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Coronavirus latest: AFL throws towel, World Rugby cancellations, and more

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan speaks to the media during an press conference at AFL House on March 18 (by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

The Australian Football League has suspended its men’s season until May 31. It also scrapped its women’s season mid-finals and will not award the championship.

The decision was announced on Sunday, after the AFL’s first round was played behind closed doors at the end of last week. It came in the wake of several Australian states ordering self-isolation for all entering travellers.

The AFL first-round games drew large television audiences. More than 1.1m tuned in for Thursday night’s game between Richmond and Carlton, the biggest audience for a season opener in four years.

UK newspaper The Guardian reported that AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said it was “an understatement” to say the cancellation due to the coronavirus was “the most serious threat to our game in 100 years”. He said: “The AFL industry is facing its biggest financial crisis in our history. Our industry provides livelihoods for thousands and thousands of people but our key focus at the moment – like every organisation in the country – is to do everything that needs to be done to help slow the spread of this virus and to keep people as healthy as possible.”

The Guardian reported that the league has a ‘future fund’ of more than A$120m ($69m) that it can use to cushion the financial blow, but that it was estimated the organisation will need at least five times this figure. The league is to begin consulting with clubs on best practice regarding cost-cutting, with pay and job cuts expected.

Meanwhile, Rugby Australia postponed its plans for a domestic competition to fill the gap left by the cancellation of the pan-Southern Hemisphere Super Rugby season. RA was hoping to engage four teams including its three Super Rugby teams, in a home and away, round robin series beginning on April 3. The plans remain in place but the competition will now not begun until at least May 1.

World Rugby postpones slew of events

World Rugby has postponed several tournaments and World Cup qualifiers, and June’s Olympic qualifiers are “under review”.

Among the cancelled events are men’s and women’s World Cup regional qualifying competitions, Sevens Series events in London and Paris, the women’s Sevens Series tournament in Canada, the final men’s Sevens Challenger Series, and the World Rugby Under-2o Championship in Italy in June and July.

An Olympic Games qualifying tournament is currently scheduled for June 20-21.

Other news

The Chengdu Double Legacy Marathon yesterday became the first road race to take place in China since the start of the coronavirus outbreak. About 1,000 runners took part.

The International Table Tennis Federation has cancelled the 2020 World Tour Hong Kong Open, scheduled for May 5-10, and the World Tour Platinum China Open, scheduled for May 12-17 in Shenzhen. The federation is trying to find alternative dates for the events.

The Badminton World Federation has moved back the dates of its men’s and women’s team World Championships, called the Thomas and Uber Cup finals respectively, that were due to take place in Aarhus, Denmark, on May 16-24. The competitions will now take place on August 15-23 in the same city. The federation’s concurrent members forum and annual general meeting have been moved to August 20-21. The federation has also suspended five tournaments in April – the Croatian International 2020 on April 16-19, the Peru International 2020 also on 16-19, the 2020 European Championships on 21-26, the Badminton Asia Championships 2020 on 21-26, and the XXIV Pan Am Individual Championships 2020 on 23-26. The federation said the five events would now no longer contribute to Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualifying, as any rescheduling would fall outside the qualification window.

The International Ice Hockey Federation has cancelled its 2020 Men’s World Championships, that was set to take place in Zurich and Lausanne on May 8-24. The IIHF said there was no possibility of rescheduling the event this year. The IIHF’s Congress, due to take place during the Championships, has also been postponed until further notice.

The International Volleyball Federation has postponed and cancelled various Beach Volleyball World Tour events due to take place in May. The postponed events are those in Tuan Chau Island, Vietnam on 6-9; in Itapema, Brazil on 6-10; in Jurmala, Latvia on 6-10; and in Ostrava, Czech Republic on 20-24. The event in Warsaw, Poland on 27-31 is cancelled.

Four of the ten buildings in the athletes’ village for the 2018 Asian Games have been turned into hospitals to deal with coronavirus cases in Indonesia. The facility will accommodate more than 4,000 patients.

The Pakistan Cricket Board said it is confident it will earn a profit from the 2020 Pakistan Super League Twenty20 competition, despite the fact it was suspended at the semi-final state due to the epidemic. The Press Trust of India reported that an official said: “We will earn more compared to the four previous editions because majority of the matches (in earlier editions) had to be held in the UAE where we generally had low crowds and commercial deals were also not very profitable…The losses will come from four matches being held behind closed doors in Karachi and Lahore but the gate money receipts are minimal compared to the profits we will make from commercial, sponsorship and broadcasting deals.”

The Korean Women’s Basketball League (WKBL) has become the first of Korea’s professional sports leagues to completely cancel its 2019-20 season. The league had been suspended on March 9, with an initial plan to restart on March 24.

Indonesia’s Proliga volleyball league ended its 2020 season early and scrapped its finals. It will not name a season champion.

Former Real Madrid president Lorenzo Sanz has died at the age of 76 from the coronavirus.

Spain-based Chinese professional footballer Wu Lei confirmed he has coronavirus but is making a recovery.

Three Chinese and three South Korean fencers have tested positive for coronavirus after returning from the Westend Epee Grand Prix, that took place behind closed doors in Budapest on March 6-8.