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TKO: COVID-19 Plays Spoilsport

The weekend was a rude awakening and may well be the “new normal” for the foreseeable future. Get used to it! 

The coronavirus outbreak has infected more than 200,000 people and killed more than 8,000 across more than 90 nations as of date and if that doesn't wake you up, this certainly will if you are a sports buff - the virus is set to bring the world of sport to a more emphatic standstill than even two World Wars.

To be honest, though fears grew of it evolving into a global pandemic, that didn’t seem to do as much to the system as the shock of a global sporting shutdown over the weekend. Quarantine is fine I thought - I had live sport for company.

Then, the unthinkable happened - no one came out to play!

This is probably a good time to chill and for anyone who hasn’t caught the docuseries ‘The Test: A New Era for Australia’s Team' on Amazon Prime yet, go binge. The inside story of coach Justin Langer's mission to rebuild the Australian side post ‘Sandpapergate’ has notched up a rating of 9.2/10 on IMDb since its release a week ago.

Image Amazon Prime Video

So what exactly happened and what  is the fallout?

To begin with, as with the rest of the world, caution was the key in sporting circles as the virus is easily transmitted in crowds – the very essence of a sporting event.

The industry in response confronted COVID-19 by either staging events behind closed doors or postponing matches. But, outright cancellations came in one swift sweep over the weekend. The English Premier League, the most widely watched football league in the world announced all elite football would be suspended until 3rd April and UEFA confirmed the remaining Champions League last 16 second legs were all postponed with no date to reschedule yet. UEFA has however announced a commitment to see all European and domestic club competitions for the 2019-20 season completed by June 30.

Image Sporting Life

Among the most recent developments was the cancellation of all cricket in Australia followed by NSW being declared Sheffield Shield champions. This after the suspension of the IPL and entire NBA basketball season in the United States after Utah Jazz centre Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus. Since then Kevin Durant has tested positive, the  Brooklyn Nets has confirmed. Nets said four unnamed players had COVID-19 and one was displaying symptoms.

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And in other major sports, Euro 2020, the most anticipated football tournament after the World Cup will become Euro 2021 and take place next summer and so will Copa America 2020. And though the NASCAR has postponed its season until May, Formula One will have no mid-season break this season after teams voted to bring it forward to March and April. In other news from motorsports, Formula E has suspended its season until May, which means races in Paris, Seoul and Jakarta will be affected, Le Mans of 24 hours has been suspended until September and IndyCar Long Beach Grand Prix has been called off altogether.

Good news is that the leader of the IOC’s coordination commission for the Tokyo Olympics said there is no May deadline to cancel the games and he remains confident the event will go ahead though the flame handover ceremony will take place without spectators. While all ATP and WTA tournaments have been suspended until June 7, the French Open has been postponed and will take place from September 20 to October 4. Anthony Joshua's world heavyweight title defence against Kubrat Pulev, which is to be held at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, could be delayed until July if Spurs needs the ground for a potential extension of the Premier League campaign.

Here’s looking at the impact on the cricket world in particular and Australian sport overall

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🏏 Cricket

🎯 The remainder of the Australian cricket season – at all levels – has been cancelled and NSW declared Sheffield Shield champions with the final on 27 March called off with one round to play

🎯 Having originally been moved behind closed doors, Australia and New Zealand’s ODI series has now also been postponed, as well as the three-match Twenty20 series

🎯 Australia’s women were due to play ODI and T20 series in South Africa, starting on 22 March, but that tour has been suspended until further notice. CA said it was monitoring the situation before making a decision on international matches beyond that

🎯 England’s Test squad have returned home after the series against Sri Lanka was postponed - the two-Test series was due to begin in Galle on Thursday, 19 March

🎯  The start of the Indian Premier League has been delayed from 29 March to 15 April

🎯 Cricket West Indies have put all regional tournaments on hold from 16 March

🎯 The remaining two matches of India’s home one day international series against South Africa has now been postponed

🎯 SA players have since been asked to go into self-isolation for a period of two weeks. South Africa announced the postponement of all domestic professional cricket for a period of 60 days as the government ramped up its response to the crisis

🎯 The Pakistan Super League's organisers confirmed on Tuesday morning that the competition's semifinals and finals had been postponed indefinitely after a player had shown symptoms of the virus. Alex Hales had confirmed before the announcement that he is self-isolating at home after developing symptoms following his return from the PSL

🎯 The annual Champion County match, regarded as the curtain-raiser to the English domestic season, due to be played between the MCC and Essex between March 24-27 at Galle was called off, as was the MCC World Cricket Committee meeting in Colombo scheduled for March 28 and 29

🏉 Australian Rules Football

🎯 The AFL season has been cut from 23 rounds to 17, with all 18 teams to play each other once. A decision on whether the season will start and if it does go ahead, there won’t be any fans in attendance following the league’s assertion that games will be played behind closed doors “for the foreseeable future” was taken last week in the light of the Australian government’s advice against holding gatherings of more than 500 people. The AFL confirmed on Monday that if one player tests positive, the AFL will shut down for at least 14 days

🎯 Two rounds of the AFLW regular season remain; both are scheduled to be played as planned, but behind closed doors. But there were reports at the weekend of the possibility of fast-tracking the grand final to next weekend, to ensure the completion of the season. If that were to be the case, Fremantle would play Collingwood in the title decider

🎯 The VFL season, along with other state leagues including the SANFL, WAFL, NEAFL and TSL – and their associated women’s competitions – have been postponed until at least 31 May

🏉 Rugby League

🎯 The NRL season started last week without restrictions on fans attending games, and will continue as planned in round two, although games will from this point on be played behind closed doors. The league CEO, Todd Greenberg, said on Monday that due to the quick-moving nature of the outbreak, it was keeping an open mind and would move in line with any future advice from the government and health authorities

🎯 The Women’s Premiership does not start for six months, while the State of Origin series will be played in Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane in June and July. No decision has been made on either of those series

🏉 Rugby Union

🎯 Super Rugby has been postponed indefinitely just seven rounds into 18, after the announcement that travellers returning to New Zealand would have to self-isolate for 14 days made the international competition unviable

🎯 The Super W regular season finished at the weekend, but the last two weeks of the competition have been postponed

🎯 There is no guarantee the Wallabies’ three home Tests in July – against Ireland and Fiji – will go ahead

⚽ Football

🎯 Football Federation Australia has announced the remaining six weeks of the A-League season will go ahead, as will the weekend’s W-League grand final, but both will be played behind closed doors. There is also the likelihood the rest of the A-League season will be compressed into three or four weeks, with shorter turnarounds in between matches. A decision on the finals series is yet to be made

🎯 The Matildas’ upcoming fixtures against the US – in Utah on 11 April – and Canada – in Vancouver on 14 April – have both been cancelled

🎯 The Socceroos’ World Cup qualifiers have also been affected – Fifa and the AFC have postponed Asian qualifiers in March and June – while this year’s Copa América, to which Australia were invited, has been postponed by the South American Football Federation

🎯 All grassroots football, including training and matches, has been suspended until 14 April

🎾 Tennis

🎯 The Fed Cup finals in Hungary next month, at which Australia were due to appear, has been postponed. The ITF said it remains committed to delivering the tournament and is working to find a suitable alternative date

🏀 Basketball

🎯 The final two games of the NBL grand final series have been called off. Perth led the best-of-five series 2-1 and could have sealed the title with victory in Wednesday’s game four, but the Sydney Kings expressed a reluctance to travel to Perth. The league is yet to confirm if a winner will be crowned

🏎️ Motor Sport

🎯 After the Australian Grand Prix was dramatically postponed at the last minute on Friday, the FIA has confirmed that the Bahrain and Vietnam Grands Prix will now not take place on their scheduled dates. The Dutch Grand Prix on 3 May and the Spanish Grand Prix a week later are also in doubt

🎯 The Supercars championship has been postponed until June and rounds in Tasmania, Auckland and Perth put on hold

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For more information on COVID-19 and its increasing impact on the global community go here – a dedicated resource from the Australian Institute of Sport with up-to-date information on the virus and its relevance to sport.