Coronavirus latest: Champions and Europa League finals postponed, Olympics decisions imminent, and more

Uefa rresident, Aleksander Ceferin. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

Uefa has postponed this year’s Champions League and Europa League finals due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The women’s Champions League final has also been postponed.

Uefa said a working group established last week, chaired by president Aleksander Čeferin, would look at options for rescheduling the games.

Some media reports said Uefa is considering one-leg ties to complete the Champions League knockout stage fixtures, followed by a four-way finals tournament in Istanbul.

All three tournaments are already suspended. The Champions League was stopped during the round of 16, with four ties still to be decided. The final was due to take place in Istanbul on May 30.

The Europa League was also halted in the round of 16. The final was due for Gdansk, Poland on May 27.

The women’s Champions League was to take place in Vienna on May 24.

Olympic torch relay decision coming

Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee president Yoshiro Mori said a decision whether to modify or cancel the torch relay in Japan would be made in the coming days.

Kyodo News reported that a “drastically reduced” relay is under consideration, in which no members of the public would take part and the torch would be carried by car and placed on display at each stop on the route.

The relay is due to start on Thursday in Fukushima Prefecture. Mori said Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe is unlikely to attend the start of the relay.

A decision on Tokyo 2020 itself is also expected soon following yesterday’s developments, including prime minister Abe’s statement that postponing the Games “may become inevitable”, and the International Olympic Committee starting a four-week process to assess the viability of the current schedule.

IOC member Richard Pound said he expected a postponement of the Games to be announced shortly. He said: “On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided. The parameters going forward have not been determined…It will come in stages. We will postpone this and begin to deal with all the ramifications of moving this, which are immense.”

The World Health Organisation said yesterday that it believed a decision on the Olympics would be made “very soon”. Reuters reported that Dr Mike Ryan, the WHO’s top emergencies expert, said: “We have every confidence that the Japanese government and the IOC will not proceed with any Games should they be dangerous to athletes or spectators.”

A raft of National Olympic Committees and other sporting bodies and figures yesterday joined calls for the IOC to postpone the games, including Poland’s Olympic Committee, PKOL; Austria’s sports minister Werner Kogler; Swiss Olympic president Juerg Stahl; Iran’s National Olympic Committee; the Athletics Association, a body representing professional track and field athletes. Australia and Canada’s Olympic bodies yesterday became the first to say they would not send teams to an Olympics in 2020.

World Athletics said it was willing to move its 2021 World Championships in Eugene, Oregon, to accommodate a postponed Tokyo 2020. The event is scheduled for August 6-15. WA and the championships’ organisers in Oregon confirmed they had discussed the possibility of a move with stakeholders.

Formula 1 expects shortened season

Formula 1 expects to run a shortened season with 15 to 18 races this year, chairman and chief executive Chase Carey said on Monday.

The 2020 calendar originally had 22 races. The season is yet to start, with eight races so far postponed or cancelled. The next race is scheduled for June 14 in Montreal.

Reuters reported that Carey said: “We are all committed to bringing our fans a 2020 championship season.

“We recognise there is significant potential for additional postponements in currently scheduled events, nonetheless we and our partners fully expect the season to start at some point this summer, with a revised calendar of 15-18 races.”

Carey said the season was likely to run into December, “with the actual sequence and schedule dates for races differing significantly from our original 2020 calendar”.

He said more details would be announced in the next month.

Sky NZ hopes for domestic rugby competition

There are still hopes in New Zealand for a domestic rugby league competition to replace the cancelled Super Rugby pan-regional competition.

Japan Today reported that Super Rugby media rights holder Sky New Zealand’s chief executive Martin Stewart said: “We are obviously seeing some people who no longer wish to subscribe to the sports channels.

“I’m hoping that the Super Rugby teams will be back in action shortly in New Zealand. We’re very excited about that. We’ve been working closely with New Zealand Rugby.

“There are a couple of alternatives that will depend on how things develop in terms of travel bans etc. as to whether or not there is an overseas element towards the end or whether it remains purely a New Zealand-based competition.

“But either way, we’re hopeful that … we’ll be able to see some great action between all of the Super teams in New Zealand.”

Other news

The Football Federation of Australia became the last major Australian professional sports body to halt its season. The final rounds of the A-League 2019-20 season were postponed this morning. The FFA said it will review the situation in the coming weeks and provide an update on the schedule on April 22. It intends to complete the season.

Japan’s Rugby Top League cancelled the remainder of its 2019-20 season. The league had been suspended since mid-February. The league is still considering its options for running its annual, end-of-season, four-team All-Japan Rugby Championship.

South Korea’s men’s and women’s professional volleyball league seasons have been cancelled. The Korean Volleyball Federation (KOVO) announced on Monday the cancellation of the remainder of the V-League regular season and playoffs for both men and women, after an emergency board meeting with the 13 men’s and women’s teams.

American players have been returning to their South Korean professional baseball teams, as the coronavirus risk rises in the US and appears to subside in Korea. The KBO League teams are still not allowed to play each other, but have been training.

The International Cricket Council is preparing a video conference to address the impact of the epidemic on the global cricket calendar. Meanwhile, the council has ordered the majority of its staff at its headquarters in Dubai to work from home.

The Pakistan Cricket Board is considering holding the remaining matches of this year’s suspended Pakistan Super League in a 10-day window in November. Another option is to crown current league leaders Multan Sultans as the champions. The PCB said it would discuss the options with the league franchise owners.