The English Premier League was given government approval on Saturday to press ahead with its June 17 restart to the soccer season although players will have to stay apart during goal celebrations and disputes to maintain social distancing.
Further details of the league’s plans for dealing with coronavirus cases have been disclosed with clubs likely to have to play even if they only have 15 fit squad members.
In a further boost to the league’s restart plans, there were no positives in the fourth round of twice-weekly testing. Tests were conducted on 1,130 players and club personnel on Thursday and Friday as contact training resumed.
The season was suspended in March and the government is now willing to allow games without fans if coronavirus prevention protocols are followed by those in stadiums.
The league agreed to a government request for some games to be broadcast for free, whereas they are usually only available on subscription channels, to make them accessible to fans unable to attend games.
But the police still want Liverpool’s key games — before it almost certainly clinches the trophy — to be played away from the city and in neutral stadiums. Liverpool is two wins from ending its 30-year title drought, 25 points clear with nine games to go.
All sports events will be allowed to resume in England from Monday, without any spectators and providing they comply with the government’s coronavirus protocols.
In Spain, full team soccer training sessions will be allowed to resume on Monday ahead of La Liga’s June 11 restart. Until now players had been limited to individual training before progressing to small groups.
The Ukrainian Premier League restarted but one game was called off when an unspecified number of soccer players and staff tested positive for the coronavirus.
US Open tennis plan in works
Charter flights to ferry US Open tennis players and limited entourages from Europe, South America and the Middle East to New York. Negative COVID-19 tests before traveling. Centralized housing. Daily temperature checks.
No spectators. Fewer on-court officials. No locker-room access on practice days.
All are among the scenarios being considered for the 2020 US Open — if it is held at all amid the coronavirus pandemic —and described to the Associated Press by a high-ranking official at the Grand Slam tournament.
“All of this is still fluid,” Stacey Allaster, the US Tennis Association’s chief executive for professional tennis, said in a telephone interview. “We have made no decisions at all.”
With that caveat, Allaster added that if the USTA board does decide to go forward with the Open, she expects it to be held at its usual site and in its usual spot on the calendar. The main draw is scheduled to start Aug. 31.
An announcement should come from “mid-June to end of June,” Allaster said.
All sanctioned competition has been suspended by the ATP, WTA and International Tennis Federation since March and is on hold until late July.
Austria to host F1 races
The Austrian Health Ministry approved safety conditions for Austria to host two Formula One Grand Prix races in July.
The first 10 races of the season have either been postponed or canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, but F1 could finally return with back-to-back races at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg on July 5 and 12.
Health Minister Rudolf Anschober approved the safety plans for the double-header without spectators and with limited numbers of people involved.
“As well as strict hygiene measures, the concept foresees regular testing and health checks for the teams and all of the other employees, and also a concrete medical concept,’’ Anschober said Saturday in a statement.
Colleges drop sports
Four-year colleges facing budget shortfalls stemming from the pandemic are approaching an unwelcome milestone: In coming days, the number of eliminated sports programs will almost surely pass 100.
Research by The Associated Press found a total of 97 teams eliminated at four-year schools through Friday. The count includes only teams cut with the coronavirus outbreak and its impacts cited as all or part of the reason.
Of the 78 teams lost in Divisions 2 and 3 and the NAIA, 44 were from three schools that closed at least in part because of financial fallout from the pandemic.
No Power Five conference school is known to have dropped any sports. Most of the 19 Division I teams cut — 15 men’s, four women’s — are from schools in the so-called Group of Five conferences.
No rugby in South Africa
The South African government maintained a ban on all contact sports competitions on Saturday because of the coronavirus, meaning the country’s professional rugby teams and its world champion Springboks will remain out of action.