'Sporting calendar shredded' as coronavirus shuts down more major events

The English Premier League and Masters golf tournament were two of the highest-profile casualties as the coronavirus crisis created more sporting dramas on Friday.

All elite soccer matches in England, including the Premier League, have been suspended until April 4 due to the pandemic.

“Following a meeting of shareholders today, it was unanimously decided to suspend the Premier League with the intention of returning on April 4,” the Premier League said in a joint statement on Friday.

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The English Football League, which oversees all professional tiers of English soccer below the top-flight, had announced the suspension of all football activity earlier in the day.

The Football Association said the professional game in England would be postponed until April 3 at the earliest.

England's upcoming friendly internationals against Italy and Denmark at Wembley on March 27 and 31, respectively, will not take place, the FA said in a statement.

Meanwhile, all matches in UEFA competitions, including the Champions League and Europa League, will not take place next week due to the virus, the governing body announced.

“Further decisions on when these matches take place will be communicated in due course,” it said.

The English shutdown follows news Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta and Chelsea forward Callum Hudson-Odoi have contracted COVID-19.

Tiger Woods and Mo Salah, pictured here at the Masters and Premier League.
The Masters and Premier League have been shut down. Image: Getty

Masters golf tournament postponed

Meanwhile, Augusta National Golf Club has announced the 2020 Masters will be postponed.

Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley issued a statement on Friday that revealed the Masters and the Augusta National Women's Amateur would be held at a later date, with some predicting that could be in September.

“Considering the latest information and expert analysis, we have decided at this time to postpone the Masters Tournament, the Augusta National Women's Amateur and the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals,” Ridley wrote in a statement.

“Ultimately, the health and well-being of everyone associated with these events and the citizens of the Augusta community led us to this decision. We hope this postponement puts us in the best position to safely host the Masters Tournament and our amateur events at some later date.”

It is the first interruption to the Masters since World War II, when the tournament was cancelled from 1943-1945.

A possible date for the Masters to resume is in early September, when conditions and weather are similar to April in the southeast of the US.

The US PGA Tour's Tour Championship is slated for August 27-30 in Atlanta, Georgia, only two hours' drive from Augusta in the same state.

Some are predicting it could be held the week after the season-ending Tour Championship.

India halts world’s richest cricket tournament

The Indian Premier League, the world's most lucrative cricket competition, on Friday postponed the start of this year's tournament amid mounting anxiety in India.

While the country of 1.3 billion has reported just two deaths from coronavirus and 81 confirmed cases, the government has ordered measures against travel and public gatherings similar to the worst-hit nations.

Postponing the cricket tournament, which draws the world's top players from Australia, England and South Africa, and generates hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues each year, dominated Indian headlines Friday.

But it came as a virtual halt on incoming tourists and business visitors came into effect from Friday.

Most of the foreign cricketers would not have been able to play in the IPL because of the visa restrictions.

And the government has also ordered the closing of about half of its 37 land border crossing points with neighbouring Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal from Saturday.

Halting the IPL came after New Delhi and Mumbai banned large gatherings for sporting events.

Formula One postpones more races

Formula One bosses are set to delay the start of the new season until June after the Bahrain and Vietnam Grands Prix were postponed.

The sport's traditional Australian Grand Prix curtain raiser at Melbourne's Albert Park, due to take place this weekend, was officially axed on Friday following McLaren's withdrawal from the event after one of their mechanics tested positive for coronavirus.

Next weekend's behind-closed-doors race in Bahrain, and the inaugural round in Vietnam's capital Hanoi, which had been pencilled in for April 5, have since been called off.

It is understood that the view of the sport's travelling circus is to delay the campaign until the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, pencilled in for June 7, at the earliest.

As it stands, the season is due to end in Abu Dhabi on November 29, but it is understood the race could be pushed back until December to allow room for next month's already postponed Chinese Grand Prix, and the race in Hanoi to be squeezed back into a rejigged calendar.

The Dutch Grand Prix, the first in Holland for 36 years, is due to take place on May 3, but that might now be moved to August, with the sport's customary summer break scrapped. As many as 18 races might be staged in six months.

The historic Monaco Grand Prix, set for May 24, could become the sport's biggest casualty, while there may also be no room for the races in Bahrain and Spain.

There are no plans for the round in Melbourne to be rescheduled for later in the year.

with AFP