Coronavirus: Here's what happened in the sports world on Friday

Stay up to date on the latest on how the coronavirus outbreak is affecting sports around the globe.

WNBA season postponed indefinitely, was to start May 15

(Illustration by Steve Tzemis/CBC)

The latest on how the coronavirus outbreak is affecting sports around the globe:

  • Rugby Canada prepares for financial hit
  • WNBA to be postponed indefinitely
  • Preakness Stakes to move date, close infield
  • Athletes Village in Tokyo could house virus patients
  • LPGA postpones next 5 events, plus U.S. Open

Rugby Canada preparing for financial hit due to shutdown

World rugby is taking a financial beating because of the COVID-19 shutdown. USA Rugby, its bottom line battered, has already filed for bankruptcy.

Rugby Canada is expecting a sizable hit. How big depends on how long the lockdown continues. CEO Allen Vansen, following the view of public health authorities, says the Canadian governing body is planning for later rather than sooner.

"We've taken that advice to heart in terms of the impacts to our business — (it) is not going to be a matter of weeks, it's going to be a matter of months," he said Friday.

He anticipates a decline of $4 million to $6 million US this year in gross revenue, although that will be accompanied by a reduction in expenses given the pandemic has forced events to be called off.

In 2017, the most recent figures available, Rugby Canada had $16.2 million in revenue.

Vansen does not see Canada having to follow USA Rugby's drastic route. But he says tough decisions remain.

Start of WNBA season on hold

The WNBA season will be postponed indefinitely, the latest pro sports league to alter its schedule because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The season was set to start May 15, but WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said Friday that the extension of social distancing guidelines in the country through April 30 will require a later start to training camps, and subsequently the season.

Training camps were scheduled to open April 26.

"While the league continues to use this time to conduct scenario-planning regarding new start dates and innovative formats, our guiding principle will continue to be the health and safety of the players, fans and employees," Engelbert said in a news release.

She said the WNBA draft, which will be conducted virtually, remains on schedule for April 17. ESPN will televise the draft.

Preakness to move date, close infield to all fans

The 145th running of the Preakness Stakes — traditionally the second leg of the Triple Crown — will be moved to a later date and be held without any fans in the infield.

The Stronach Group, which owns Pimlico Race Course, and the Maryland Jockey Club announced in a statement Friday that they are seeking a new date for the Baltimore event, which was originally scheduled for May 16.

"Our first priority in these difficult times is the health and well-being of our customers, our vendors, our employees and the horses we all love," the statement said. "A decision will be made on a new date for Preakness 145 and will take into consideration all of the recommended best practices from local and government health authorities to protect our community."

The statement also revealed that the infield at Pimlico, which has a capacity of more than 120,000, will be closed to all fans, regardless of when the race is held. The main stands of the race course will be open, however.

Athletes Village could house virus patients in Tokyo

The under-construction Athletes Village for the Tokyo Olympics could be used as a temporary hospital for coronavirus patients.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has been talking about the possibility of occupying the massive development on Tokyo Bay, which is to house up to 11,000 Olympic and 4,400 Paralympic athletes and staff during the games.

The complex, which will eventually include 24 buildings, is expected to remain unoccupied with the Olympics delayed for 16 months.

Koike said the Athletes Village was "one of the options, but the village is not finished yet. We are talking about places that are available even today or tomorrow and checking a possibility one by one."

Through Thursday, Japan had reported about 3,300 cases of coronavirus with 74 deaths, according to the health ministry. Tokyo reported 97 new cases on Thursday with officials looking for more beds in the capital as totals rise.

Age limit could be raised for Olympic soccer

The age limit for the Tokyo Olympics men's soccer tournament could be raised so that players who were eligible in 2020 will not miss out following the postponement of the Games until the following year, FIFA said on Friday.

Olympic soocer is usually restricted to under-23 teams for the men's tournament, with three overage players allowed per team.

However, a working group set up by global soccer's governing body FIFA recommended on Friday that the competition should remain open to players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997, as originally planned, FIFA said in a statement.

This would effectively raise the age limit by one year.

The working group also recommended the postponement of all international matches due to be played in June — a formality as Euro 2020, the Copa America and the month's World Cup qualifiers have already been called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

LPGA postpones next 5 events, plus U.S. Women's Open

The U.S. Women's Open in Houston is moving from the end of spring to the middle of December.

The USGA said Friday the rapid developments of COVID-19 has led the Women's Open at Champions Golf Club to be postponed. Instead of being held June 4-7, the new date is Dec. 10-13.

That would be the latest a major championship is played, and the first time an official LPGA Tour event was held entirely in December since Maria Hjorth won the LPGA Tour Championship in 2010.

Meanwhile, the LPGA Tour postponed the next five events, with four of them already assigned new dates. The changes means the next event — for now — would be the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship on June 19-21, followed by the KPMG Women's PGA Championship outside Philadelphia.

Kenyan runner Kipsang breaks curfew, arrested

Former marathon world record holder Wilson Kipsang was among 20 people arrested in Kenya for locking themselves in a bar and drinking alcohol in breach of a curfew imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Police say the 2012 Olympic bronze medallist was among those detained at a police station in Iten, one of Kenya's famous high-altitude towns where distance runners train. They were in breach of a 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. The group included a local politician.

Kipsang, who is also a police officer, was provisionally suspended this year from track and field and charged with doping offences that include tampering with doping samples. He has also won the New York, London and Berlin marathons.

Twelve athletes were arrested in Iten earlier this week for breaching Kenyan government regulations on social gatherings during the COVID-19 crisis. The runners were arrested for training in a group, which has been banned in Kenya. Training camps have been shut down and athletes must train alone.

Triathlon's world body extends suspension of all events to June 30

World Triathlon has extended the suspension of all its events, including the World Triathlon Series, to June 30 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the body's executive board said on Friday.

All activities had been previously suspended until April 30 due to the flu-like virus which has killed more than 53,000 people according to a Reuters tally.

Events affected include the World Triathlon Series in Yokohama that was scheduled to be held next month, three African cups, three American events, four Asian cups, eight events in Europe and one in Oceania.

"The suspension of all activities doesn't mean that we stop working," World Triathlon president Marisol Casado said in a statement.

"We're meeting with athletes, coaches, national federations, continental confederations, the IOC, the IPC, the organizers and our committees involved in these activities to work on alternative dates and possibilities."

Heavyweight title fight postponed

The world heavyweight title fight between Briton Anthony Joshua and the IBF's mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev of Bulgaria originally scheduled for June 20 has been postponed, promoters Matchroom Boxing said on Friday.

Joshua's defense of his IBF, WBA, WBO and IBO titles was set to take place at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium but the coronavirus outbreak has brought global sport to a standstill, with no competition taking place in the United Kingdom.

"A new date for the event... is currently being worked on," Matchroom Boxing said in a statement.

"We will announce any updates in due course and continue to explore the possibility of hosting this fight at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium."

Premier League pushes back re-start date

The Premier League has pushed back its re-start date and says play will not resume at the beginning of May.

The league had given a return date of April 30 amid the coronavirus outbreak but now says the season "will only return when it is safe and appropriate to do so."

It says there remained a "combined objective" for all remaining domestic league and cup matches to be played to maintain the integrity of each competition.

The league also says it has consulted players over a pay deduction or deferral of 30%.

It also voted to advance funds of 125 million pounds ($150 million) to clubs in the English Football League and fifth-tier National League.

with files from The Canadian Press, The Associated Press and Reuters

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