champions League matches involving Guangzhou Evergrande, Shanghai Shenhua and Shanghai SIPG are postponed until April.
The start of the Korean K-League season is postponed. The four teams in the AFC Champions League are playing their matches behind closed doors.
Japan’s J-League postponed all domestic games until the middle of March, but further delays are inevitable.
Ludogorets players were taking no chances after the coronavirus outbreak in Italy
Italy, the country worst hit by the virus outside China, suffered a spate of cancellations before the government put the population on lockdown. All sport, including Serie A games, were suspended until at least April 3 to contain the virus.
In France, it was announced on Friday 13 March that there will be no top-flight football in France for the immediate future after their governing body postponed all matches.
In Spain, April 18’s Copa del Rey final between between Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad has been postponed. LaLiga is also postponed until the end of March at least.
Germany’s Bundesliga, the other major European league, is also suspended until April 3 at least.
The Dutch Eredivisie and Portugal’s Primeira Liga are also suspended.
The Football Association of Ireland announced that all football under its jurisdiction will cease until March 29.
Major League Soccer has been suspended for 30 days until mid-April with David Beckham’s first Inter Miami home game delayed.
The South American Football Confederation postponed this year’s Copa America, due to take place from 12 June to 12 July, until 2021.
FIFA said that the newly-expanded Club World Cup, originally scheduled to take place in China in June 2021, will be postponed and a new date announced when ‘there is more clarity on the situation’.
On March 13, the FA announced that all of England’s games scheduled for the month would be postponed, including those of development teams. It means that England’s friendlies with Italy and Denmark have been called off.
Euro 2020 play-off matches due to be held on March 26, including Scotland v Israel have been put off until June.
Olympiakos’ owner Evangelos Marinakis has tested positive for the coronavirus
Manchester United clash at Austrian side Lask was behind closed doors, with United handing out £350 to each fan to help with travel and accommodation after they sold 900 tickets for the Europa League game.
Newcastle United banned their players from shaking hands with each other amid coronavirus fears.
Cristiano Ronaldo went into isolation in Madeira after it emerged that his Juventus team-mate, Daniele Rugani, has coronavirus. Squad members Blaise Matuidi and Paolo Dybala also tested positive.
Elsewhere in Italy, Fiorentina striker Patrick Cutrone, who is on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers, tested positive for coronavirus.
In Spain, 35% of Valencia’s squad staff tested positive for coronavirus, with all cases being asymptomatic.
Real Madrid’s first-team squad were in quarantine after a member of the basketball team tested positive for Covid-19. The two teams share the same training facility.
Liverpool have announced a charity match between a Reds Legends side and Barcelona Legends, due to be played at Anfield on March 28, has been postponed.
FIFA says it will postpone South American World Cup qualifying matches due to take place in March.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta tested positive for coronavirus on March 12 with the entire first-team squad being put into isolation. The Gunners’ game against Brighton, scheduled for Saturday March 14, has been postponed.
In the early hours of Friday, March 13, Chelsea announced that winger Callum Hudson-Odoi had been diagnosed with the illness.
The club’s first team went into self-isolation, while two buildings at their training ground in Cobham were closed.
Premier League clubs, including Manchester United and Manchester City, have sent players home to train alone following the British government’s increasing crackdown on mass gatherings and unnecessary social contact.
West Ham chief Karren Brady called for the season to be null and void while Aston Villa believe no team should be relegated. In this situation Liverpool, the runaway league leaders, could face the horror of being denied the title despite being on the brink of securing their first league trophy in nearly 30 years.
Reports suggest football bodies across England and the rest of Europe are bracing themselves for a reported total shutdown of every league until September.
Top-level English and Scottish football was initially suspended until April 3 at the earliest. The Football Association, the Premier League, the English Football League, FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship all agreed to call a halt to competitive action with immediate effect.
All levels of English football below the National League North and South have been called off and voided with no promotion and relegation due to the calendar being decimated by the coronavirus outbreak.
The season-opening Australian Grand Prix was called off after a McLaren team member came down with Covid-19, leading to the British team pulling out prior to a decision being made on whether the race would still go ahead.
The announcement came hours after Lewis Hamilton said it was ‘shocking’ that the race was going ahead.
The Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai on April 19 was the first race to be postponed, with no decision over whether it will be reinserted into the 2020 calendar for later in the season.
The Bahrain Grand Prix, scheduled for March 20-22, is also called off, as is the inaugural Vietnam Grand Prix, which was scheduled to take place in Hanoi on April 5.
It was hoped that the Dutch Grand Prix on May 3 would be the first race of the new season but that has also been postponed due to Covid-19.
The iconic Monaco Grand Prix on May 24 was cancelled for the first time in 66 years before Formula One announced their race in Azerbaijan had been postponed.
The Chinese GP was first to be cancelled and other races could yet follow that lead
On March 13, the Masters was postponed. In a statement released online, Fred Ridley, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, emphasised that the decision makers hope to hold the championship ‘at some later date’. The first men’s major of the year was due to begin on April 9.
The US PGA Championship, the second major of the year, has now joined the Masters in being postponed. It had been due to take place at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco from May 11-17, but has been rescheduled for later this summer.
After deciding to play with no spectators from the second round of the Players Championship onwards, the PGA Tour cancelled the event entirely after the first round on March 12.
They also scrapped the following three events leading up to the Masters, but after that was cancelled four further events in April and May – the RBC Heritage, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, the Wells Fargo Championship and the AT&T Byron Nelson – also bit the dust. It is hoped that the season can be resumed in late May.
The European Tour have cancelled all tournaments until the popular Made in Denmark event on May 21. Many of them were due to be held in China or east Asia in countries badly hit by the outbreak.
The women’s game has also been hit by postponements and cancellations, with the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration, the highest profile casualty.
The Masters has been postponed for the first time since the Second World War
Lorenzo Gagli and Edoardo Molinari were withdrawn from the Oman Open on medical grounds after Gagli showed symptoms of the virus. He shared a hotel room with Molinari and he was told to self-isolate. They were later reinstated to the tournament after testing negative for the virus.
The Grand National was called off following new British government restrictions to fight the spread of coronavirus made it impossible to stage the Aintree showpiece on April 4. The Cheltenham Festival went ahead amid some criticism before the social distancing measures were tightened.
The Japan Racing Association revealed that ‘government-sanctioned races’ will go ahead behind closed doors.
Racing in Ireland attempted to take place behind closed doors starting on March 29 – but that decision was changed after government cancelled all sporting events.
The Dubai World Cup meeting will go ahead on March 28 ‘without paid hospitality spectators’.
Racing Post forced to temporarily suspend publication of the flagship daily racing newspaper for the first time since their inception in 1986 due to all action in UK and Ireland being suspended.
The Cheltenham Festival went ahead despite travel disruption caused by the virus
This year’s Six Nations will have to wait for its conclusion with all remaining games postponed.
England’s game with Italy and Ireland’s trip to France had already been called off with Wales and Scotland leaving it until the day before before calling off their game.
Saturday, 31 October is a possible date for the final weekend of matches.
The Women’s Six Nations has also been hit by postponements.
Ireland’s Six Nations encounter with Italy on March 7 has been postponed
The RFU has suspended all levels of rugby in England until April 14, with the announcement coming shortly after the Premiership was halted for five weeks.
The quarter-finals of the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup have also been postponed. Those games were scheduled for April 3, 4 and 5.
The RFL and rugby league’s Super League have now followed suit and postponed all fixtures for at least three weeks. Eight Leeds Rhinos players had been confirmed to be self-isolating.
The French Open, one of the four Grand Slam tournaments, is postponed until September amid a wide lockdown in France.
The clay-court major was scheduled for May 24 to June 7, but that has shifted to September 20 to October 4, after the US Open, which was due to be the final major of the year.
Players have been quick to criticise the move, which has created a conflict with the Laver Cup men’s team event spearheaded by Roger Federer, and a women’s tournament in China.
All events on the ATP Tour have been suspended for six weeks.
The BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells in California, set to start on March 9, was postponed at the eleventh hour. It came after a confirmed case of the coronavirus in the nearby Coachella Valley.
The final of an ATP Challenger event in Bergamo, Italy, between Enzo Couacaud and Illya Marchenko of Ukraine was cancelled. Both players received ranking points and prize money for getting to the final. They were denied the opportunity to play behind closed doors.
China forfeited a Davis Cup tie because the men’s team were unable to travel to Romania for the March 6-7 play-off.
WTA events have also been cancelled. The WTA announced they are assessing their schedule with a number of events set for China in the second half of the season.
The International Tennis Federation has announced that the Fed Cup finals have been postponed. The event was due to be held in Budapest in April and the competition’s play-offs, which were set to take place in eight different locations, have also been placed on hold.
The WTA also announced no tournaments will be staged for at least five weeks.
The NBA has been suspended indefinitely after two Utah Jazz players contracted the virus. On March 17 Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant confirmed he had tested positive for the virus alongside three unnamed team-mates.
In an aid to decrease risks of exposure to the virus, the NBA had told players to avoid taking items such as pens, markers, balls and jerseys from autograph seekers.
The NHL has announced it has paused the 2019-20 season with no date confirmed for when it will resume.
The UFC has cancelled its next three events, although president Dana White is still pushing ahead for the highly-anticipated lightweight title fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson.
MotoGP have cancelled their first two races of the season in Qatar and Thailand.
South Korea’s baseball league cancelled all 50 pre-season game which were slated to take place from March 14-24. It is the first time since the leagues inception in 1982 that an entire set of exhibition matches are off.
The first-stage draw for the Table Tennis World Championships, scheduled for South Korea from March 22-29, is postponed.
A beach volleyball tournament, due to be held in Yangzhou from April 22-26, is postponed until after the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
World Short track speed skating championship in Seoul is cancelled.
The World Triathlon Series event in Abu Dhabi was postponed as a precautionary measure.
The Women’s World Ice Hockey Championships in Canada have been cancelled.
All 72 pre-season baseball games in Japan are to take place behind closed doors
In badminton, the German Open (March 3-8), Vietnam Open (March 24-29) and Polish Open (March 26-29), all Olympic qualifying events, are cancelled due to ‘strict health protection’.
The Japanese professional baseball league made the decision to play their 72 pre-season games behind closed doors until March 15. Baseball is among the most popular sports in Japan.
Doubts remain as the Asian weightlifting championships, scheduled for March, are relocated from Kazakhstan to neighbouring Uzbekistan. They could still be postponed.