Coronavirus: NRL, Super League and A-League – which sports events are still on amid COVID-19 crisis?

By Sports Desk March 13, 2020

With coronavirus spreading across the globe, sports events, tournaments and leagues have been postponed or cancelled en masse. 

On Friday, the Premier League, Bundesliga and Ligue 1 followed the example of LaLiga and Serie A by suspending fixtures, while golf's Masters tournament in the United States was also postponed.

The Giro d'Italia is awaiting a new date, while the NBA, NHL and MLB seasons have all been put on hold.

Planned Six Nations fixtures have also been postponed, including Saturday's clash between Wales and Scotland in Cardiff, while England's tour of Sri Lanka and South Africa's tour of India have been scrapped.

However, despite the upheaval, some events are still set to take place.

FOOTBALL

While most of the major leagues across the globe have been suspended, some are carrying on, though often with mitigating circumstances such as playing behind closed doors.

In Argentina, both the Superliga and Primera A competitions are scheduled to continue, while matches in Australia's A-League are also set to take place. Liga MX remains, and the Russian Premier League is likewise going ahead.

RUGBY LEAGUE

Though Leeds Rhinos' meeting with Catalans Dragons has been postponed, the rest of the Super League fixtures this weekend will be played, as will the Challenge Cup matches, with fans allowed to attend.

In Australia, the first round of NRL fixtures will take place, though the second round will be held behind closed doors, based upon government advice.

CRICKET

The Indian Premier League start date has been pushed back two weeks until mid-April, but the Pakistan Super League has been given the all clear to continue – although a number of players have pulled out, leaving a reduced schedule.

Four matches this weekend precede a pair of semi-finals next week.

There are question marks over Sunday's behind-closed-doors ODI between New Zealand and Australia in Sydney, however, as Black Caps pace bowler Lockie Ferguson is in isolation after complaining of a sore throat.

RUGBY UNION

Wales-Scotland, scheduled for Saturday, was the last of the three planned Six Nations games for this weekend to fall through. The Pro14 and all French rugby union fixtures have also been halted, and Sunday's Premiership Rugby Cup final between Sale Sharks and Harlequins belatedly joined the mass cull of fixtures.

There are six Super Rugby matches to look forward to across the course of the weekend, however, despite the Australian government advising against non-essential gatherings.

Meanwhile, the RFU Championship fixture list has also been largely unaffected, the weekend's action starting with Newcastle Falcons' home match against Bedford Blues on Friday.

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  • JFF welcomes government's decision to approve the resumption of football JFF welcomes government's decision to approve the resumption of football

    The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) has welcomed the Jamaican government’s decision to grant approval for the resumption of Jamaica’s Premier League after more than a year of inactivity because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Football was suspended in March 2020 after the virus began to spread across the country.

    However, after months of meetings and deliberations, the decision to allow for the resumption of football was announced today by Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Desmond McKenzie following a meeting between representatives of the Ministries of Health and Wellness, and Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, the Premier League Clubs Association, the Jamaica Football Federation, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management and the Social Development Commission.

    “We have been meeting for some time to ensure that all possible mechanisms concerning the efficient prevention and management of COVID-19 are applied to all aspects of Club competition, including the health and safety of players, referees and Club workers and administrators. Further details regarding the starting times and the conditions under which the competitions will be held, will be disclosed at a later date,” Minister McKenzie said.

    “Even as the management of COVID-19 remains paramount, the Government is keen for sport to resume in a phased, orderly manner, consistent with the continued reduction in the country’s positivity rate. The impact of sport on social well-being and social development is well recognized, and the Government will support all efforts to promote the enjoyment of sport in the safest way possible. In this regard, the Government is actively considering applications from a range of sporting associations.”

    JFF President Michael Ricketts welcomed the news.

    “This is very positive news for the stakeholders of football,” Ricketts said in a statement late Wednesday.

    “Of course, my first thoughts are with our players and coaches who will now have opportunities open to them to resume the trade that they so love. I also want to commend and thank the partners who have invested, for their patience and loyalty to the sport.

    “Finally, thanks to the ministries and state agencies for the work done to get us here. While I am sure the players are overjoyed with the news, I implore them to be constantly mindful of the current local health conditions and act responsibly. While we play, let’s play our part in containing this pandemic. Let the games begin.”

    The approval was given for the format that allows clubs to train at their home grounds with the official matches to be held at central venues. Most recently, the PFJL had developed a protocol for the official matches to be held in a controlled environment based on the significant upsurge in the number of COVID-19 cases in Jamaica starting in February. However, with the success of the most recent measures that have cut back the number of new cases, all parties were satisfied that the previous model would align with the current measures.

    There is also greater confidence with the start of national vaccination efforts.

    The JFF will now work to finalize the design of the format for the official matches following the delay in receiving approval and the resulting shortened season. The JFF will also have to integrate the Jamaica Premier League matches with those on the national and regional calendars as both the Gold Cup and World Cup Qualifiers are being held in the coming months.

    Details of the start, duration and league format will be shared in the coming days.

    Like most sporting events globally, the Jamaica Premier League will be held without spectators in order to contribute to the nation’s efforts to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus. However, fans will be able to enjoy the matches as the PFJL has secured a broadcast partner for the Caribbean who will be responsible for identifying television broadcasters for Jamaica and the region.

    Acting General Manager of the PFJL, Arlene L. Martin was very pleased with the go-ahead.

     “The PFJL appreciates the government’s recognition of the importance of the resumption of professional football as well as the confidence in the approved protocol and the ability to comply with these measures. The PFJL has worked with our national and regional stakeholders to develop a thorough protocol that we are confident will support and even enhance the government’s efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. We look forward to an exciting season with the Clubs and our commercial partners and to delivering quality football to our fans.”

  • 'Participants will face full force of the law' - JFF warns individuals taking part in illegal youth academy league 'Participants will face full force of the law' - JFF warns individuals taking part in illegal youth academy league

    The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) has cautioned any players, officials or referees who take part in an illegally organised youth competition that they could face possible sanctions.

    A fixture list for a competition, which features several youth academy teams, that was scheduled to take place from May 1 to June 13, has come to light in recent days.  The teams listed on the flyer included Phoenix Academy, Kickers Academy, Baptist Alliance Academy, Pembroke Elite, Irvin Youth Academy, Aptitude Academy, and LAX.

    The competition venue listed was the Mona High school, which is the training base of Phoenix Academy.  The JFF, who is the only body capable of sanctioning official club competitions across the island, has made it clear it has given no permission for the event to be staged and demanded its immediate termination.

    The JFF themselves have not received permission to resume competition on the island by the Jamaican government, based on the existing COVID-19 protocols.

    “No permission has been granted for any tournament to go ahead, and all players, coaches and other individuals associated with any tournament do so illegally under the country’s disaster preparedness laws,” a release issued by the JFF read.

    “The JFF is therefore mandating all concerned with any tournament, youth or adult, to cease and desist all activities. Anybody found to be involved in any new activity will face the full force of the laws of the federation and will be reported to the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management for their attention.”

  • Werner hangs in there as time won't wait for aging Madrid Werner hangs in there as time won't wait for aging Madrid

    This past year or so has done very little for our basic grasp of time.

    Don't leave the house for a week, miss a couple of Zoom quizzes and what even are days?

    Time and how easily or readily it passes depends on individual perception – our stresses, worries and hopes at that given moment.

    Between Chelsea forward Kai Havertz hitting the Real Madrid crossbar in Wednesday's Champions league semi-final and the ball plopping down onto Timo Werner's head, a little under two seconds passed.

    It's nothing really, but how they must have dragged for Werner. So many things to flash through his mind's eye. All soundtracked by a klaxon of "OH GOD, OH GOD, YOU CAN'T MISS… DON'T MISS! ARRRGGHHH!"

    He might have thought of how coolly he linked with the effervescent N'Golo Kante in the build-up to Havertz's impudent dinked effort.

    Kante negotiated Madrid's seasoned midfield with nimble precision and was one of Chelsea's many outstanding players on the night.

    Casemiro and Toni Kroos will not want to think of the France international for some time after this, but the number seven on his blue shirt scampering around and away from them might be a hard image to shift.

    Werner would create a glorious chance for Kante as only ex-Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois prevented Madrid from collapsing in a heap after half-time. He has brought much more than unfortunate penalty box uncertainty to Chelsea, however much howling missed chances like his volley in the first leg linger in the collective consciousness.

    The ex-RB Leipzig man has 12 goals and 10 assists this season, making him the first Chelsea player to record double figures for both since Eden Hazard in 2018-19.

    "I'm sure I've seen him around here somewhere," Werner might have thought as he gazed up into the cool night sky.

    Zinedine Zidane's selection of Hazard in his starting XI and decision to keep him on for 89 minutes had little logic beyond "it's a funny old game". The only thing coming back to haunt anyone right now is the Belgium playmaker's price tag and what Florentino Perez thinks is acceptable when faced with a chasm in the Madrid accounts.

    Few players in full flight are as utterly joyous as Hazard, but that was the Chelsea Hazard. Fitness woes have turned his dream move into a nightmare. He failed to register a shot or create a chance for a team-mate during the first half on his old stomping ground.

    There was a snapshot on the angle to test imperious Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy in the 64th minute before Hazard returned to the margins.

    Big-name signings have no guarantees, as Werner might have mulled as he positioned his forehead for the ball and a virtually unmissable chance. Oh, to be a striker in form.

    That can be a different kind of burden, though.

    “For people who like to watch football, Karim is a gift,” Zidane recently said of his talismanic striker Karim Benzema. "We enjoy him and so do his teammates. Karim makes the difference."

    As much as it must be nice to have his team-mates enjoy him, Benzema must sometimes wish they'd join in. His lightning control and volley conjured an equaliser out of nothing at Valdebebas last week.

    He almost did likewise at Stamford Bridge, producing a brilliant first touch and venomous shot from the edge of the box that Mendy saved superbly.

    When Benzema escaped the attentions of Antoinio Rudiger and Thiago Silva before half-time to send a looping header towards the net, the Chelsea goalkeeper was again his equal. The same could not be said for anyone with whom he shares a dressing room.

    Mason Mount was on hand to make sure of a 2-0 win and an all-English final against Manchester City five minutes from time. A lavishly gifted youngster putting Madrid out of their misery felt somewhat symbolic - Mount possessed of the verve and energy that this shell of the great side that won three consecutive Champions Leagues have long since left behind. Time waits for no one.

    Just like their limp exits against Ajax and City in the past two seasons, this was meek. The only dazzle that remains comes from their famous white kits.

    Back in the 28th minute, there was the dazzling white of the floodlights, the crossbar and the ball all in Werner's immediate view. It was time, his time – the easiest goal he will ever score and very possibly the most important.

    Two seconds from the moment Havertz hit the crossbar. Eight days on from Werner's torment in Madrid. A whole, torrid season. However you frame it, it was worth the wait.

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