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Coronavirus latest: Korea and Iran sports seasons hit, PSG messages support, and more

Lee Keun-Ho (L) of Ulsan Hyundai and Km Dae-Ho of Pohang Steelers compete for the ball during the K-League match between Pohang Steelers and Ulsan Hyundai at Pohang Steelyard on March 3, 2012 in Pohang, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

A raft of sports events in Korea have been cancelled or put under threat after a spike in coronavirus cases in the country.

The Korea Football Association indefinitely postponed the start of the country’s 2020 domestic season, including the top-tier K-League, lower leagues and the FA Cup. The K-League was due to have its first two games on February 29 and March 1. The FA Cup was due to have its first two rounds on March 14 and 28. A media day for the opening of the football season was also cancelled.

The KFA has also asked its four teams playing in the Asian Football Confederation Champions League to play its home games in that competition without spectators.

The Korea Baseball Organisation is discussing options in response to the coronavirus, including postponing games and playing games without spectators. Pre-season games are due to begin on March 14. Suspending the season is made more complicated by the fact there is already a suspension in place around this summer’s Olympics – the league is pausing from July 24 to August 10.

The Handball Korea League cancelled all remaining matches in its 2019-20 season, which was originally due to end on April 21.

The Korean Curling League indefinitely postponed its 2019-20 season playoffs, which were due to start yesterday.

The Korean professional volleyball and basketball leagues are playing games without spectators.

Other news:

Authorities in Iran have called off all major sports events except for football matches for a ten-day period, in response to the spread of the virus in the country. Football and futsal matches will take place without spectators in attendance.

French football team Paris St-Germain wore a message of support for China on its jersey during its match against Bordeaux on Sunday. The words ‘Stay strong China’ appeared in both Chinese and English, instead of usual front-of-shirt sponsor Accor Live Limitless, the hotel and lifestyle loyalty programme. PSG and ALL also presented messaging for the cause on a banner on the pitch before the game and on LED perimeter boards.

Japanese football’s J.League is considering a suspension. Its opening match was held last Saturday, February 22.

Sportswear brand Asics donated RMB5.6m ($800,000) of medical equipment to Hubei Hospital, one of the hospitals at the epicentre of the outbreak in China.

Sportswear brand Li Ning Group joined with the China Women’s Development Foundation to donate RMB10m ($1.4m) of warm weather clothing to the Hubei region, for medical staff and patients. In January, Li Ning Group also donated RMB10m to a charity supporting the epidemic relief effort.

The final of the ATP Bergamo Challenger tournament in Italy was cancelled due to the growing epidemic in the country. Finalists Enzo Couacaud and Illya Marchenko will receive points and prize money.

Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch League cancelled matches due to be held in South Korea between February 29 and March 22nd. The cancelled matches include some that were previously moved from China to avoid the outbreak there. In other Korean esports news, the League of Legends Champions Korea competition is currently playing events without spectators.

Organisers of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic flame lighting ceremony in Greece said they are working with a health risk management company on measures to reduce the chances of the virus spreading at the event and subsequent relay. The torch is to be lit at the site of the ancient Greek Olympics on March 12 before a seven-day relay in Greece, followed by a handover ceremony to Japan in Athens on March 19.

Fifa will hold its next Council meeting on March 20 via video conference instead of in-person in Asuncion, Paraguay, as originally planned.