Pandemic rips through world sports events

·3-min read

One of the hardest tickets to come by in world sport just got a lot tougher, with the NFL announcing it is looking at reducing seating capacity to 20 per cent at February's Super Bowl because of COVID-19.

Raymond James Stadium, which was expecting a capacity crowd of close to 75,000 for the February 7 NFL championship game, is now likely to host between 13,000 to 15,000 fans.

It is the latest major sports event to succumb to the virus, with next month's Masters to be played without fans at Augusta National.

Sunday's Formula One Grand Prix at Imola will also be held behind closed doors.

Originally, plans were made for 13,147 spectators to attend the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix as the Italian race was added to the revamped calendar.

The 2021 Boston Marathon, due to be held in April, has also been postponed.

This year's race, which originally had also been postponed, was eventually cancelled.

The NFL said it was still refining its plans for the game, a money-making annual media spectacle that attracts thousands of fans to different host cities each year.

"There have been 19 teams that have already or have been authorised by public authorities to host regular-season games," a spokesman said.

"The average has been around 20 per cent with fans seated in pods and everyone wearing face coverings.

"Among the scenarios we are exploring is a capacity of around that figure but we anticipate it could grow as we get closer to the game."

The pandemic has also created havoc with the NFL calendar with positive cases forcing a reshuffling of the schedule and leaving open the possibility of adding an 18th week of games to the regular season.

The United States has had a surge in COVID-19 cases recently with the death toll reaching more than 227,000.

The virus is also escalating in Europe.

As a result spectators will be banned from Bundesliga matches throughout November in a bid to slow Germany's soaring infection rate.

After the first lockdown in March, the German football association (DFB) and the German Football League (DFL) came up with a sophisticated hygiene concept to first resume football fixtures and finish last season, and later allow fans in the stadiums.

For the current season, the DFL received the green light from politicians to fill football stadiums up to 20 per cent of the total capacity, pending approval from local authorities considering the coronavirus infection rates in each region.

While some clubs like RB Leipzig and Union Berlin were able to welcome a few thousand fans for matches, others played in front of just a few hundred.

The UK's Super League season threatens to descend into chaos.

Two matches scheduled for Friday have been cancelled, with Castleford reporting 12 cases ahead of their Huddersfield's clash.

The match between Salford and Warrington is also off after the Red Devils informed the authorities they only had 13 players available for selection.

In Australia, one of the world's premier horse races the Melbourne Cup will be held without fans as the city grapples with the virus.

The Boxing Day cricket spectacle at the MCG, which normally attracts 100,000 fans each year, will also lack atmosphere this year.

Authorities are hoping to let in approximately 25,000 fans, a quarter of the stadium's capacity.