Sports

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

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

NHL's return plan being reviewed as mandatory quarantine remains in place

(Illustration by Steve Tzemis/CBC)

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

NHL's proposal to resume play being reviewed

Canada's top health official says proposals are being reviewed from sports leagues looking to resume play — including the NHL — but the mandatory 14-day quarantine for people entering the country remains in place for now.

Dr. Theresa Tam said Thursday that protecting Canadians remains the key objective when considering a resumption of activities that were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including professional sports.

Tam's comments came two days after the NHL announced its plans to resume its 2019-20 season, which calls for games to be played out of two hub cities.

Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto are among the 10 cities shortlisted by the NHL as potential locations, but deputy commissioner Bill Daly said those markets would be out of the running if the mandatory quarantine at Canada's international border remains in place.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for assistance in coming up with a solution to allow NHL players based outside of Canada to get into the country.

A number of NHL players are currently based in the United States or Europe.

The U.S. began allowing foreign-born professional athletes to enter the country exempt from travel restrictions last week.

The NHL said it expects to make a decision on the hub cities in the next three or four weeks.

Premier League sets restart date

The Premier League plans to restart on June 17 after a 100-day shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic, with new staggered kickoff times to make sure every game can be shown on TV as fans are prevented from attending games.

The clubs agreed Thursday that the competition should resume with a Wednesday night doubleheader featuring Manchester City playing Arsenal and Aston Villa hosting Sheffield United — two games that were postponed during earlier rounds.

However, the league still needs formal approval from the government as lockdown measures are gradually eased.

"This [June 17] date cannot be confirmed until we have met all the safety requirements needed," Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said, "as the health and welfare of all participants and supporters is our priority."

Scott Boras recommends MLB players reject salary cuts

Agent Scott Boras recommends his clients refuse Major League Baseball's attempt to cut salaries during negotiations with the players' association, claiming team financial issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic have their origin in management debt financing.

In an email obtained by The Associated Press, Boras wrote that players should not alter terms of the March 26 agreement between MLB and the union that called for players to reduce their salaries to a prorated rate based on a shortened season. MLB on Tuesday proposed a series of tiered reductions that would cause top stars to receive the biggest cuts.

"Remember, games cannot be played without you," Boras wrote. "Players should not agree to further pay cuts to bail out the owners. Let owners take some of their record revenues and profits from the past several years and pay you the prorated salaries you agreed to accept or let them borrow against the asset values they created from the use of those profits players generated."

Boras is baseball's best-known agent and represented 71 players on active rosters and injured lists as of Aug. 31, the most among player representative firms. His Newport Beach, California-based company negotiated more than $1.2 billion in contracts during the off-season.

MLS teams can begin voluntary group training

Major League Soccer teams can begin voluntary outdoor small group training sessions.

Holding the small group sessions must not conflict with local public health or government restrictions, but is the next step in the league's hopes of returning to action. A maximum of six players may be assigned to a single group.

Teams must submit club-specific plans for the small group sessions to the league. The league said teams may split full fields into two equal halves and teams may define up to six zones per half field, spaced at least 10 feet apart. Only one player may be in each zone at any time to maintain physical distancing. Players may switch zones but two players cannot occupy the same zone.

Boston Marathon cancelled for 1st time

The Boston Marathon has been cancelled for the first time in its 124-year history.

Organizers said Thursday that they instead will have a "virtual event" in which participants who verify that they ran 26.2 miles on their own will receive their finisher's medal. The race had originally been scheduled for April 20 before being postponed for five months because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"While we cannot bring the world to Boston in September, we plan to bring Boston to the world for a historic 124th Boston Marathon," said Tom Grilk, the CEO of the Boston Athletic Association.

Although the title of Boston Marathon champion is contested by a few dozen elite athletes, the field includes more than 30,000 recreational and charity runners, with as many as 1 million people lined up along the course trek from Hopkinton to Boston's Back Bay. That presented organizers with a social distancing problem that won't be solved by the fall.

Serie A given green light for June restart

Italy's Serie A is set to resume on June 20.

Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora gave the league the all-clear to resume on Thursday, although it will have to wait a week longer than it had initially hoped.

Spadafora held a meeting with Italian soccer authorities by video conference after a medical protocol for matches was approved earlier on Thursday.

"The meeting was very useful," Spadafora said. "Now Italy is starting again and it is right that soccer starts again too.

"If the curve changes and the league has to be stopped again, the Italian soccer federation has assured me that there exists a plan B — playoffs — and also a plan C — leaving the standings as they are."

World Rugby approves optional law amendments

Optional law amendments limiting contact in scrums, the number of players in a maul, and the duration of rucks have been approved by World Rugby in the hope of reducing the risk of possible transmission of COVID-19 during the pandemic.

Rugby's governing body made the announcement on Thursday, leaving national unions to decide whether to adopt the amendments at elite or community level depending on the prevalence of the virus in their territory and the advice from government and public health authorities.

A package of best-practice hygiene measures, such as regular ball sanitization and the "prevention of spitting and nose clearance" during matches, was also announced in an effort to reduce exposure.

Scrum re-sets, which happen an average 3.5 times per game according to World Rugby, are being removed when no infringement occurs. Instead, there would be a free kick to the team which put the ball into the original scrum.

There will be no scrum option for a penalty or free kick, and there will be a goal-line dropout when an attacker is held up in-goal. As for mauls, no player is allowed to join one if not in it at the start, and only one forward movement is allowed. At rucks, referees will ask players to release the ball after three seconds instead of the current five.

NFL extends virtual offseason, still on track for week 1

The NFL continues to prepare for an on-time start to the 2020 season, commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters on a conference call Thursday.

"As a league, in partnership with the NFLPA, we'll continue to prepare and adjust as necessary," Goodell said. .".. We are prepared for the 2020 season."

Goodell announced that the virtual offseason program has been extended two weeks, through June 12, and that he's "hopeful" coaches can return to team facilities as soon as next week. However, he added that coaches will not be allowed to return until all 32 teams are able to open their facilities in accordance with local government regulations.

To this point, teams have been permitted to allow only non-football personnel back at their facilities, in an effort to maintain competitive equity.

Texas to allow spectators at outdoor pro sports events

Texas will soon allow outdoor pro sports events to have spectators, but their numbers will be strictly limited.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has revised a decision to let pro sports leagues host events without fans starting in June as part of the states' move to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Abbott's new order allows outdoor stadiums to host fans up to 25 per cent of their normal capacity. Leagues will have to apply to state health officials to be allowed to have fans. Indoor events will still be without spectators.

The PGA Tour plans to restart its season at Colonial in Texas on June 11-14 but has said it would not include fans.

Formula One cancels Dutch GP

The Dutch Grand Prix has become the fourth Formula One race to be cancelled this season.

Organizers of the first Dutch GP in 35 years preferred to wait until next year in hope fans will be able to attend, rather than hold the race without them this time.

The race in Zandvoort was set for May 3 and initially postponed.

Race director Jan Lammers says "we would like to celebrate this moment, the return of Formula 1 in Zandvoort, together with our racing fans in the Netherlands."

The other races cancelled were the season-opening Australian GP on March 15; the Monaco GP on May 24; and the French GP on June 28.

John Deere Classic called off

The John Deere Classic has decided to cancel what would have been its 50th anniversary as a PGA Tour event.

Tournament director Clair Peterson says there were too many obstacles to overcome and too many risks from the COVID-19 pandemic that it made sense in the long run to not hold the tournament.

"In Illinois, by the governor's mandate, we're not supposed to have gatherings of more than 50 people through the summer," Peterson said in a telephone interview. "And then you have the rest of its layers on top of that."

The John Deere Classic in Silvis, Illinois, had been scheduled for July 9-12 at the TPC Deere Run. Dylan Frittelli of South Africa was the defending champion.

It would have been the fifth tournament in the PGA Tour's revised schedule, which starts June 11-14 at Colonial.

European Tour planning to resume in July

The European Tour plans to resume its season the last full weekend in July with six tournaments in England and Wales that will include COVID-19 testing and depend on the U.K. lifting its quarantine restrictions.

It would start July 22 with the British Masters, hosted by Lee Westwood. The next five in the "U.K. Swing" are new tournaments the European Tour will pay for out of its tournament development fund. Three will be at former Ryder Cup venues — two at Celtic Manor in Wales, one at The Belfry in England.

The purse at each new event is 1 million euros. The tour said it will add 500,000 euros for the U.K. Swing for charities — half for the markets they play, half for the top 10 players from a "mini money list" to decide.

No spectators will be allowed at least for the UK swing.

The European Tour also set dates for four Rolex Series events — the Scottish Open and BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in October, the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa and DP World Tour Championship in Dubai in December.

National Rugby League returns to action

With the sound of skin slapping skin and an echoing oomph of air escaping lungs as players collided at pace, the National Rugby League led the charge for elite sports returning to action in Australia.

It was the furthest thing from the strict social distancing regulations that have been the norm in Australia in the coronavirus pandemic.

Parramatta flew in just four hours before kickoff and still beat the Brisbane Broncos 34-6 on Thursday night in an empty Suncorp Stadium, the lack of spectators being a trade-off for the NRL being allowed to resume following a two-month hiatus.

Liga 1 aiming to resume in 2 weeks

In the Europe-wide race to finish this soccer season before the next one starts, Romania's league aims to beat a UEFA target for completion by resuming in two weeks.

On Thursday, public authorities were agreeing on protocols to keep players and officials safe for a June 13 restart in Liga 1.

"This is a positive. The economy is suffering and people are suffering," league vice-president Robert Pongracz said of the restart plans, while also noting: "This is the last possible date for us to start."

It's not how the soccer summer of 2020 was meant to be for Romania. Plans to host four European Championship games in Bucharest and play in the Tokyo Olympics men's tournament were postponed by one year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With files from The Canadian Press and Field Level Media

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