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Covid-19: no time for sport

As the pandemic spreads, sports events like Euros and IPL get cancelled or postponed

A sign outside the London Stadium announcing the suspension of the Premier League.
A sign outside the London Stadium announcing the suspension of the Premier League.

It was an announcement that everyone saw coming. And yet it was surreal to see Uefa, the governing body of European football, postpone the European Championships (Euros) to 2021. Originally meant to be played from 12 June-12 July, the tournament will instead be held next year, with the proposed dates being 11 June-11 July.

This announcement caps a week of postponements and cancellations of sporting events around the world. The postponement of the Euros, Europe’s flagship international football tournament, is especially poignant, given the fact that it was supposed to have been the first iteration to have been staged across the continent. Matches were supposed to have been played in cities like Munich, Rome, Bilbao, London, St Petersburg and Copenhagen, many of which are currently under lockdown owing to the Covid-19 outbreak.

At present, every European football league is on standby, all of them about 10 games away from completion. The top leagues in England, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Italy and France, just to name a few, have all postponed the resumption of the leagues till the end of April. Most players are training individually, while a few clubs like Arsenal and Chelsea are under full quarantine after members of their playing and other staff tested positive for Covid-19 (including Arsenal’s manager Mikel Arteta). Major club tournaments like the Uefa Champions League and the Europa League also stand postponed till April at least.

The cancellation of the Euros means football federations will get more time to finish their leagues, but with the contagion showing no signs of abating, all bets are off at the moment.

Elsewhere, the Copa América has also been postponed for a year, while Fifa, the world governing body for football, has put the Asian qualifiers for 2022 World Cup on hold. In India, the Indian Super League concluded on 14 March, while the I-League has been suspended till 31 March at least.

The Indian Premier League, due to begin on 29 March, has been postponed till 15 April. The remaining matches of India’s One Day International (ODI) cricket series against South Africa have been postponed, while England’s Test squad has returned home from Sri Lanka, and Australia and New Zealand’s ODI series has also been postponed.

In motor sport, the Australian Grand Prix has been postponed, and the next four GPs in Bahrain, Vietnam, the Netherlands and Spain may be too. In tennis, the French Open has been postponed from May to September, setting up a possible scheduling problem with the US Open and the Laver Cup, also in September. The ATP Tour has been suspended for six weeks and the WTA Tour until 2 May. Wimbledon is scheduled to go ahead with its original dates (29 June-12 July), but that could change.

The biggest holdout right now is the Tokyo Olympics. The International Olympic Committee has so far refused to change its 24 July-9 August date, but that too might change, as several athletes have complained that this puts their health at risk.

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