Golf's Masters postponed, English
soccer suspended as coronavirus wreaks havoc
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[March 14, 2020]
By Martyn Herman and Amy Tennery
LONDON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Golf's jewel in the crown The Masters
and English soccer's Premier League joined the lengthening list of
elite sporting events to fall foul of the coronavirus pandemic on
Few dates on the global sporting calendar are as keenly-anticipated
as the Augusta National showpiece, but organizers moved swiftly to
postpone golf's opening major, which was due to be played between
April 9-12, throwing the elite championship golf schedule into a
state of flux.
England's hugely-popular Premier League announced it was suspending
matches until April 4, while soccer's European governing body UEFA
said that next week's matches in the Champions League and Europa
League would not be played.
The unprecedented shutdown of world sport in response to the
coronavirus spread that has infected 138,000 people and killed more
than 5,000 also prompted FIFA to recommended that all international
matches scheduled to be played in March and April be postponed.
Soccer's world governing body said that clubs would not be obliged
to release players for any games that go ahead.
Organisers also postponed two of the biggest running events on the
calendar, the marathons in Boston and London, which regularly draw
tens of thousands of participants, including some of the world's top
This weekend's Grand Prix season opener in Australia was canceled
hours before the first practice session.
England's cricket players were heading home after their tour of Sri
Lanka was called off, while this weekend's Six Nations rugby match
between Wales and Scotland was postponed.
France's Top 14, the richest rugby union league in the world, was
Cycling's Giro d'Italia, the first Grand Tour of the season which
was due to start in Budapest on May 9, has been postponed.
After two days of shutdowns and cancellations the sporting cupboard
for the next two months looks bare.
On Thursday, the big American sports leagues -- including the NHL,
MLS and Major League Baseball -- were suspended, the ATP men's
tennis tour was shut down and golf's Players Championship was
abandoned after one round.
Two members of the Utah Jazz NBA team tested positive for COVID-19,
and the league suspended the season until further notice on
The postponement of the Masters, won in fairytale fashion by Tiger
Woods last year, sent shockwaves through golf although with the PGA
Tour suspended until April 5 it was not a surprise.
"Unfortunately, the ever-increasing risks associated with the
widespread Coronavirus COVID-19 have led us to a decision that
undoubtedly will be disappointing to many, although I am confident
is appropriate under these unique circumstances," Augusta National
Chairman Fred Ridley said in a statement.
"We hope this postponement puts us in the best position to safely
host the Masters Tournament and our amateur events at some later
Nearly 2,000 people have been infected across the U.S.
Britain's government on Thursday stopped short of banning mass
gatherings of people -- but that decision was quickly overtaken by
events as the country's soccer leagues reacted to the fast-moving
situation by putting the season on hold.
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2020 A man walks by St
James' Park as the Premier League is suspended due to the number of
coronavirus cases growing around the world Action Images via
The Premier League, the richest soccer league in the world, had
stood almost alone in not suspending the season, but at an emergency
meeting it was decided that the fixtures would stop until April 4 at
The English Football League and Women's Super League are also
suspended until April 3 while England's friendly internationals
against Italy and Denmark will not take place. All matches in
Scotland were also postponed.
Arsenal's fixture with Brighton & Hove Albion this weekend had
already been postponed after manager Mikel Arteta tested positive
for coronavirus. Chelsea's players were in self-isolation after
forward Callum Hudson-Odoi also tested positive.
Everton, who were due to play Premier League leaders Liverpool on
Monday, said one of their players was self-isolating as a
Spain's La Liga, Italy's Serie A and the French Ligue 1 are all on
hold and Germany's Bundesliga followed suit on Friday.
With Europe's top soccer leagues in limbo, the fate of the this
season's Euro 2020 championship, starting in June and hosted by 12
cities, remains unclear.
Numerous qualifying playoffs are scheduled for the end of March and
on Friday the Norwegian Football Federation (NFF) said it did not
plan to hold its match against Serbia as most of their squad needed
to adhere to the country's new quarantine provisions.
UEFA will hold an emergency meeting next week to discuss the fate of
Despite the spiraling impact of coronavirus, sport's biggest
showpiece, the Olympics, will still go ahead as planned, according
to Tokyo organizers.
Responding to comments by U.S. president Donald Trump that they
should be delayed for a year, Japan Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto
told reporters: "The IOC and 2020 organizers are not at all
considering cancelling or postponing the Games."
Hours later the torch relay through Greece was canceled after fears
that unexpectedly large crowds on the route could spread the
Formula One has now lost its first four races of the season with the
first-ever race in Vietnam canceled, along with Bahrain. The Chinese
Grand Prix had already been called off and this weekend's opener in
Melbourne was canceled with all the teams already in place.
The start of the lucrative Indian Premier League Twenty20 cricket
competition (IPL) has also been postponed until April 15 as a
"precautionary measure", the Indian cricket board (BCCI) said.
Some major sports events are going ahead though.
In Britain the week-long Cheltenham horse racing festival,
attracting thousands of fans each day, held its blue-riband Gold Cup
on Friday which was won by 10-3 favorite Al Boum.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Additional reporting by Amy Tennery;
Editing by Toby Davis and Ken Ferris)
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