The latest on how the coronavirus outbreak is affecting sports around the globe:
- Baseball begins in Korea with coaches wearing masks
- NWSL players allowed to train at team facilities Wednesday
- Poll: U.S. fans on board with sports in empty venues
- German soccer team in isolation after player tests positive
- Cycling’s Giro d’Italia, Spanish Vuelta to be held in October
- European swimming championships moved to 2021
Korean baseball league begins in empty stadiums
The new baseball season began Tuesday in South Korea with the crack of the bat and the sound of the ball smacking into the catcher’s mitt echoing around empty stadiums.
After a weeks-long delay because of the coronavirus pandemic, umpires wore protective masks and cheerleaders danced beneath rows of unoccupied seats as professional baseball got back on the field.
There were many faces in the stands in at least one stadium, but they were pictures instead of real people because fans aren’t allowed into the venues, at least for now.
Instead, it was easy to hear players cheering and shouting from the dugouts. And it was a relief to fans watching from home in a country that is now attempting to slowly return to pre-COVID-19 normalcy amid a waning caseload.
Players and coaches will go through fever screenings before entering stadiums, while umpires and first- and third-base coaches must wear masks during games. Players are prohibited from signing autographs or high-fiving teammates with bare hands.
NWSL to permit individual workouts starting Wednesday
The National Women’s Soccer League will allow players to train using team’s outdoor facilities beginning Wednesday.
The league’s season was due to kick off April 18, but all matches were postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The move to allow players back onto team training grounds is the initial stage of the NWSL’s Return to Play Phased Protocol.
Players will undergo daily symptoms screenings before they will be allowed into team facilities. Commonly touched places at club sites also will be thoroughly cleaned daily.
The league-wide ban on full-team training sessions remains in effect through May 15.
U.S. poll shows fans OK with sports in empty venues
Most fans would prefer to see sports return to action even if spectators aren’t allowed into the stands, according to poll results that were released Monday.
The ESPN Coronavirus Lockdown Fan Study found that 65 per cent of fans would favour competition resuming even if fans can’t attend.
The poll of 1,004 U.S. adult sports fans was commissioned by ESPN Research & Insights and conducted by Global Strategy Group from April 17-20.
Virtually all U.S. sports competitions have been shut down since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
German soccer club goes into isolation
Second-division German soccer club Erzgebirge Aue has put its entire squad in home isolation after a member of staff tested positive for the coronavirus.
It’s the first confirmed case in the German league’s second round of testing. It comes a day before a government meeting on loosening lockdown measures to pave the way for soccer to return in empty stadiums.
Aue didn’t name the staff member involved. All players, coaches and backroom staff will stay at home ahead of more coronavirus testing on Thursday.
Ten people tested positive last week from the 36 clubs in the top two men’s divisions. That included two Cologne players and a staff member. The club did not put its squad in isolation.
Cycling’s Giro d’Italia, Spanish Vuelta set for October
Cycling’s Giro d’Italia will start on Oct. 3 and the Spanish Vuelta will be held from Oct. 20, the International Cycling Union said Tuesday, as it published its heavily revised calendar in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
A number of the top one-day races will also be held in October, making for a frantic month of cycling following the pandemic that has brought almost all of world sport to a halt since March.
The Milan-San Remo race will be held on Aug. 8, Liege-Bastogne-Liege will run on Oct. 4, the Tour des Flandres on Oct. 18, Paris-Roubaix on Oct. 25 and the Tour of Lombardy on Oct. 31.
The UCI last month said that the Tour de France would be held from Aug. 29-Sept. 20 after the governing body suspended elite racing until Aug. 1.
The Giro will be held over 23 days ending on Oct. 25, while the Vuelta is set to end on Nov. 8 after the first three stages due to be hosted in the Netherlands were cut from the program by the organizers.
European swimming championships moved to 2021
The European Aquatics Championships, scheduled to be held from May 11 to 24 in Budapest, have been pushed back to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the European governing body for aquatic sports said Tuesday.
The championships, which include disciplines such as swimming, diving, open water swimming, and artistic synchronized swimming, had been provisionally delayed until late August but will now take place from May 10 to 23 next year.
The governing body said it had canceled the European water polo season including the 2019-2020 Water Polo Champions Leagues, the 2019-2020 Water Polo Euro League Women and the 2019-2020 Water Polo Euro Cup.
Belgian players, fans engage in virtual wave
Belgian soccer players and their fans are engaging in a virtual wave to support health care workers and raise money for the Red Cross amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Belgian soccer association is encouraging fans to upload short videos of them doing the wave. Just like Belgium internationals Dries Mertens, Thomas Meunier and Jan Vertonghen.
The association is giving fans the opportunity to upload videos until June 13. That is the date Belgium was set to play its first game at the European Championship. The tournament was postponed by a year because of the pandemic.
Lower level English clubs appeal for bailout
The head of the three English professional soccer leagues below the Premier League appealed for a “rescue package” during questioning at a parliamentary select committee hearing.
English Football League chairman Rick Parry says clubs are facing a shortfall of about $250 million US because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Parry says “we are heading for a financial hole of about 200 million pounds … by the end of September.”
Parry also advocated for salary caps. He told legislators that clubs are spending too much of their turnover on salaries as they chase promotion.
Clubs are preparing for the loss of ticket revenue with crowds potentially not allowed back into stadiums in 2020.