Sport

Coronavirus and sports: Grigor Dimitrov tests positive

June 21

— Japan allows thousands back to events

Japan is the latest country to tentatively reopen sports stadiums following coronavirus lockdowns.

Officials have confirmed that up to 5000 fans will be allowed to attend Japanese football and baseball games from July 10.

The heads of the football and baseball leagues announced the easing of crowd restrictions in a joint press conference following talks with health experts.

“We must fully consider the current situation… but we have received word from government officials that we can declare that we will let spectators in from the 10th of next month,” baseball commissioner Atsushi Saito said.

Stadiums will be able to fill up to 50 percent of their capacity with a cap on 5000 spectators.

The baseball season started last Friday after a three-month delay, while Japan’s J-League returns on July 4.

June 21

— Dimitrov tests positive, Croatia event canceled

Grigor Dimitrov announced on Sunday that he has tested positive for COVID-19, leading to the cancellation of an exhibition event in Croatia where top-ranked Novak Djokovic was scheduled to play.

Dimitrov, ranked No. 19 and a three-time Grand Slam semifinalist, is the highest-profile player to contract the virus and the announcement on his Instagram page comes at the end of a week when the US Open said it would go ahead.

The professional tennis tours have been suspended since March and are planning to resume in August.

June 20

— Fans back in France

Stadiums will re-open to fans in France from 11 July, with up to 5,000 fans allowed inside to watch live sports.

The French government, who had called off the country’s current soccer season on April 28 as part of efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic, have stated that collective sports can now resume from June 22.

This means the country’s two domestic cup finals could be played in front of fans, after both had been postponed due to the pandemic.

The new league season is expected to resume at the end of August, with fans in attendance.

— 11 new cases in NHL

The NHL has revealed that 11 players have tested positive for the virus since June 8.

NHL teams have been back in training since June 8 in preparation for the league’s resumption, but Tampa Bay Lightning announced on Friday that two players have had to self-isolate after positive tests.

“Since NHL clubs were permitted to open their training facilities on June 8, all players entering these facilities for voluntary training have been subject to mandatory testing for COVID-19,” the NHL statement reads.

“In excess of 200 players have undergone multiple testing. A total of 11 of these players have tested positive. All players who have tested positive have been self-isolated.”

June 17

— Fans may be allowed at German Cup final

German football association (DFB) president Fritz Keller has said up to 1,000 people, including some fans, may be allowed in to the Olympic Stadium in Berlin to watch the German Cup final on July 4.

Bundesliga matches are currently being played without fans but Keller said there may be some wriggle room for the clash between newly-crowned champions Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen. 

“The (Berlin) Senate is responsible. In Berlin events with up to 1,000 people are allowed. If the Senate says, ‘Yes, we can do it,’ then let’s have 1,000,” Keller told German public TV late on Tuesday. 
 

June 16

— US Open set to go ahead

Despite the coronavirus epidemic, Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, has said that the major tennis tournament the US Open will go ahead behind closed doors from August 31. Fans will not be permitted at the Flushing Meadows venue.

The 2020 Wimbledon tournament was cancelled this year, while the French Open has rearranged to take place from September 20, just a week after the US Open’s conclusion.

Marcus Rashford (picture-alliance/dpa/M. Rickett)

 Rashford grabs big win off the field  

A campaign launched by Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford has helped convince the British government to reverse a plan to cease funding meals for underprivileged children.  

The 22-year-old Rashford, who has already made 38 appearances for England, had written an open letter to parliamentarians on Sunday urging them to maintain the food-voucher program through the summer school holidays. In it, Rashford wrote of his own childhood experience of relying on free school lunches and food banks. His campaign drew support from numerous celebrities, the opposition, and even some members of the ruling Conservative Party.  

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman announced that the government had backtracked on its plan to end the food-voucher program when the summer break begins. 

“Owing to the coronavirus pandemic, the prime minister fully understands that children and parents face an entirely unprecedented situation over the summer, to reflect this we will be providing a COVID summer food fund,” the spokesman said. 

The program had been set up back in March when British schools were shut as part of a nationwide lockdown aimed at flattening the curve in the coronavirus outbreak in the country.  

June 13

New Zealand celebrated the return of top-level rugby with thousands of fans attending the country’s first big match since the coronavirus lockdown.

Bryan Gatland scored a last-minute drop-goal to hand the Otago Highlanders victory over the Waikato Chiefs. About 20,000 fans enjoyed the spectacle.

The newly formed Super Rugby Aotearoa competition has replaced the normal Super Rugby season, which was suspended because of the pandemic. Super Rugby usually pits New Zealand teams against those from Australia, South Africa, Japan, and Argentina.

June 12

Professional football returned in Italy on Friday night as Juventus drew 0-0 with AC Milan in the second leg of the Coppa Italia semifinal, a result which saw Juventus progress to the final.

The match was the first to be played in Italy since the coronavirus pandemic halted the season on March 9 and took place behind closed doors. More than eight million people watched on television, the biggest audience for any match in Italy this season.

The other semifinal tie between Napoli and Inter Milan will take place on Saturday evening (June 13) and the final will take place on Wednesday. 

The Italian top flight, Serie A, is due to return next weekend.

June 11

The derby clash between Sevilla and Real Betis on Thursday evening will make Spain’s La Liga the second major European league to resume play, after the Bundesliga.

But the experience is set to be a little different. La Liga hopes to compensate for the enforced empty stadiums with virtual crowd visuals and noise, with TV viewers able to see to-scale images of seated fans wearing the home club’s colours in “virtualized” stands.

The audio technology will reportedly work in a similar way to a laughter track on a sitcom and some fan groups have expressed their displeasure. However, league president Javier Tebas has said he’s hoping to see real fans back in the stadiums before the season ends, with grounds 10-15 percent full to accomodate social distancing.

June 9

— Madrid want to host rescheduled Champions League Final

The mayor of Madrid has claimed the city is being considered as a host for this season’s Champions League final amid the possibility that original host Istanbul won’t be able to fulfill its obligations due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The final was due to be played at the Ataturk Stadium on May 30 until the tournament was postponed and Uefa’s executive committee will meet on June 17 to determine a new plan.

“I know steps are being taken in this regard and on behalf of the city council, I want to show my total and absolute support for the Champions League final being held in Madrid,” Madrid mayor Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida told Spanish television station Trece. 

Reports suggest Uefa will explore options to host all remaining games in both the Champions and Europa leagues within the same cities. 

Lisbon, Moscow, and Frankfurt are three other cities that have reportedly made pitches to host the European club tournaments.

While Lisbon appeared to be the favorite for the Champions League fixtures, prior to Madrid’s interest, Frankfurt could be in line to host the remaining Europa League games, according to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.

— Höwedes terminates Lokomotiv Moscow contract to remain in Germany

2014 World Cup winner Benedikt Höwedes has thanked Lokomotiv Moscow on his Twitter account for terminating his contract to allow him to remain in Germany. Lokomotiv said in their Twitter announcement that Höwedes’ contract was terminated by mutual consent due to family reasons.

“Thank you, [Lokomotiv]! it has been a pleasure,” the 32-year-old defender said.

Höwedes does not have a new team lined up in Germany, but there is speculation that he could return to Schalke, where he spent the first 10 years of his professional football career. 

The Russian Premier League is set to resume from its coronavirus hiatus on June 21 despite thousands of new cases per day. Höwedes has been critical of Russia’s handling of the pandemic.

— Zero positive tests in Basketball Bundesliga

The BBL, Germany’s top basketball league, said that all coronavirus tests it conducted after the start of its end-of-season tournament came back negative.

Brose Bamberg, the final team to be tested, “tested completely negative,” BBL hygiene officer Florian Kainzinger said on Twitter on Tuesday.

The BBL began its 10-team Final Tournament over the weekend, scrapping the results of its regular season. All games are taking place in Munich’s Audi Dome.

— Cricket ex-pros pressure ICC to ban ball saliva

Former cricket players Brett Lee of Australia and Sachin Tendulkar of India have stepped-up pressure to ban bowlers from applying saliva on cricket balls. The International Cricket Council is expected to order a temporary ban on using spit during matches as a way to combat the spread of the new coronavirus.

Fast blowers sometimes use saliva or sweat to shine one side of the ball when bowling, making the ball swing in the air. Sweat, which is considered less effective, could still be allowed.

“Maybe there are other ways that ICC needs to look in, assisting the bowler maybe in giving them something,” Lee, a former Australian pace bowler, said on Tendulkar’s 100MB online app.

— Relief fund for Brazilian clubs

Brazil’s football federation (CBF) has established a relief fund of worth 100 million Brazilian real (€18.4 million, $20.7 million) to help top-flight clubs overcome the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The CBF has also allocated 15 million Brazilian real for second division clubs.

Football in Brazil has been suspended since march due to the pandemic. The country has more than 700,000 confirmed cases, second most in the world behind the United States, and more than 37,000 virus-related deaths, third behind the US and Britain.

June 8

— Champions League final in Lisbon, not Frankfurt

Reports in Germany suggest that UEFA are set to select Lisbon as the location for a possible Champions League final tournament in order to bring the 2019/20 competition to a close.

German cities Munich and Frankfurt had been touted as options to host a mini-tournament, having already hosted Bundesliga “ghost games” and successfully implemented the German Football League’s hygiene concept.

Bayern Munich board member Oliver Kahn had signalled Munich’s readiness, while Eintracht Frankfurt’s director of sport Fredi Bobic said such an event, including stadia in Frankfurt, Mainz and Hoffenheim, would have been “a great chance.”

But, according to the Bild am Sonntag newspaper, UEFA appear to favor the Portuguese capital for financial reasons, although the fact that there are no Portuguese sides left in the tournament is also important. Speaking to Sky90, Bobic hinted: “It’s not just a sporting issue, it’s a question of finances, too. And taxes can be a problem in Germany.”

A final decision is expected when UEFA’s executive committee meets on June 17 and 18. The Champions League was originally due to take place in Istanbul on May 30, but the Turkish city is now out of the running.

The competition was suspended indefinitely on March 13, with four last-16 second legs still to play, including Bayern’s home game against Chelsea. UEFA now hopes to fulfil those fixtures, plus four quarterfinal matches, two semifinals (all one-legged) and the final, in a mini-tournament in one location – likely Lisbon, pictured above.

June 7

— Fans to return in November?

Chief executive of England’s governing body for rugby union, Bill Sweeney, is looking for clarity on whether the physical distancing rule can be reduced from two metres to one in order to allow 40,000 fans to attend England’s international games in November.

England are scheduled to host New Zealand, Argentina, Tonga and Australia at Twickenham Stadium, which has a capacity of 82,000.

Elite sport in England was given approval to return this month, but without spectators in attendance.

June 6

— Premier League has zero positives

Following the latest batch of tests in the Premier League for COVID-19, the sixth round in total, there were zero positives from 1,195 tests taken on June 4 and 5.

This now means a total of 6,274 tests have now been carried out with 13 positive results.

All players and staff at Premier League clubs have been tested twice a week and teams are back in full training with the league set to return on June 17.

Rudy Gobert (picture-alliance /AP Photo/L.M. Otero)

June 4

— NBA to return in July at Disney World — reports

The National Basketball Association’s board of governors has approved a plan to resume its season amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to ESPN and the Athletic.

The 22 teams still in contention for the playoffs will play eight regular season games for seeding purposes for the playoffs. The games will take place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex inside the Disney World resort in Orlando, Florida.

The NBA has been on hiatus since June 11 after Utah Jazz center and French international Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. 

— Dortmund sporting director criticizes players for breaking quarantine

Borussia Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc said he held private discussions with players who broke hygiene rules by getting haircuts at home. 

“We talked to the players again and made it very clear to them how they should behave,” Zorc said.  

Photos post on social media depicted Dortmund players, including England international Jadon Sancho, posing with a barber after a haircut at home. The players and the barber did not have masks on. 

Zorc said the players told him they had masks on during the haircut and only took them off for the photo. 

June 3

— Tottenham confirm positive coronavirus test

Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur have confirmed that one individual at the club has tested positive for COVID-19. The unnamed person must now self-isolate for a period of seven days.

In the latest round of testing across all 20 clubs in England’s top flight, a total of 1,197 people were tested for the virus, with just the one test at Tottenham coming back positive.

“[The person is] currently asymptomatic and will now self-isolate for seven days, in line with Premier League protocol, before undergoing further testing,” the North London club said in a statement.

There have been five rounds of testing in the Premier League, with the total of positive results now at 13 from 5,079 tests. The league is aiming to restart on June 17.

June 2

— Formula 1 season starts with Austrian double header

The curtailed Formula 1 season will start with two races behind closed doors in Austria on July 5 and July 12 followed by six other grands prix in Europe, the organizers said on Tuesday. 

“While we currently expect the season to commence without fans at our races we hope that over the coming months the situation will allow us to welcome them back once it is safe to do,” said F1 chief executive Chase Carey. “But we know the return of Formula 1 will be a welcome boost to sports fans around the world.”

 

June 1

— Bundesliga: thoughts turning to fans‘ return

Bayern Munich board member Oliver Kahn has said that the club has already begun considering concepts to allow supporters to return to Bundesliga stadia.

“Of course we’ve had a look [at the options],” Kahn told broadcaster Sky on Sunday evening, a day after Bayern had hammered Fortuna Düsseldorf 5-0, adding that he is “definitely in favor of thinking about fans again sooner or later.”

Kahn, the former Bayern goalkeeper and captain who is set to replace Karl-Heinz Rummenigge as CEO in 2022, said he could imagine “a fraction of capacity” being used at the Allianz Arena, perhaps “10-11,000” spectators.

“We have to keep thinking, step by step,” he said. “Dortmund versus Bayern without fans – that’s madness. But we have to accept that and deal with it for the time being.”

Borussia Dortmund’s head of professional football, Sebastian Kehl, also hopes that the fans will soon be back. “Maybe in autumn,” he told the Fuldaer Zeitung. “The question is when a degree of normality can return to our society and what road the politicians want to take,” said the former BVB captain.

— Salary cap ‘unrealistic’

The former head of the German Football League (DFL) says that the introduction of salary caps in European football is an “unrealistic scenario” due to the dominance of England’s Premier League.

“As the market leader, the Premier League would not be interested in restricting themselves,” Andreas Retting told German public broadcaster SWR. “They’re all businesses with the aim of making profit, why should they give up their competitive advantage?”

Rettig, who was also CEO of second division side St Pauli from 2015-2019, is a well-known critic of the commercialization of football and likely aware of the various suggestions which have been made to restructure the game in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

But the 57-year-old doesn’t think salary caps, as used in American sports, are feasible. “There’s no promotion or relegation in the USA and the franchises there are all similarly structured,” he said. “But it’s different [in Europe]. With clubs competing to qualify for international competitions, there are other competitions to be taken into account.”

— Spanish football back in full training

Spanish clubs resumed full squad training on Monday. Clubs will have just under two weeks of full sessions before the league restarts on June 11, almost three months after it was stopped because of COVID-19.

— Football with fans returns

This weekend in Hungary, football with fans returned. Following strict protocols including having their temperatures taken before the game and sitting three seats apart, fans were allowed back in the stadium in Budapest. To read more about fans returning to football games, read the story from DW’s Arpad Szoczi.

Read more: A timeline of coronavirus’ impact on the world of sports in May



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