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Coronavirus and sports: What happened in April 2020

As the coronavirus pandemic continued to disrupt major sporting events across the globe the Bundesliga made plans to return. There were also major updates in tennis and F1. Here's a recap of how it all unfolded.

April 30

-- German government delays decision on Bundesliga resumption

The Bundesliga will have to wait another week to find out when it can resume its season behind closed doors after Chancellor Angela Merkel and the country’s 16 state premiers delayed a decision on the matter.

The German Football League (DFL) had been hoping for the government to give the green light and end a two-month suspension but Chancellor Merkel told a Thursday press conference that any decision on when sports activities could resume would be taken on May 6.

Football has been suspended in Germany since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

--  French season canceled, PSG declared champions

France’s Ligue de Football Professionel declared the Ligue 1 and 2 seasons over on Thursday, days after the government said major sporting events would be banned until September.

Paris Saint-Germain, who were 12 points ahead of Marseille when season was suspended in mid-March due to the Covid-19 outbreak, have been declared Ligue 1 champions.

PSG boss Nasser Al-Khelaifi said his club was dedicating its ninth league win to "all the healthcare workers and other everyday heroes who have earned all our admiration with their commitment and self-sacrifice for long weeks."

-- DFB calls meeting to discuss women's football and lower leagues

The DFB will use a conference between 262 delegates on May 25 to discuss how to proceed with German football’s third division, junior leagues, and the Women’s Bundesliga.

The agenda includes "consultations and resolutions regarding the implementation, continuation and possible termination" of DFB-associated competitions.

The DFB presides over men’s football from the third division down, while the DFL takes care of matters regarding the country’s top two divisions.

Third division clubs are so far divided over whether or not to finish the current season, but the general consensus among Women’s Bundesliga clubs is to finish the campaign behind closed doors.

-- Lokomotive Leipzig claim new European attendance record

Fourth-tier club Lok Leipzig are claiming a new European record for the highest attendance at a football match.

Lok have sold over 150,000 tickets for an imaginary match against an "invisible opponent" on May 8 as part of a fundraising campaign. This 'beats' the previous record of 149,547 spectators who watched Scotland play England as Hampden Park in Glasgow in 1937.

Tickets are still available from the German club's official website for €1 a pop. The proceeds will help Lok Leipzig deal with losses from the coronavirus crisis.

April 29

-- Bundesliga restart decision not expected on Thursday

A video conference between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the country’s 16 state premiers is scheduled for Thursday, April 30, but a final decision on a potential Bundesliga restart is not expected to be made.

The sports ministers in Germany’s 16 federal states have recommended that professional football be allowed to resume behind closed doors in mid-to-late May, but they will likely have to wait until next week for the green light.

"We are not expecting a decision following the discussion with the chancellor and the state premiers tomorrow [Thursday]," a spokesperson for Anja Stahlmann, the sports minister in the city-state of Bremen who chairs the sports ministers’ conferences, told SID.

"We will probably only be able to consider the full effects of any relaxation [of the lockdown rules regarding sport] in the course of next week."

-- Virologist: team quarantine for positive Bundesliga coronavirus tests

Coronavirus infections resulting from Bundesliga games played behind closed doors should result in entire teams being quarantined, not just individual players, according to a German virologist.

"If there is a case after a Bundesliga game then both teams should have to go into quarantine," Professor Ulrike Protzer of the Technical University of Munich told news agency dpa.

According to the German Football League (DFL)’s concept for a Bundesliga restart, only the individual player who tests positive would be required to go into isolation, but Protzer, who advises the Bavarian state government, insists that there is "definitely a higher risk" with team sports than with individual activities. "There could be infections - we have to put up with that,” she said. "We will not be completely rid of the virus."

Nevertheless, she still considers a continuation of the Bundesliga season behind closed doors “quite doable."

"The clubs have extreme financial pressure and the risk of infection is very low," she said. "It will not hit any person who is now currently at risk of becoming more seriously ill."

April 28

-- French football, rugby seasons called off

The French government said the remainder of football and rugby seasons won't be completed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"The 2019-20 season of professional sport ... won't be able to resume," Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said. He said all events where more than 5,000 people gather, including sporting events, would be allowed until at least September.

Ligue 1 and Ligue 2, the top two divisions in French football, each had 10 matches remaining in their schedule. The Top 14 rugby league was at the semifinal stage.

-- UEFA sets May 25 for leagues to present restart plans

European leagues have until May 25 to present UEFA, Europe's football confederation, plans to restart their domestic competitions.

UEFA recently presented guidelines for domestic leagues to cancel its remaining schedule because of the coronavirus pandemic and still have teams remain eligible for it's two continental competitions, the Champions League and Europa League.

However, in a letter to the 55 football federations in UEFA, confederation president Aleksander Ceferin wrote that any league canceling its season would need to produce a list of teams that have qualified for European club competitions.

"National Associations and/or Leagues should be in a position to communicate to UEFA by 25 May 2020 the planned restart of their domestic competitions including the date of restart and the relevant competition format," Ceferin wrote.

"In the event that a domestic competition is to be prematurely terminated for legitimate reasons... UEFA would require the National Association to explain by 25 May 2020 the special circumstances justifying such premature termination and to select clubs for the UEFA club competitions 2020-21 on the basis of sporting merit in the 2019-20 domestic competitions."

UEFA has encouraged domestic leagues to finish their seasons to allow for qualification for European competition to be based on sporting merit. 

-- May 9 return for Bundesliga 'unlikely' — report

German politicians said earlier this month that May 9 was a "definitely possible" date for the Bundesliga to return to action. That no longer appears to be the case, according to a report in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, a Munich-based newspaper.

Sports ministers from Germany's 16 states, who met on Monday to discuss the fate of German football, said that restarting the Bundesliga is a possibility. However, according to a statement by Bremen's Sports Minister Anja Stahmann, the ministers see the "middle or the end of May as realistic."

However, Stahmann said, the Bundesliga would need to "create, enforce and oversee the strictest hygienic conditions."

After postponing the season until at least April 30, the German Football League (DFL), the company that governs Germany's top two divisions, has remained coy over a possible return date. Last Thursday, DFL president Christian Seifert said it had submitted a proposal to the German government to resume the 2019-20 season.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to discuss the issue with Germany's state premiers on Friday.

-- Tokyo 2021 to be canceled if pandemic continues

Olympic organizing committee president Yoshiro Mori said that the already postponed Games in Tokyo would not be postponed a second time if the coronavirus pandemic doesn't improve by next year.

In an interview with Japan's Nikkan Sports newspaper, Mori was emphatic when asked if the Games could be postponed again until 2022.

"No. In that case, the Olympics will be scrapped," he said. But the former Japanese prime minister remained confident that the games can go ahead in 2021.

"We have delayed the Olympics until next summer after we will have won the battle," he was quoted as saying.

"The Olympics would be much more valuable than any Olympics in the past if we could go ahead with it after winning this battle. We have to believe this otherwise our hard work and efforts will not be rewarded."

The International Olympic Committee and the Japanese government announced in March that the Tokyo Olympics, originally scheduled to take place from July 24 to August 9, would be moved to July 2021 because of the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

April 27

-- Werder Bremen weighing up extreme measures

Bundesliga side Werder Bremen would consider playing home games outside their own stadium if the Bundesliga resumed with matches behind closed doors, according to chairman Klaus Filbry.

"If it turns out to be the case that we're not able to play in Bremen, then we will have to keep alternative locations in mind," Filbry told Radio Bremen. "I can't rule it out."

His comments came after Bremen's interior minister, Ulrich Maeurer, said he was opposed to having matches placed behind closed doors at Bremen's Weser Stadium. Werder currently find themselves in second from bottom in Germany's top flight. 

-- FIFA considering allowing five substitutions

If and when the Bundesliga resumes, matches will not only have to be played behind doors but also in relatively quick succession in order to finish the season by the DFL's target date of June 30.

And so, in order to lessen the physical strain on the players, world governing body FIFA is reportedly considering increasing the number of substitutions per team from three to five. In knock-out ties which go to extra time, an additional sixth substitution would also be permitted, however teams would still be limited to three stoppages of play to make the changes.

The rule could remain in place until the end of 2021 as football continues to come to terms with the challenges of the coronavirus, but first it needs to be officially approved by the International Football Association Board.

 

-- Tennis' elite ready to share the wealth

Germany's No1 tennis pro Alexander Zverev has told kicker that the players at the top of the game are ready to band together in a bid to help those further down the rankings during the coronavirus pandemic. 

"We've got a WhatApp group with, I think, the Top 50 players in the world in it," said the 23-year-old. "Together, we're currently trying to come up with ways to support players that need help. We're constantly pitching ideas in a bid to help those in a less fortunate financial position." 

-- Formula 1 targets July starts after French Grand Prix cancelled

Shortly after organisers of the French Grand Prix announced that the race scheduled for June 27 would not go ahead, Formula 1 chief Chase Carey outlined his plans to get the Formula 1 season up and running.

"We're targeting a start to racing in Europe through July, August and beginning of September, with the first race taking place in Austria on 3-5 July weekend," he said in a statement released on Monday. "September, October and November, would see us race in Eurasia, Asia and the Americas, finishing the season in the Gulf in December with Bahrain before the traditional finale in Abu Dhabi, having completed between 15-18 races." 

April 26

-- Everton striker Moise Kean in hot water

Premier League side Everton have strongly condemned the actions of striker Moise Kean after the Italian flouted government lockdown rules by hosting a house party. Images of the 20-year-old, who joined from Juventus last summer, appeared in the British press on Saturday.

"Everton Football Club was appalled to learn of an incident in which a first team player ignored government guidance and club policy in relation to the coronavirus crisis," the Premier League club said in a statement. "The club has strongly expressed its disappointment to the player and made it clear that such actions are completely unacceptable.

-- NBA players set to return to training

Reports in the U.S. are suggesting that NBA players could return to team training facilities as early as Friday, provided there are no stay-at-home orders as part of the response to the coronavirus pandemic in their respective states.

The NBA was the first major professional American sports league to halt its season due to the coronavirus on March 11 after Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive. 

Strict measures are being put in place, while the resumption of training will initially be on a purely voluntary basis.

-- Nicaragua host boxing event as fighters "have to eat"

Boxing resumed in Nicaragua on Saturday night with a televised eight-fight card infront of a live, though sparse audience in Managua.

Promoter Rosendo Alvarez, a former two-time world champion, offered free tickets to the event whilst openly dismissing the threat of the virus.

“Here we don't fear the coronavirus, and there is no quarantine. The three deaths (reported so far by the Ministry of Health) came from outside and nobody within the country has been contaminated,'' Alvarez, known as “El Bufalo,” said before the event. “Nicaragua is a poor country and the boxers have to eat. They can't stay shut up in their house.”

Officials did not announce attendance figures.

-- Plans for new 18-race F1 season

The Formula One season could start in Austria on July 5, the first of an 18-race season, as some venues prepare to host more than one race.

The Australian Grand Prix on March 15 was the first of nine grand prixs to be postponed or canceled, but tentative plans are in place for some venues to hold back-to-back races, starting at the Red Bull circuit in Austria, to get the season up and running.

"Obviously a lot of research has gone on into how a race could be hosted without fans and the minimum amount of people in attendance," Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said. 

"Procedures would be put in place, including (virus) testing with team numbers reduced to around 80 people.

"The global crisis is bigger than our sport, but if you put a marker in the sand and say, July 5 is the starting point, if things change and get worse, they can always be changed," Horner added.

Silverstone has also been earmarked to host back-to-back races in July, despite the UK having been badly affected by the virus.

April 25

-- Premier League eyeing June return

The English Premier League is hoping to return on June 8 in order to complete the unfinished season on July 27, according to a report in The Times newspaper. The Premier League has 92 games to complete, with most of its 20 teams having played 29 of the 38 games, and it is reported that its executives have been holding talks with the British government with other sports governing bodies.

Games would be played behind closed doors and a maximum of only 400 people would be allowed to attend including the media, subject to a negative Covid-19 test. The United Kingdom recorded 768 coronavirus deaths on Friday, not including those in care homes, with its total number of deaths likely to pass the 20,000 mark on Saturday.

-- UFC set for return on May 9 in Florida

After several recent cancellations due to the spread of the coronavirus, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has announced its comeback with three fight cards in the space of a week in Jacksonville, Florida.

"We're going back-to-back: we're doing Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday," said Dana White. "This event is going to be stacked from top to bottom. Just the main event, [Tony] Ferguson versus [Justin] Gaejthe. It's impossible for that to not be an incredible fight."  

Restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic had prevented UFC 249 from being staged last Saturday after ESPN refused to give the UFC the green light. 

April 24

-- Bremen in financial trouble

Relegation-threatened Werder Bremen will likely need an emergency loan of tens of millions during the coronavirus, according to business executive Klaus Filbry. Incurring debts is "a novelty, but it also reveals the urgency of this not self-inflicted debt crisis. We are obligated to secure the financial survival of Werder," Filbry told SID.

In the worst case, around €45 million of income would break away. Without outside help, not even further pay cuts from the team would stem the crisis.

"The threat potential is very, very high," Filbry told SID.

The DFL recently revealed though, that thanks to agreements with media partners clubs have had their financial status secured for the short term.

-- Netherlands abandons Eredivisie season, will not name a champion

The Eredivisie top-flight football league in the Netherlands has become the first in Europe to cancel the remainder of its season, bosses announced. They also declared that no champion would be declared this season, with Ajax only a whisker ahead in the standings when the coronavirus stopped play last month.

Ajax had been tied on points with second-place AZ Alkmaar, but ahead on goal difference. The Dutch football federation, the KVNB, has said it will award its Champions League and Europa League slots for next season based on the current standings.

Earlier in the week, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte had said that large gatherings, including soccer matches, would be banned until September 1.

Neighboring Belgium has also nixed the rest of its season, but that decision has not yet been ratified. 

-- German Cup postponed, final to be rearranged

Currently suspended at the semi-final stage, the DFB (German football association) have announced that the final, due to take place in Berlin on May 23, has been cancelled. No official date for the rearranged fixture was decided upon in the video-conference of its board on Friday, but the hope is that it can take place before June 30.

"Under the proviso that the match is approved, we'll be facing up to the first 'living-room final', so to speak, in the history of the German Cup," said president Fritz Keller. "The German Cup final is a glittering highlight and finale to every season that thrives on the unique atmosphere inside the stadium and the flair of Berlin. Both are decisively influenced by the fans. In that regard, it is extremely regrettable that this special match will, in all likelihood, also have to take place without spectators in attendance."  

-- K-League set to return to action on May 8

South Korea's top football division the K-League announced on Friday that the delayed season will kick off on May 8. The league was suspended when South Korea went into lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, and players have recently returned to training and started playing practice games this week. There have been more than 10,700 cases of COVID-19 in South Korea and 240 deaths according to a tally compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

"It would be great to play in front of fans, but if we all play our part in stopping the spread of the virus then they will soon be back in their seats," Incheon United captain Kim Do-hyeok said.

-- Beckham set to take part in #AllInChallenge

What an offer from former England international and current Inter Miami owner, David Beckham!

-- Serie A season extended until August 2

Italian football chiefs on Thursday announced that the end of the Serie A season will be pushed back from June 30 to August 2 to finish the season suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Federation president Gabriele Gravina said the FIGC would "adopt a resolution in the coming hours to postpone the end of the 2019/2020 sports season to August 2".

No sport has been played in Italy since March 9 as the country grapples with the COVID-19 crisis which has killed over 25,000 people.

April 23

-- UEFA: Some leagues can be canceled 'in special cases'

Europe's football confederation published guidelines for how its member associations could legitimately "prematurely terminate their domestic competitions."

UEFA said that, if possible, it still recommends that associations "explore all possible options to play all top domestic competitions giving access to UEFA club competitions to their natural conclusion," thus "enabling football clubs to qualify for UEFA club competitions (the Champions League and Europa League) on sporting merit."

However, the body has recognized that "the health of players, spectators and all those involved in football as well as the public at large must remain the primary concern at this time."

UEFA said there were two legitimate reasons to call off a season:

  • If there was an "official order" ending the possibility a season could conclude
  • If continuing the season "put at risk the long-term financial stability" of a domestic competition or its clubs.

Leagues terminated for legitimate reasons would have to determine eligibility for the Champions League or Europa League on "objective, transparent and non-discriminatory principles." But UEFA reserved the right to deny or investigate admission to its club competitions. 

Belgium's Jupiler Pro League was the first competition to cancel the remainder of its season. The Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) have also proposed curtailing its top-flight Premiership after clubs in lower divisions agreed to end the season.

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin previously said that domestic competitions which prematurely ended their season risked losing eligibility for the Champions League and Europa League.

-- UEFA to keep EURO 2020 brand for 2021 championship

The European confederation also announced that next year's European Championship, postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus, said the tournament will still be called UEFA EURO 2020.

"This decision allows UEFA to keep the original vision of the tournament to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the European Football Championships," the body said in a statement.

-- UEFA Women's EUROs rescheduled for 2022

The UEFA Executive Committee has confirmed that the postponed UEFA Women’s EURO 2021 will be played a year later in England from July 6 to 31, 2022. It is planned to use the same venues that were originally proposed to host the event. 

“When we had to take an urgent decision on the postponement of UEFA EURO 2020, we always had the impact on UEFA Women’s EURO 2021 in mind," explained UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin. "We have carefully considered all options, with our commitment to the growth of women’s football at the forefront of our thinking. By moving UEFA Women’s EURO to the following year, we are ensuring that our flagship women’s competition will be the only major football tournament of the summer, providing it with the spotlight it deserves."

-- DFL ready to restart the season once state governments give the green light

-- Germany international Antonio Rüdiger covers catering costs at Berlin hospital 

Chelsea and Germany defender Antonio Rüdiger has made a "significant financial donation" to help the Berlin Charité hospital, where he was born in 1993, during the outbreak of the new coronavirus.

"I contacted the Berlin Charite before Easter and asked where I can help the most. They told me that it's very difficult to organise catering for the nursing staff during these days as the canteen is closed at the moment, as are all the restaurants around the hospital. I decided to overtake the catering costs for at least three months," the 27-year-old told Chelsea's official website.

"I'm thankful for everything Berlin has given me during my youth. Now I have the possibility to give something back and hope the situation will get better very soon."

-- Australia PM considers exemption for NZ Warriors

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison signalled Thursday he could allow the New Zealand Warriors into Australia to play in a resumed NRL competition, which rugby league officials hope will kick off next month.

"That is an area that I think we can look potentially favourably on provided all the other arrangements are in place regarding public safety," he told reporters in Canberra. "That's something we'll just work through patiently." 

The NRL has been pushing hard to restart the league despite the virus shutdown, with officials reaffirming plans Wednesday for teams to begin training on May 4 and games to resume on May 28. 

-- Mori says "no chance" of further Olympics delays

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics cannot be delayed beyond the year-long postponement already forced by the coronavirus outbreak, the organising committee's president has warned in comments published Thursday.

Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori said there is "absolutely no" chance of postponing the Games beyond their rescheduled July 23, 2021 opening, according to Kyodo News agency.  "Also thinking about athletes and issues over Games management, it is technically difficult to delay it by two years," Mori was quoted as saying.

April 22

-- BVB's Kehl: Empty stadiums 'definitely a disadvantage'

Borussia Dortmund official Sebastian Kehl said games behind closed doors, known as "Geisterspiele" (ghost games) in German, would be a disadvantage for the club.

Dortmund is home to the Westfalenstadion, Germany's biggest football ground with a capacity of more than 80,000. Its south stand, nicknamed the "gelbe Mauer" (Yellow Wall), is one of the largest home ends in the world.

"If you suddenly don't have more than 80,00 fans behind you, 25,000 of them on the south stand alone, then that is definitely not an advantage," Kehl, a former BVB captain, told Sport Bild, a weekly German sports magazine. 

He said Dortmund coach Lucien Favre is preparing his players mentally for the scenario. "It is clear that the games will be very unusual for the players in the beginning, especially at home."

The 36 clubs from Germany's top two divisions, the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2, are set to discuss how the German football season could conclude amid the coronavirus pandemic. Reports in Germany suggest that clubs are leaning towards playing the remainder of the season without fans, with the campaign resuming sometime in May. 

-- Berlin marathon organizers shocked by large event ban

Berlin's decision to ban public gatherings of more than 5,000 people took organizers of the city's marathon by surprise.

The German government banned large gatherings nationwide until August 31. The city of Berlin went a step further on Tuesday, prohibiting mass events until October 24. The Berlin marathon is scheduled for September 27.

"I am absolutely surprised," Jürgen Lock, the managing director of the club SCC Berlin that runs the event, told Berlin's Tagesspiegel newspaper. "I didn't expect the [city] senate to act beyond that [August 31] date."

Berlin Sports Senator Andreas Geisel said he regretted the decision, but he wanted to give event organizers an early heads up.

The event has still not been officially canceled, with organizers saying on the event website: "We will now deal with the consequences
of the official prohibition of our events, coordinate the further steps and inform you as soon as we can."

-- Swiss League: Games without fans only option

The Swiss Football League (SFL) said playing games behind closed doors is "the only viable path" as it tries to conclude its season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Swiss League, one of the first to stop play due to the coronavirus pandemic, has been suspended since March 2.

"In this phase, this seems to be the only viable path to save Swiss professional football in its current form, while complying with the important measures to protect players and the population," the SFL said in a statement. 

The SFL said that it submitted a detailed plan to the Swiss government for the resumption of training sessions and matches. The association cooperated with Bern University's Infectious Disease institute to draw up the plan.

It added that restarting the championship, even with matches played behind closed doors, could be a positive sign for the country, but it was also imperative to prevent the financial ruin of Swiss football.

"With the resumption of play ... top football wants to send a signal that it is possible to return to something closer to normality as soon as possible," it said.

-- CHIO Aachen called off

The CHIO Aachen 2020, the world's largest equestrian tournament, has been canceled due to the coronavirus crisis.

The competition, which was to take place from May 29 to June 7, had initially been postponed to a later date in 2020. 

Organizers attributed the event's cancellation to "national and international developments and the measures decided by the [German] government," since major events are banned until at least August 31.

"People's health is above all else," said Frank Kemperman, CEO of the Aachen-Laurensberger Rennverein equestrian club that runs the event.  

CHIO Managing Director Michael Mronz said a virtual CHIO Aachen 2020 is in the works. Organizers will present a more detailed project in the coming days. 

April 21

-- Handball Bundesliga ends season

Germany's top handball league, the Handball-Bundesliga (HBL), has canceled the rest of the season due to the coronavirus pandemic and named THW Kiel champions.

"From a sporting perspective, the best thing of course would have been to continue the season. However, the framework to do so was not right in terms of health, organization and economy. Of all the unfair solutions, we thought this would be best," said league chief executive Frank Bohmann.

The HBL last held a game on March 8 before putting its season on hold. Kiel were atop the standings when the league was stopped, just ahead of SG Flensburg-Handewitt. 

-- Dutch FA plans to end football season

The Dutch football season effectively ended after the country's football association (KNVB) said it would not continue efforts to try to complete the 2019-20 campaign.

The KNVB said it would first consult UEFA, Europe's football confederation.

The announcement came after Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte banned events, including professional sports and music festivals, until September 1 to prevent a resurgence of the coronavirus. 

"That the events requiring a permit remain prohibited until September 1 now offers clarity," the KNVB said.

Dutch clubs and other stakeholders will meet on April 24 to discuss the issue.

-- UEFA 'strongly recommends' leagues complete seasons

After a video conference with its 55 members, UEFA, Europe's football confederation, pushed for leagues to conclude their seasons, but it is ready to hear requests for possible cancellations.

"There was a strong recommendation given to finish domestic top division and cup competitions, although it is understood that there may be some special cases," UEFA said in a statement.

UEFA President Alexander Ceferin recently said that ending seasons prematurely could endanger participation in continental competitions. 

Belgium's top-flight Jupiler Pro League said earlier this month it wanted to declare current standings final, the only league to do so thus far.

April 20

-- Djokovic opposed to vaccination

World tennis number 1 Novak Djokovic has cast serious doubt over whether he will be able to return to tennis, even if a vaccine for coronavirus is found.

"Personally I am opposed to vaccination and I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel," he said in a live Facebook chat with several fellow Serbian athletes on Sunday.

"But if it becomes compulsory, what will happen? I will have to make a decision. I have my own thoughts about the matter and whether those thoughts will change at some point, I don’t know.

"Hypothetically, if the season was to resume in July, August or September, though unlikely, I understand that a vaccine will become a requirement straight after we are out of strict quarantine and there is no vaccine yet."

This year's Wimbledon has already been canceled and the French Open has been pushed back provisionally to September. Currently, all tennis tournaments are supsended until July 13.

-- Pay cuts in two big sports down under

Australia’s rugby union and cricket stars are willing to take pay cuts. Both sports are popular across the country but neither is entirely financial secure.

"Australia’s professional players will play a central role in the short–term preservation of the game by accepting a significant reduction in pay in order for necessary transformation to begin," Rugby Union Players' Association boss Justin Harrison said in a statement, which did not reveal any concrete numbers.

Though it is currently the off-season for cricket down under, Cricket Australia recently announced plans to furlough nearly 80 percent of its staff, putting them on 20 per cent pay until June 30 at least. Australian international Josh Hazelwood said the news has shocked the playing group, hinting that they too were ready to take a cut.

"It probably took me a little bit by surprise just due to the fact that it’s happened at a perfect time, this pandemic, for Cricket Australia," Hazlewood told reporters on a video conference on Monday.

"We’re obviously partners in the game and we’ve always said that. We’ve ridden the highs and now it’s time to ride the lows. We’ll see what it comes to and we’ll obviously play our part."

April 19

-- Roma players waive salary for four months

Players and coaches at the Italian Serie A Roma have waived their salary for four months in order to help the club get through a crisis sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.

Roma have not played a competitive match since March 1 because of the coronavirus. Players and coaching staff have agreed to forgo their salaries for March, April, May and June. 

Furthermore, players and coaches also agreed to top up the wages of club employees placed on the Italian government's social safety-net scheme, so as to ensure they will still receive their full regular salaries.

-- Reus and Haaland team up

In March, Borussia Dortmund captain Marco Reus and his wife Scarlett started an initiative to help local businesses during the coronavirus outbreak. The couple got the ball rolling with a donation of €500,000, and have now been joined by Reus' Dortmund teammate Erling Haaland.

"We are very happy to have another supporter of the city of Dortmund
on board in Erling Haaland," read a message on social media by the project, 'HelpYourHometown'.

-- Wolfsburg players to be given time off

In anticipation of returning to focused training for the possible resumption of the Bundesliga, Wolfsburg's players will be given time off in the week ahead.

"We have now been in individual or group training for five weeks and now we will have a break, above all to keep the players mentally fresh," head coach Oliver Glasner said on Sunday.

Bundesliga football is suspended until at least April 30 but on Thursday, a German football league (DFL) meeting will discuss the possibility of closed door games from May.

-- Tennis tournament with no fans

According to English newspaper The Telegraph, an exhibition tennis event from May 1 without fans is planned in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate.

Players at the exhibition will reportedly have to wear masks when not playing and there will only be three people on court - two competitors and a chair umpire - during a match.

The event will consist of 80 competitors playing a total of 32 matches over four days on an indoor clay surface at a tennis academy near Koblenz.

None of the players expected to be involved are currently ranked in the top 100.

April 18

-- Tönnies offers lab support

Schalke chairman and meat manufacturer Clemens Tönnies has offered support to the German football league (DFL) during coronavirus testing through the use of his laboratory.

"There was an exchange," Tönnies told dpa on Saturday. "The decision
now lies with the DFL. If they have enough test capacity then we will
make ours available to others."

The labs are typically used to analyze pig's blood. Tönnies believes somewhere between 180 and 200 thousand tests per month might be possible.

The 63-year-old also said he was not looking to make any financial gain from the emergency situation.

The DFL did not want to comment.

-- Fans a must at Berlin ISTAF

If coronavirus restrictions remain in place, the traditional Berlin athletics meet ISTAF will not take place without spectators, organizers have said.

"What we will definitely not do is a closed-door ISTAF," meeting director Martin Seeber told the Berliner Morgenpost newspaper.

The event is scheduled for September 13.

Seeber added that without money generated by ticket sales, top stars might not compete in Berlin.

Seeber and his team are still hopeful the event can go ahead but are also planning for a potential cancellation. There is hope for a decision by mid June.

-- Biathlon World Cup start rearranged

The biathlon World Cup season will begin with a new opener in Finland, this winter, the governing IBU announced.

Both the men's and women's World Cups with individual and sprint races will now be on November 28-29.

The summer world championships in Germany could fall victim to the coronavirus outbreak, though.

April 17

-- Leclerc wins charity Esports title

A field of racing drivers including six Formula 1 stars raised over $70,000 for COVID-19 relief efforts after organising a three-round charity Esports series, which was won by Charles Leclerc.

-- MLS extends postponement

Major League Soccer won't resume before June 8 the league said on Friday, and is exploring multiple scenarios for completing the 2020 season.

"MLS remains focused on exploring a wide variety of formats for playing the entire 2020 season including pushing back the MLS Cup into December or later," the league said Friday. 

-- Women's football facing 'existential threat'

The coronavirus pandemic presents "an almost existential threat" to women's football, according to a report by global players' union FIFPro published Thursday.

Much attention has been given to the economic impact of the suspension on the far richer men's game, but FIFPro warns that women's football -- despite recent growth -- is particularly vulnerable, with less established professional leagues, lower salaries and less investment meaning "the fragility of the women's football eco-system is exposed by the current situation".

-- DFL: No agreement with TV partners over final payout

The German Football League (DFL), which governs the country's top two divisions, has not reached an agreement with pay-television broadcaster Sky Deutschland regarding the fourth and final payment to Bundesliga clubs for television rights this season.

The last payment of €304 million ($329 million) was scheduled for April 4 but was not made, according to reports in Germany. The Bundesliga has not held a match since March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bild, a mass-circulation German newspaper, reported on Thursday that the DFL had reached an agreement with Sky and other broadcast rights holders over the final payment. The DFL denied the report in a tweet, saying talks were still ongoing.

"The DFL is in talks with all media partners," the tweet said. "There is still no contractual agreement with Sky."

Sky is the Bundesliga's primary broadcast rights holder in Germany, with the DAZN streaming service and German broadcaster ZDF also possessing broadcast rights. Sky is the lone broadcaster of the second-tier Bundesliga 2.

According to Kicker, a German sports magazine, 13 clubs in Germany's top two divisions, including four Bundesliga clubs, face insolvency if they do not receive the money.

The 36 clubs from Germany's top two divisions are scheduled to meet on April 23 to discuss if, how and when the football season can resume. They have discussed the possibility of playing out the season with Geisterspiele, games behind closed doors.

On Wednesday, Germany's federal and state governments agreed to continue a ban on major events until at least the end of August.

-- Third division clubs call for season to end

Eight clubs from Germany's third division have called for the season to end to protect health and prevent further financial damage.

Waldhof Mannheim, Halle, Magdeburg, Carl Zeiss Jena, Chemnitz, Preussen Münster, Zwickau and Sonnenhof Grossaspach said in a joint statement that they saw no way for the season to continue. Ending the season was "the most sensible path for the community, the protection of our employees and the preservation of [third division] clubs."

The eight clubs proposed using the current table to determine promotion, but said teams currently in the relegation zone, who would drop down to Germany's regional leagues, should remain in the third tier.

"This leads to more teams next season, but is a fair compromise and enables partial economic and media compensation in the comping season," the clubs said.

The proposal is a bit self-serving as seven of the eight clubs are either in the drop zone or a handful of points above it. Meanwhile, Mannheim is currently in second place and would be promoted under the proposal.

This appeal from the eight clubs is in direct contrast to one made by Bavaria's state football association (BFV), which said the continuation of the season was "unavoidable." All five Bavarian teams in the third division — 1860 Munich, Ingolstadt, Unterhaching, Würzburg and Bayern Munich's reserve team —  are all in the top-half of the table.

-- Cricket body 'exploring all options' over T20 World Cup

The International Cricket Council has denied speculation that the 2020 T20 World Cup in Australia, scheduled to start October 18, until 2021.

"We are continuing with our planning for ICC events as they are, but given the rapidly evolving situation, as a prudent and responsible measure we are also undertaking a comprehensive contingency planning exercise," an ICC spokesman said. "This includes exploring all options available to us based on a range of scenarios connected to the pandemic."

The spokesman said the ICC has time on its side and is preparing to stick to its schedule while also recognizing that plans could change.

"We will continue to take advice from experts and authorities, including the Australian government and will take decisions at the appropriate time."

April 15

-- Germany announces events ban

As part of a series of updated measures announced on Wednesday evening, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said major sporting events in the country will be banned until August 31 in line with other large public gatherings, such as concerts.

This is likely to mean Bundesliga matches, and other such games, will have to be played behind close doors until that point. The viability of such 'ghost games' in Germany's top divisions will be determined by individual states and cities in conjunction with the DFL, who operate the league. 

-- New Tour de France dates

The Tour de France, the biggest event in the cycling calendar, has been put back two months and will now start in Nice on August 29, organizers ASO have confirmed. The race will finish on September 20 on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.

On Monday, French president Emmanuel Macron had announced an extension of coronavirus restrictions across the country, banning large public events until July 11 at the earliest - including the Tour de France, originally scheduled for June 27 - July 19.

"There has been constant communication between riders, teams, organizers and relevant third parties over the past few weeks," said ASO in a statement.

Tour director Christian Prudhomme said the decision was taken "in order to distance ourselves as much as possible from the pandemic" but insisted that it "will not be a cut-back Tour."

The routes of each stage are to remain the same, except for a possible minor alterations in built-up areas, he said.

-- Schalke facing existential crisis

Bundesliga side Schalke 04 are facing a severe financial crisis should the fourth and final installment of the Bundesliga's broadcast rights money – worth €15,892,000 ($17,277,464) to the Royal Blues – not be paid on May 2.

The payment from German rights holders Sky, DAZN and ARD to the German Football League (DFL) was due on April 10 but, according to Kicker magazine, has not yet been made, as uncertainty over the continuation of the current season continues.

Answering questions from fans on Facebook on Wednesday, Schalke’s finance director Peter Peters admitted that he is "concerned" about the club’s current situation. "Everything depends on when we can start making money again," he said. "And that means playing football."

Marketing director Alexander Jobst said on March 17 that "it’s a question of survival" and emailed VIP box owners on April 8 asking them to refrain from requesting refunds for the remaining four home games. "The club is facing a potentially existence-threatening economic situation and is reliant on sponsoring and hospitality income more than ever," he wrote.

Schalke ended the 2019 financial year with debts of almost €200 million ($217.7m). The first-team players have accepted a 15 percent wage cut, with a further 15 percent deferred, while club employees have been furloughed. The club has also announced that it is scrapping its second-division basketball team in order to focus on football.

Schalke are one of only five current Bundesliga clubs who have not out-sourced their professional football operation into a separate company, meaning they are more reliant on broadcast revenue, transfer fees and regular participation in European competition than most. As many as 10,000 voting members regularly attend the club’s annual general meetings and have consistently voted against a so-called Ausgliederung.

April 14

-- DFL meeting postponed to next week

The 36 clubs from Germany's top two divisions will not meet on Friday as planned, instead teleconferencing on April 23.

The German Football League (DFL), the company that govern's Germany's top two divisions, said the postponement "is aimed at giving clubs and the DFL more time to prepare intensively for upcoming decisions."

The Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga clubs agreed in their last session to postpone the season until at least May 1. Lockdown measures remain in place in Germany. Angela Merkel is set to meet with state premiers on Wednesday to discuss the next steps. 

-- Tour de France to be postponed

The biggest event in the cycling calendar, the Tour de France, is set to be postponed after organizers gave up on the original June 27 start date, according to DPA.

The staging of the Tour, one of the last major international sporting events not to have been canceled due to coronavirus, was rendered impossible after French president Emmanuel Macron announced on Monday that restrictions on public events would continue until the middle of July.

-- 'Ghost games' possibly until fall of 2021

The German National Academy of Sciences, the Leopoldina, recommended on Easter Monday that Germany could begin to reduce coronavirus restrictions. But its president, Gerauld Haug, has told public broadcaster ARD that football supporters will likely have to wait a lot longer before they can return to stadiums.

"It will take months, it could even take one and a half years," said Haug when asked how long football matches would have to remain behind closed doors, a timeline which would stretch until the latter part of 2021.

The 52-year-old insisted that the coronavirus pandemic will only truly be over "once a vaccine is available" and that stadium visits before then would "not be wise."

April 11

-- Scottish Premiership to be canceled?

Glasgow-based club Rangers has called for the suspension of Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) president Neil Doncaster over his handling of a vote to possibly cancel the Scottish Premiership season.

Scotland's 42 clubs voted digitally on an SPFL proposal to end the season in the Premiership and the lower divisions if the coronavirus situation does not improve. The SPFL said on Friday that 10 Premiership clubs and seven Championship (second-tier) clubs have voted in favor of the resolution.

Second-tier Dundee, who has yet to vote, is the swing vote that would determine whether the final standings are decided on a points-per-game basis.

Rangers, who are currently second in the Premiership table behind rivals Celtic, said they obtained evidence via a whistleblower that "raises serious concerns" over how the vote was carried out. The club said they were rebuffed by Doncaster when it presented the evidence to him.

"Rangers will not be bullied into silence," the club said in a statement. "We believe it is in the interests of all Scottish clubs and supporters that the evidence, which is alarming, be addressed as quickly as possible."

-- Major preseason football tournament canceled

The International Champions Cup, a preseason football tournament that sees major European teams play games across the US and Asia, has been canceled. With uncertainty in the football calendar planning such an event was "unfeasible", reads the statement.

The competition is usually hosted between July and August and last year games were played in China, England, Sweden, Singapore, Wales and the US.

 

April 10

-- UFC canceled after ESPN & Disney intervention

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the world's biggest mixed martial arts event, will not return this month after all, the organizers have confirmed.

UFC president Dana White had insisted that the sport would be the first to return to action, with UFC 249 scheduled for April 18 in an empty arena owned by the indigenous American Tachi Yokut tribe in California.

Tribal land does not fall under the jurisdiction of the United States government and is therefore exempt from restrictions implemented to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

But White has been forced to backtrack after broadcaster ESPN, which paid a reported $1.5bn for UFC rights in 2019, and its parent company Disney stepped in to halt the plans.

"ESPN has been in constant contact with the UFC regarding UFC 249," the network said in a statement to Associated Press. "Nobody wants to see sports return more than we do, but we didn't feel this was the right time for a variety of reasons. ESPN expressed its concerns to the UFC and they understood.''

White said he agreed to postpone the event because he “loves and respects” his partnership with the broadcasters, but he’s now pursuing an alternative plan to construct his own octagon on an unidentified private island. He had initially planned to use the so-called "Fight Island" idea for foreign fighters who couldn’t get into the US.

"Fight Island infrastructure is being built and will be up and running ASAP," White told the AP.

April 9

-- German football boss fears insolvencies

Fritz Keller, the president of the German Football Association (DFB), fears for the future of the game in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

"I don't think that after the coronavirus crisis the landscape of football will look as it does today," he told TV channel Phoenix on Thursday. "I think the longer this goes on, the more bankruptcies we’ll have, even in professional football."

Widespread reports in Germany suggest clubs from the Bundesliga, Bundesliga 2 and the third division are already facing severe financial pressures due to the loss of revenues caused by the suspension of the football season. Keller added that these clubs "must be helped".

-- NHS contribution from Premier League stars

Premier League footballers have come together in order to raise funds for the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).

The #PlayersTogether initiative, which has been led by Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, has been set up to "help those fighting for us on the NHS frontline" amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Government health minister Matt Hancock recently publicly called on players to take a pay cut, though neglected to ask the same of the country’s other high earning professions. He said he "warmly welcomed" the "big-hearted decision."

The UK has now seen more than 7,000 coronavirus deaths and recorded a toll of almost 1000 deaths on Wednesday alone, its highest total so far. 

A #PlayersTogether statement was posted on social media by more than 150 players "collaborating together to create a voluntary initiative, separate to any other league and club conversation."

No figures have yet been announced but the players said they hope to "quickly grant funds to the NHS frontline."

-- Formula 1 considers its options

Nine grand prixs have already been canceled, but F1 sporting director Ross Brawn believes it may still be possible to complete a season with up to 19 races.

Several teams have indicated a willingness to accept widespread alterations to the format of the season, including extending it into 2021.

As things stand, the first race remaining on the calendar is the French GP on June 28. Brawn said F1 is making plans on the assumption that restrictions in place across Europe will be lifted or eased before that date.

"Our view is probably a European start will be favourable and that could even be a closed event," he told Sky Sports. "We could have a very enclosed environment, where teams come in on charters, we channel them into the circuit, we make sure everyone is tested, cleared and that there is no risk to anyone.

"We would have a race with no spectators. That’s not great but it’s better than no racing at all."

April 8

-- Real Madrid players agree temporary pay cut  

Players at Spanish La Liga side Real Madrid have agreed to accept a pay cut for the rest of the current season in an effort to minimize the effects of the negative financial implications of the coronavirus outbreak on other employees.  

"Players and coaches from both the football and basketball teams, led by their captains, together with the club's main executives, have agreed to voluntarily lower their salary for this year between 10 and 20 percent depending on the way the 2019-20 season finishes," a statement released by the club on Wednesday said. 

"This decision, adopted by players, coaches and employees, avoids traumatic measures affecting the rest of the staff," it added. 

-- Seifert: 'We have to play our role'

DFL president Christian Seifert has said the 36 teams in Germany's top two divisions are "all fighting to survive", but has told the New York times that "very constructive talks" are ongoing as they look to restart the season by the start of May.

"We are part of the culture in the country, people long to get back a short piece of normal life, and that could mean the Bundesliga plays again," Seifert told the New York Times. "This is why we have to play our role here, and that means to support the government and to talk with the government about when we will be able to play again."

-- Schalke fearing for their existence

Bundesliga side FC Schalke 04 released a statement on Wednesday to outline the "existential economic situation" the club may be facing should Germany's top flight not recommence at the start of May. The statement on the club's website follows on from club chairman Clemens Tönnies telling the Welt am Sonntag newspaper he was "very worried about Schalke" in the current crisis.

The Royal Blues thanked season ticket holders who have waived a partial reimbursement offered by the club saying that every waiver "is an immense contribution towards the stabilizing the liquidity and survival of the club." The Gelsenkirchen-based outfit said resuming the season, even with matches behind closed doors, would be good news because at least television revenues would be protected.

-- Kerber envisions new future for tennis

Former Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber believes tennis could return from the coronavirus crisis with matches behind closed doors.

"For me the fans simply belong there. Tennis matches without fans is everything other than ideal but as a path to normality we have to discuss scenarios that would otherwise seem absurd," she told the Sport Bild on Wednesday.

-- No fans, no Ryder Cup?

Europe's Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington believes the biennial match with the United States should be postponed if fans are ordered to stay away due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Nobody wants to see the Ryder Cup played without the fans being there," Harrington told the BBC. "There's no doubt that it makes the tournament so much better. I think the common consensus now is the Ryder Cup will not be played unless the fans are there."

April 7

-- FIFA releases coronavirus guidelines 

FIFA has drawn up a set of guidelines on players' contracts and transfer deadlines as some leagues look likely to have their seasons extended beyond June due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"With the current suspension of play in most countries, it is now obvious that the current season will not end when people thought it would," read a statement released following a meeting of the Bureau of the FIFA Council on Tuesday. 

"Therefore, it is proposed that contracts be extended until such time that the season does actually end. This should be in line with the original intention of the parties when the contract was signed and should also preserve sporting integrity and stability." 

FIFA added that by extension, any new contracts should not come into force until the following season actually starts 

In terms of transfer windows, FIFA saidit "will be flexible and will allow the 
relevant transfer windows to be moved so they fall between the end of the old seasonand the start of the new season." 

The statement said the recommendations had been compiled by a task force that included representatives of clubs, players, leagues, national associations anconfederations. 

-- Canadian Grand Prix called off 

Canadian Grand Prix organizers announced that the Montreal race that F1 had hoped would kick off the long-delayed world championship calendar has been postponed until further notice.  

"We will welcome you with open arms at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve as soon as it is safe to do so," Francois Dumontier, president and CEO of Formula One Canadian Grand Prix, said in a statement. He added that it was "crucial to put all energies towards overcoming the pandemic." 

The Canadian Grand Prix is the ninth race on the 2020 F1 calendar to be canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

-- La Liga hoping for late May resumption

The president of La Liga says Spain’s domestic football season could potentially resume at the end of May. Javier Tebas said that May 28 was the earliest possible date while dates at the start and the end of June were also currently under consideration.

In a conference call with various journalists, Tebas also said La Liga clubs will lose around €1bn ($1.1 billion) if the 2019-20 campaign cannot be restarted and suggested matches behind closed doors were likely. 

The last time a Spanish side played a match was when Atletico Madrid knocked Liverpool out of the Champions League at Anfield on March 11.

April 6

-- Werder Bremen to start group training 

Werder Bremen players are expected to start training on Tuesday after the city of Bremen agreed on Monday to allow the Bundesliga club to do so in groups of up to four outdoors. 

Bremen's sporting director, Frank Baumann, described the decision as "positive" and an "important step."  

"However, we will continue to train without physical contact and comply with the distance regulations for our training exercises," Baumann said in a statement posted on the club's website. 

Several Bundesliga clubs, including champions Bayern Munich, had already started group training on Monday, but the decision by the city-state's interior minister didn't come until late in the afternoon. 

The decision is valid until April 19th. 

-- Pep Guardiola's mother passes away

Dolors Sala Carrió, the 82-year-old mother of Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, died on Monday of COVID-19 in Manresa near Barcelona, Spain.

"Everyone associated with the club sends their most heartfelt sympathy at this most distressing time to Pep, his family and all their friends," a Manchester City club statement read.

Former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach Guardiola donated €1 million to his native Catalonia for its efforts fighting the novel coronavirus last week. He also appeared in part of a Manchester City video encouraging people to follow social distancing guidelines. 

-- The Open is cancelled

The 149th Open Championship scheduled for Royal St George's from July 16-19 has become the latest major sporting event to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, golf's governing body the R&A announced on Monday. 

"Our absolute priority is to protect the health and safety of the fans, players, officials, volunteers and staff involved in The Open. We care deeply about this historic Championship and have made this decision with a heavy heart." Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A.

-- Reims doctor takes life

A doctor at French soccer club Reims has killed himself after getting infected with the coronavirus.

Reims Mayor Arnaud Robinet told Le Parisien newspaper Bernard Gonzalez "is a collateral victim of COVID-19 because he had tested positive and was in isolation for 14 days. I know he had left a note to explain his decision." Officials at the club say Gonzalez, who had worked at the club for 23 years, died Sunday, aged 60.

-- Bundesliga clubs resume training, but not in Bremen

Reigning champions Bayern Munich assured fans that, "all health guidelines are being adhered to" as they were among the Bundesliga clubs who made their return to team training on Monday.

Many in Germany's top flight have opted to train players in small groups amid strict measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

That has not been the case for relegation-threated Werder Bremen, who fear being unable to resume training in amid the coronavirus crisis could impact their bid for survival. Werder applied to the Bremen city council to have the restrictions lifted, but no decision has yet been made.

"We will continue to completely implement the requirements of the authorities in all areas," coach Florian Kohfeldt told the club homepage. "We hope not to suffer a competitive disadvantage here and would rather welcome a unified national solution."
 

April 5

-- Bundesliga return in May possible if players remain in 'special bubble'

Bundesliga games could resume behind closed doors only if the players remain in a "special bubble," according to German virologist Alexander Kekulé.

Since the players don't fall in the high risk group when it comes to the new coronavirus, "the problem is solvable, virologically speaking," Kekulé told German broadcaster ZDF. "But only if one achieves a sort of special bubble for the players." 

He said teams should remain in some form of quarantine. "Otherwise one needs to test them before every game." Kekulé believes 20,000 coronavirus tests would be needed.

-- Xavi supports Barcelona hospital

Barcelona and Spain legend Xavi Hernandez and his wife have donated €1 million ($1.08 million) to the city's Hospital Clinic to help the fight against the pandemic.

"Xavi Hernandez and Nuria Cunillera have made a donation of one million euros to the clinic to face up to COVID-19. Thanks a lot for your help and support... All together, we will get there," the hospital tweeted on Saturday.

"Nuria and I, we support the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona's fight against the coronavirus," Xavi said. "Thanks to the donations they are receiving, the hospital has acquired equipment for patients and healthcare professionals."

April 4

-- Liverpool furlough non-playing staff 

Premier League club Liverpool are the latest outfit to use a UK government scheme to furlough some non-playing staff, with the competition having been suspended for almost four weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The announcement came as the Premier League was holding talks on Saturday with clubs, captains and managers to discuss possible wage cuts for players during the suspension.

Under the UK's job retention scheme implemented last month as lockdown was implemented, staff put on furlough can receive 80 per cent of their salaries from the government, up to £2,500 ($3000)

Liverpool said those who are furloughed will still receive their entire salary, with the club topping up their pay "to ensure no member of staff is financially disadvantaged."

-- DFL deny amended schedule report

The German Football League (DFL), which operates the Bundesliga and the second division, has dismissed a media report which suggested it had drawn up a tentative schedule that would see the two leagues complete their seasons by June 30.  

In a statement released via Twitter, the DFL described the report published by Kicker on Saturday as "misleading," saying there was "no finished schedule" for the rest of the current season.  

"Anything else would be unrealistic given the current situation regarding the coronavirus," it said.  

The statement said that two scenarios had been discussed at the DFL's video conference with representatives of the 36 clubs on Tuesday, but that these were subject to "considerable uncertainty," as outlined by DFL Managing Director Christian Seifert in the press conference that followed.  

It also stressed that any resumption of play, even behind closed doors, could only take place as and when the authorities deem it safe to do so and that the DFL would not seek any special status at a time when battling the coronavirus was the top priority for society as a whole.  

The magazine had reported that the DFL and its 36 clubs had agreed on a plan to resume the season behind closed doors as soon as the first weekend in May  

The DFL statement did not comment on another report by Kicker, which said the financial situation for Germany's professional clubs was worse than many had feared.  

Kicker reported that a more than third of the clubs in the two top tiers of German football (13 of 36) could face bankruptcy by the end of the current season. According to the report, this was revealed during the DFL's video conference. The organization had previously asked each club to take stock of their financial situation amid the coronavirus pandemic, which led it to postpone Matchday 26 in mid-March.   

Among other things, the report say that seven second-division clubs could be forced to file for bankruptcy as early as the end of May, if matches cannot be played by then – two others could be forced to do so in June if the fourth installment from the DFL's broadcasting deal is not received by then.    

As for the Bundesliga, one club is reported only to be able to meet its financial obligations until May, while three others would have to appoint an insolvency administrator in June.  

April 3

-- Borussia Dortmund open up stadium for coronavirus treatment

Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund will open the north stand of the Westfalenstadion for the treatment of coronavirus patients in Dortmund, the club have announced.

"Our stadium is a symbol of the city and offers the technology, infrastructure and space to help people who have potentially been infected or are suffering from the relevant symptoms," said CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke and director Carsten Cramer in a statement. "It is our duty and our desire to do all in our power to help these people."

The medical center at Germany's largest football stadium will be open daily from 12:00-16.00 and no appointment will be required.

-- Premier League: indefinite suspension, wage cuts and money for lower leagues and health service

England’s Premier League has announced that play will not resume "until it is safe to do so," ruling out a return to action by the beginning of May.

Football was provisionally suspended in the UK until April 30 and the Premier League has said it is “working closely with the whole of professional football in this country, as well as with the government, public agencies and other relevant stakeholders to ensure the game achieves a collaborative solution.”

In the same statement, the league also said it would be providing a £125 million ($153m) fund for the English Football League, which operates levels two to four of the football pyramid, and National League to help those even further down, as well as a £20 million charitable donation to Britain’s National Health Service (NHS).

Furthermore, all 20 Premier League clubs agreed to “consult their players regarding a combination of conditional reductions and deferrals amounting to 30 per cent of total annual remuneration.” The Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) will meet with league and club officials to discuss the proposal on Saturday.

With a reported £760m of television broadcasting revenue at stake, Premier League clubs are desperate to complete the season somehow, although creative ideas such as “World Cup style training camps” or even matches in China have so far failed to receive widespread backing.

-- Tour de Suisse canceled, doubts over Tour de France remain

The 84th edition of the Tour de Suisse has been called off due to the coronavirus. The bike race through Switzerland, considered an important warm-up event ahead of the prestigious Tour de France, was due to take place from June 7-14, but organizers have decided that the risks of infection are too great.

The International Cycling Union is still debating postponing the 107th edition of the Tour de France, which is scheduled to begin in Nice on June 27. Tour chief Christian Prudhomme has already dismissed a suggestion from the French sports minister Roxana Maracineanu to allow the event to take place without fans, while last year's winner Egan Bernal of Colombia has spoken out in favor of a postponement. 

April 2

-- Belgian top flight facing season cancelation 

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the board of directors of Belgium's Pro League has recommended to its General Assembly that the rest of the 2019-20 season be canceled and that the current standings be declared final. This would mean that Club Bruges, who have a 15-point lead over KAA Gent after 29 matchdays would be crowned Pro League champions. 

A statement issued by the Pro League said the recommendation came as a result of a conference call among the directors to consider whether the season should go forward. It added that the decision had taken into account "public health, the interests of all stakeholders and the wish of the majority of clubs not to resume competition."  

The board said it had also set up a working group to looking into "problems of a sporting nature as well as the financial implications of this decision." 

The recommendation is subject to approval by the league's licensing commission and the General Assembly, which is scheduled to to meet on April 15.


April 1

-- The Wimbledon tennis tournament has been canceled for the first time since World War II, the All England Club said.

Following an emergency meeting, officials said the oldest Grand Slam tournament in tennis would not be held in 2020.  Wimbledon was scheduled to be played on the outskirts of London from June 29 to July 12. The next edition of the tournament will be June 28 to July 11, 2021.

"It has weighed heavily on our minds that the staging of The Championships has only been interrupted previously by World Wars," club chairman Ian Hewitt said in a press release, "but, following thorough and extensive consideration of all scenarios, we believe that it is a measure of this global crisis that it is ultimately the right decision to cancel this year's Championships, and instead concentrate on how we can use the breadth of Wimbledon's resources to help those in our local communities and beyond."

-- UEFA postpones international matches, suspends Champions League

Europe's football's governing body has postponed all international matches scheduled to be played in June, including the qualification playoffs for next year's European Championship, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"All national team matches for men and women due to be played in June 2020 are postponed until further notice," UEFA said in a statement. "This includes the playoff matches for EURO 2020 (which has been postponed until 2021) and qualifying matches for the women's EURO 2021."

The Champions League, Europa League and other international friendly matches have also been postponed "until further notice." Both international club competitions were halted during the last-16 stage, with the last matches taking place on March 12.

German broadcaster ZDF and the UK's Guardian newspaper reported that the Champions League and Europa League could be suspended until at least July due to the pandemic.

-- Löw becomes longest-tenured national team coach

On Sunday, Uruguay's football association AUF announced it was laying off most of its staff due to the economic effects of the coronavirus outbreak. That included first team head coach Oscar Tabarez, whose tenure officially came to an end on March 31 after more than 13 years in the job.

The layoff of the 73-year-old Tabarez, who was appointed as Uruguay's coach in February 2006, made German national team coach Joachim Löw the longest-serving active national team coach in the world. Löw took over for Jürgen Klinsmann in July 2006 after that year's World Cup in Germany. 

Löw's tenure has spanned 13 years and 264 days thus far. He led Germany to the 2014 World Cup title in Brazil and a Confederations Cup title in Russia in 2017. His contract runs until after the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

-- More Bundesliga players accept pay cuts

Players for Bayer Leverkusen, Hoffenheim, Leipzig and Mainz have agreed to surrender part of their salaries as the Bundesliga remains on hiatus. 

The pay cuts are part of a continuing trend in Germany of Bundesliga players forgoing wages during the coronavirus crisis.

Read more:A timeline of coronavirus' impact on the world of sports in March

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