Search for Matildas coach paused, Milicic in limbo

The search for a new Matildas coach has been put on ice because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Football Federation Australia was to begin the hunt for Ante Milicic’s replacement in April but with the sporting world paused so too are the Australian governing body’s recruitment efforts.

Ante Milicic watches on at Bankwest Stadium during Olympic qualifiers earlier in 2020. Credit:Getty

FFA board members Marco Bresciano, Amy Duggan and Joseph Carrozzi are in charge of the search for the new appointment.

Milicic was set to end his tenure as Matildas coach after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to start as coach of A-League expansion side Macarthur FC.

The Tokyo Olympics were pushed back to mid 2021 because of coronavirus and it seems likely a new coach will be appointed later in 2020 in time to prepare the side for a medal attempt.

It would be incredibly difficult for Milicic to coach the Matildas to the Olympic Games and lead Macarthur in an inaugural A-League campaign, yet there is a school of thought at FFA headquarters that some players might push for him to stay in charge of the women’s national team.

While it isn’t common, some coaches have juggled club duties with national team responsibilities; Guus Hiddink did in qualifying the Socceroos for the 2006 World Cup and leading them to Germany as he simultaneously coached PSV Eindhoven in the Dutch Eredivisie.

However, the added responsibility and work required to get an expansion team up and running in its first season, as Milicic must, makes this highly unlikely, despite some players feeling disappointed that the man who helped them qualify for Tokyo won’t lead them into the tournament.

Claire Polkinghorne, Lydia Williams, Elise Kellond-Knight and Aivi Luik are all senior Matildas and some had been considering (to varying extents) retirement after Tokyo and now need to aim for 2021 rather than 2020, if they choose to go on.

Williams, who was working through a club transfer to Europe (thought to be in England), has also had to put those negotiations on hold because of coronavirus.

Veteran striker Lisa De Vanna has been frozen out of the Matildas squad under Milicic. Yet a new coach, as well as her very good form for Fiorentina in Italy before the lockdown, could see her recalled. She has not officially retired from national duty.

Milicic is one of the 70 per cent of FFA staff that have been stood down during the coronavirus pandemic, as are Matildas and the Socceroos support staff.

Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has taken a 50 per cent pay cut but will also act as interim national technical director and general manager of national teams.

Recruiting for these roles has also been put on hold but FFA is still looking for a general manager of communications and corporate affairs, and a general manager of member federation relations. The latter vacancy is close to being filled.

An important role, FFA want someone who will: “Act as the main contact point for member federations relations and engagement and will possess a deep knowledge of the domestic football industry and experience working across all stakeholders”.

FFA sources were also confident FIFA would be able to decide in June this year on who would host the 2023 Women's World Cup, with Australia and New Zealand submitting a joint bid, despite the pandemic.

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Pending reinstatement, Aldon Smith will sign with Cowboys

When defensive end Aldon Smith — who hasn’t played an NFL game since 2015 — is officially reinstated he’ll be playing for the Dallas Cowboys.

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Smith has agreed to a one-year, $4 million deal with the Cowboys, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.

FOX’s Jay Glazer first reported the signing.

Rapoport added that Smith’s contract begins when he’s officially reinstated, which "Dallas is confident it will happen." NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo said the reinstatement process is underway and added that the contract is for $2 million in base salary and $2 million in sack incentives.

Smith last played for the Raiders in 2015 when he was issued an indefinite suspension for violation of the league’s substance-abuse and personal-conduct policies. Smith was then released by the Raiders in 2018 after he was named as a suspect in a domestic violence incident.

The No. 7 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft by the 49ers, Smith was an All-Pro in 2012 and tallied 47.5 sacks in 59 games.

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Off track: Australian involvement unlikely at Royal Ascot this year

Royal Ascot’s international scout is preparing for a carnival without Australian involvement.

Racing’s biggest five-day carnival was preparing for one of its largest Australian assaults before the coronavirus shut down transport between countries.

Royal Ascot concedes this year’s carnival is unlikely to feature Australian involvement.Credit:AP

TJ Smith favourite Nature Strip headlined the Australian contingent expected to take on the world’s best in the middle of June, but Royal Ascot’s director of racing Nick Smith said it would be unrealistic to expect any Australian involvement in 2020.

Racing is currently suspended in the UK until the end of April and the Australian government has banned Australians from leaving the country.

"It’s frustrating for us and more so for those interested that there has been so much interest expressed this year," Smith told The Age.

"We are not, ourselves, cancelling these ventures but we are very realistic about the logistical challenge now and the uncertainties surrounding planning for such ventures.

"Realistically, this is something likely to be reignited in 2021."

Smith, who was in Melbourne earlier this year to see Gytrash win the Lightning Stakes, said he had "many" Australian horses on his wishlist for this year’s carnival, including last year's Doncaster winner Brutal, Everest winner Yes Yes Yes before his injury, star mare Sunlight and Coolmore Stakes winner Exceedance.

"But realistically, even discussing these ventures now in the context of the casualties and the global crisis would be difficult," he said.

"We are closed for racing and sport in the UK. We are miles away from being able to consider the international element of Royal Ascot, and I say that with great sadness but with confidence that this may just be the year that never was for global racing."

Black Caviar winning at Royal Ascot.Credit:Getty Images

Australian stars Black Caviar, Takeover Target and Choisir are among those to have made the trip and won at the prestigious carnival.

Smith said the shutdown was "having a dramatic effect" on trainers and staff in the British racing industry.

"However there is absolutely no question at all that the government and BHA have acted appropriately and we fully support the shut down," he said.

"Of course we want to see racing opened up again when it is safe to do so."

In a statement released to the club’s website, Royal Ascot said it would be considering a range of options for its summer program and for guests who have pre-purchased tickets.

"Quite clearly the pace of the government’s plan to deal with this current pandemic is accelerating rapidly," the club said.

"At this stage we ask for everyone’s patience with regards to updates relating to our subsequent race meetings, including Royal Ascot. We are considering a range of options.

"It is too early to be definitive or even speculate on how this situation will affect the summer program.

"We will provide information as soon as we possibly can but we are reliant on external guidance which for obvious reasons is not in our power to accelerate."

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Walker: I think we have to just bite the bullet and think about others

‘I think we have to just bite the bullet and think about others’: Manchester City defender Kyle Walker ready to play the waiting game for Premier League to resume amid coronavirus

  • Kyle Walker is missing the routine as top-level football is suspended 
  • His last appearance came in Manchester City’s Carabao Cup final win on March 1
  • Government-imposed lockdown has also prevented teams taking part in training
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

Kyle Walker is finding the coronavirus lockdown tough but the Manchester City right-back knows this is the time to ‘bite the bullet’ and think of others.

Top-level football across the world is suspended currently due to the Covid-19 pandemic that continues to escalate.

It is 24 days since reigning Premier League champions City last took the field, with the suspension of matches compounded by a Government-imposed lockdown that has prevented training.

Kyle Walker’s last appearance came in the Carabao Cup final win against Aston Villa on March 1

Instead, footballers across the land are working in isolation – something that Walker, whose last appearance came in the Carabao Cup final win against Aston Villa on March 1, might find difficult but knows is far bigger than football.

‘It’s been tough, but first and foremost, we have to think about other people’s health and protecting the elderly and family members that can spread it,’ the England international said.

‘As a footballer that is used to a day-to-day routine and structure to your life, it is tough.

‘I think it is something where we have to just bite the bullet and think about others rather than yourselves.’

Walker is missing the routine as top-level football is suspended currently due to the pandemic

Walker has three boys to kickaround with at home but is missing the dressing room banter, even if technology is providing a steady feed of laughter.

‘We have jumped on HouseParty a few times and kind of got the banter going,’ he said. ‘You have got the group chat that is always going off on some sort of madness.

‘I think it is about mainly keeping the brain active. Obviously keeping yourselves active where, us as footballers, we have been provided with the gym equipment that Manchester City have given us and the bike and the programmes that we have carried out to make sure we are fine when we start the season, fingers crossed, again.’

One omission from those conversations is manager Pep Guardiola, who may not appreciate some of the content flying around.

But Walker has been in contact with the City manager, who has donated one million euros (£918,000) to the fight against Covid-19 in Spain.

‘Obviously Pep is not in the group chat!’ the full-back said.

Man City boss Pep Guardiola has donated €1m in the fight against coronavirus in Barcelona

‘I dropped him a text message last night saying hope you are OK, and I hope the family is well and fair play for donating the amount of money that you have donated. That says a lot about him as a person.

‘Put football aside, that has come from his heart and it is something that should definitely be recognised.’

Guardiola urged fans to keep safe by staying at home as the club launched their ‘Cityzens At Home’ website on Monday and Walker echoed those sentiments.

‘It is plain and simple: follow the guidelines,’ he added. ‘It is important that we all do our part here. Even if you are not affected or showing symptoms, don’t take it for granted.

‘Stay indoors, keep washing your hands, keep following the protocols and just protect the NHS.

‘Football has to take a back step for now because that is the least important thing on everyone’s mind in the football world. The health of family members and other people’s family members is the most important.

‘But, I hope, and I am sure everybody else hopes, that football will come back and we will be able to finish off the season, but if it is not a possibility, then everyone does understand that people’s health is more important than a game of sport.’

 

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Redknapp SLAMS Levy and Spurs for slashing wages of non-playing staff

‘I can’t believe it. This isn’t for big clubs like Tottenham’: Harry Redknapp SLAMS his former boss Daniel Levy for slashing wages of 550 non-playing staff amid the coronavirus pandemic

  • Harry Redknapp slammed Daniel Levy for slashing wages of non-playing staff
  • The former Tottenham boss was shocked by decision to place 550 on furlough
  • Redknapp said: ‘I thought it was there for government to pay ordinary people’
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

Harry Redknapp has launched a thinly-veiled assault on his former boss Daniel Levy following the Tottenham chairman’s decision to slash the wages of non-playing staff.

It was announced earlier this week that Levy would use the Government’s furlough scheme and that 550 Spurs employees would have to take a 20 per cent pay cut while football remains suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Not only did this coincide with the club releasing their financial figures, which revealed that Levy earned an extra £3million on top of his £4m salary for overseeing the completion of the club’s new stadium, but Tottenham’s players are also for the time being still earning their wages in full despite them on average pocketing a mammoth £70,000 a week. 

Harry Redknapp slammed his former club Tottenham for slashing wages of non-playing staff

Daniel Levy made the announcement shortly before his £7m-a-year salary was revealed

When an employee is placed on furlough they are temporarily put on a leave of absence and not paid, although they remain on the payroll, meaning that they do not lose their job.

This could be because there is no work for these employees, or that the company is not able to afford to pay them, because of the effects of the coronavirus crisis.

In the United Kingdom, the Government is offering to pay 80 per cent of a furloughed employee’s wages, up to £2,500 per month, until they are able to resume their job full time. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will last for at least three months from March 1.

Redknapp, who spent four years managing Tottenham between 2008-2012, has been left astounded and shocked by Levy’s behaviour and hit out at his former employer before calling on the Premier League’s big earners to donate a chunk of their wages to the NHS.

Speaking to The Sun, Redknapp said: ‘I can’t believe it. Surely players should be taking a cut. 

‘This isn’t for big clubs like Tottenham.

‘I thought the Government were going to pay ordinary people who are struggling and help small businesses who are struggling.

‘But you are talking here about a club where their players earn £10-12million a year.

‘Tottenham are owned by Joe Lewis, one of the richest men in the world, and his club are cutting the wages of all their non-football staff by 20 per cent. I can’t believe it.

Harry Kane is one of Tottenham’s biggest earners and is believed to earn £200,000 a week

‘Here is a club where the average player earns £80,000, £90,000, £100,000 a week. And that’s average! Their top players earn £150,000 a week, maybe even £200,000 a week.

‘Surely, players should be taking a cut.

‘I know their minds and they don’t want to be going it alone but they will do it if all their team-mates do it.

‘They can all afford to hand over ten per cent and I’d like to see the captain of every Premier League club call a meeting and say, “Come on, guys, we are all in it together, let’s donate to help our staff”.’

HOW CORONAVIRUS HAS HIT THE WORLD OF SPORT SO FAR

2020 OLYMPIC GAMES  

The 2020 Olympic Games has been postponed until 2021 on March 24 – becoming one of the last major sporting events this summer to fall victim to the coronavirus.

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe held a crucial conference call with Olympics chief Thomas Bach on Tuesday to formally decide a plan and they have chosen to postpone for 12 months.

The decision also means the Tokyo Paralympic Games will be subject to a one-year delay.

Despite the delay, the name of the delayed Games will still be Tokyo 2020, the city’s governor Yuriko Koike revealed.

A joint statement from the IOC and Tokyo 2020 organising committee read: ‘In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the WHO today, the IOC President and the Prime Minister of Japan have concluded that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.

‘The leaders agreed that the Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present. 

‘Therefore, it was agreed that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan. It was also agreed that the Games will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.’ 

There was plenty of scepticism whether the Olympics would pull through and continue as scheduled while events linked to the games were called off. The Olympic torch relay in Greece was cancelled on Friday March 13 – just a day after the flame was lit in Olympia.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games have been postponed by one year due to the coronavirus

Large crowds mobbed Hollywood actor Gerard Butler as he lit the cauldron in the Greek city of Sparta despite repeated warnings for spectators not to attend because of coronavirus.

That forced the decision by the Greek Olympic Committee to halt the torch relay on Greek soil on just the second day of its scheduled eight-day journey. It is the only the third time that a relay to Athens for the summer Games has not been completed.

The Olympic flame will still be handed over to the Tokyo 2020 organising committee at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens on Thursday March 19, but without fans present. 

Athletes were told to keep training but many struggled considering the government lock-down measures put in place. 

On Friday March 13 US president Donald Trump’s suggestion to postpone the Tokyo Olympics for a year because of the coronavirus was immediately shot down by Japan’s Olympic minister.

‘The IOC and the organising committee are not considering cancellation or a postponement – absolutely not at all,’ Seiko Hashimoto, an Olympic bronze medalist, told a news conference in Tokyo.

On Tuesday March 17, Kozo Tashima, one of the Japanese Olympic Committee’s vice presidents and president of the Japanese Football Association, tested positive for coronavirus.  

The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo organisers have stayed on message since the viral outbreak in China three months ago spread across Asia and then the globe: The games will open as scheduled on July 24. 

Tokyo 2020 organisers received the Olympic flame in a scaled-down handover ceremony in the Greek capital on March 19. 

ATHLETICS 

The World Athletics Indoor Championships, which was due to be held from March 13-15 in Nanjing, is postponed until March 2021.

The World Athletics Indoor Championships in Nanjing, China, has been postponed due to concerns over the danger of the coronavirus and its ability to spread

North Korea cancelled the Pyongyang Marathon scheduled for April after imposing a border lockdown due to the level of outbreak in South Korea, where the Seoul Marathon is cancelled in a bid to protect runners.

The Paris half-marathon is cancelled and the French government also decided to ban all public gatherings of more than 100 people, before ordering people to stay at home from March 15 for at least 15 days. The race involving some 44,000 competitors was scheduled for Sunday March 1. Organisers said the race will be postponed to a date yet to be determined.

The London Marathon, which had been scheduled to take place on April 26, has been postponed until October 4. Over 40,000 runners were due to take part. 

The Barcelona marathon scheduled for March 15 has been postponed until October.

BOXING 

Olympic boxing qualifiers to be staged in Wuhan were cancelled by the International Olympic Committee, but went ahead in Amman from March 3-11.

The IBF title fight between Daniele Scardina and Andrew Francillette in Milan on February 28 was postponed by Matchroom due to restrictions in Italy following the outbreak.

The Japanese boxing commission cancelled all fight cards scheduled for March on government advice to suspend all pending sporting fixtures. They will not be rescheduled.

Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce’s Battle of Britain has been pushed back from April to July

The British Boxing Board of Control announced on Tuesday March 17 that all boxing events under their jurisdiction for March will be postponed due to the coronavirus.

That decision has lead to the heavyweight clash between Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce being postponed. That fight, which had been penciled in for April 11, has been rescheduled for July 11 at the O2 Arena. 

Anthony Yarde, who was due to fight Lyndon Arthur on the undercard of the all-British clash, announced on March 29 that his father had died as a result of contracting the coronavirus. 

He revealed in an Instagram post that he had no underlying health issues and urged everyone to stay at home.  

Matchroom Boxing has also postponed all events scheduled for March and April, including Josh Kelly’s European title fight against Russia’s David Avanesyan (scheduled for March 28). 

The European Olympic boxing qualification tournament in London has been suspended. It was due to secure qualification for Tokyo 2020 for 77 male and female boxers, with 322 taking part. 

Matchroom Boxing chief Eddie Hearn has said Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight title defence against Kubrat Pulev, which is scheduled for June 20, could be rearranged for July. All Matchroom promoted fights in March and April have been postponed. 

Canelo Alvarez vs Billy Joe Saunders, earmarked for May in Las Vegas, was postponed before even being announced, however the Mexican is reportedly still planning to make the bout happen in June. 

CRICKET 

England’s tour of Sri Lanka was postponed on March 13, with the England and Wales Cricket Board citing ‘completely unprecedented times’.

The decision was confirmed while Joe Root’s side were in the field at Colombo’s P Sara Oval, contesting a warm-up game for a two-Test series.

On March 18, the West Indies offered to host England’s upcoming home Tests against them in the Caribbean instead of in the UK – should the coronavirus outbreak not have improved by then. England are due to face the Windies in a a three-Test series, which is due to start at the Oval on June 4 but could be delayed until September. If playing the series in England proves unworkable, CWI have offered to step in for this series, and also for England’s three Tests against Pakistan, due to start on July 30. Although there are Covid-19 cases in the Caribbean, its impact there has been limited so far. 

The start of the Indian Premier League season has also been delayed until April 15. The 2020 campaign had been set to start on March 29. The IPL franchises are also ready to quarantine their foreign players for a period of 14 days, if travel restrictions are lifted to allow them to arrive.

On March 13, India’s ongoing one-day international series against South Africa was postponed, while Australia’s one-day internationals against New Zealand will be played behind closed doors.

Scotland’s one-day series against the United States and UAE have been postponed. The games were scheduled to be played in Florida in April. 

England’s cricketers would not play any rescheduled Test series against West Indies in the Caribbean until December at the earliest, it emerged on March 19.

CYCLING 

Cycling’s Giro d’Italia has been called off, with the race scheduled to start in Hungary in May. 

The final two stages of the UAE Tour were cancelled after two members of staff on the race were suspected of having the disease. 

Danish cyclist Michael Morkov was tested for coronavirus after being put in isolation

The Tour de France is under threat of cancellation, with the scheduled start in Nice taking place in just over three months, on June 27. With British and French governments anticipating that the pandemic will last until the summer, race organizers are studying alternative scheduling. 

The Paris-Roubaix cycling race, another major event on the French sports calendar, was postponed due to the pandemic, while the April 5 Tour of Flanders, only previously cancelled during World War I, was also postponed in a further sign that Le Tour is under grave threat.

FOOTBALL 

This summer’s Euro 2020 tournament has been moved to next summer (2021) following a UEFA conference held on March 17. The postponement provides a chance for European club competitions to be completed.

All football in England is suspended until at least April 30 – but the 2019-20 season should eventually be completed after the FA bend their own rules to extend the campaign INDEFINITELY after holding crisis talks on March 19.

The decisions to suspend follows players and staff becoming affected by the virus, or individuals self-isolating as a precaution after reporting symptoms consistent with Covid-19.

The Premier League has moved to cancel games following the global outbreak of coronavius

The Premier League clash between Manchester City and Arsenal, scheduled for March 11, had already been postponed as a ‘precautionary measure’ after Olympiacos and Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis tested positive for coronavirus weeks after watching his Greek team play at the Emirates Stadium. 

On March 13, UEFA announced all Champions League and Europa League fixtures scheduled are postponed, as well as the quarter-final draws for both competitions. UEFA hope to conclude the competitions in the summer but no dates are yet set. 

Birmingham City become the first Championship side to see players take temporary 50 per cent wage cuts to ease financial pressure.  Leeds United soon followed in a bid to keep paying all of their non-football staff. 

All Chinese domestic fixtures at all levels were postponed and the season pushed back, the first football to be affected by the outbreak in the country of its origin. However, reports suggest that the league could resume on April 18 as China gets to grip with the virus.

Asian Champions League matches involving Guangzhou Evergrande, Shanghai Shenhua and Shanghai SIPG are postponed until April.

The start of the Korean K-League season is postponed. The four teams in the AFC Champions League are playing their matches behind closed doors.

Japan’s J-League postponed all domestic games until the middle of March, but further delays are inevitable. 

Ludogorets players were taking no chances after the coronavirus outbreak in Italy

Italy, the country worst hit by the virus outside China, suffered a spate of cancellations before the government put the population on lockdown. All sport, including Serie A games, were suspended until at least April 3 to contain the virus.

In France, it was announced on Friday 13 March that there will be no top-flight football in France for the immediate future after their governing body postponed all matches.  

In Spain, April 18’s Copa del Rey final between between Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad has been postponed. LaLiga is also postponed until the end of March at least.

Germany’s Bundesliga, the other major European league, is also suspended until April 3 at least. 

The Dutch Eredivisie and Portugal’s Primeira Liga are also suspended.

The Football Association of Ireland announced that all football under its jurisdiction will cease until March 29. 

Major League Soccer has been suspended for 30 days until mid-April with David Beckham’s first Inter Miami home game delayed.  

The South American Football Confederation postponed this year’s Copa America, due to take place from 12 June to 12 July, until 2021.

FIFA said that the newly-expanded Club World Cup, originally scheduled to take place in China in June 2021, will be postponed and a new date announced when ‘there is more clarity on the situation’.

On March 13, the FA announced that all of England’s games scheduled for the month would be postponed, including those of development teams. It means that England’s friendlies with Italy and Denmark have been called off.    

Euro 2020 play-off matches due to be held on March 26, including Scotland v Israel have been put off until June. 

Olympiakos’ owner Evangelos Marinakis has tested positive for the coronavirus

Manchester United clash at Austrian side Lask was behind closed doors, with United handing out £350 to each fan to help with travel and accommodation after they sold 900 tickets for the Europa League game. 

Newcastle United banned their players from shaking hands with each other amid coronavirus fears. 

Cristiano Ronaldo went into isolation in Madeira after it emerged that his Juventus team-mate, Daniele Rugani, has coronavirus. Squad members Blaise Matuidi and Paolo Dybala also tested positive. 

Elsewhere in Italy, Fiorentina striker Patrick Cutrone, who is on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers, tested positive for coronavirus.

In Spain, 35% of Valencia’s squad staff tested positive for coronavirus, with all cases being asymptomatic. 

Real Madrid’s first-team squad were in quarantine after a member of the basketball team tested positive for Covid-19. The two teams share the same training facility.   

Liverpool have announced a charity match between a Reds Legends side and Barcelona Legends, due to be played at Anfield on March 28, has been postponed.

FIFA says it will postpone South American World Cup qualifying matches due to take place in March. 

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta tested positive for coronavirus on March 12 with the entire first-team squad being put into isolation. The Gunners’ game against Brighton, scheduled for Saturday March 14, has been postponed.

In the early hours of Friday, March 13, Chelsea announced that winger Callum Hudson-Odoi had been diagnosed with the illness.

The club’s first team went into self-isolation, while two buildings at their training ground in Cobham were closed. 

Premier League clubs, including Manchester United and Manchester City, have sent players home to train alone following the British government’s increasing crackdown on mass gatherings and unnecessary social contact.   

West Ham chief Karren Brady called for the season to be null and void while Aston Villa believe no team should be relegated. In this situation Liverpool, the runaway league leaders, could face the horror of being denied the title despite being on the brink of securing their first league trophy in nearly 30 years.

Reports suggest football bodies across England and the rest of Europe are bracing themselves for a reported total shutdown of every league until September.

Top-level English and Scottish football was initially suspended until April 3 at the earliest. The Football Association, the Premier League, the English Football League, FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship all agreed to call a halt to competitive action with immediate effect. 

All levels of English football below the National League North and South have been called off and voided with no promotion and relegation due to the calendar being decimated by the coronavirus outbreak.  

FORMULA ONE 

The season-opening Australian Grand Prix was called off after a McLaren team member came down with Covid-19, leading to the British team pulling out prior to a decision being made on whether the race would still go ahead. 

The announcement came hours after Lewis Hamilton said it was ‘shocking’ that the race was going ahead. 

The Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai on April 19 was the first race to be postponed, with no decision over whether it will be reinserted into the 2020 calendar for later in the season. 

The Bahrain Grand Prix, scheduled for March 20-22, is also called off, as is the inaugural Vietnam Grand Prix, which was scheduled to take place in Hanoi on April 5. 

It was hoped that the Dutch Grand Prix on May 3 would be the first race of the new season but that has also been postponed due to Covid-19. 

The iconic Monaco Grand Prix on May 24 was cancelled for the first time in 66 years before Formula One announced their race in Azerbaijan had been postponed. 

The Chinese GP was first to be cancelled and other races could yet follow that lead

GOLF 

On March 13, the Masters was postponed. In a statement released online, Fred Ridley, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, emphasised that the decision makers hope to hold the championship ‘at some later date’. The first men’s major of the year was due to begin on April 9.

The US PGA Championship, the second major of the year, has now joined the  Masters in being postponed. It had been due to take place at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco from May 11-17, but has been rescheduled for later this summer.

After deciding to play with no spectators from the second round of the Players Championship onwards, the PGA Tour cancelled the event entirely after the first round on March 12. 

They also scrapped the following three events leading up to the Masters, but after that was cancelled four further events in April and May – the RBC Heritage, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, the Wells Fargo Championship and the AT&T Byron Nelson – also bit the dust. It is hoped that the season can be resumed in late May.

The European Tour have cancelled all tournaments until the popular Made in Denmark event on May 21. Many of them were due to be held in China or east Asia in countries badly hit by the outbreak.

The women’s game has also been hit by postponements and cancellations, with the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration, the highest profile casualty.

The Masters has been postponed for the first time since the Second World War

Lorenzo Gagli and Edoardo Molinari were withdrawn from the Oman Open on medical grounds after Gagli showed symptoms of the virus. He shared a hotel room with Molinari and he was told to self-isolate. They were later reinstated to the tournament after testing negative for the virus. 

HORSE RACING 

The Grand National was called off following new British government restrictions to fight the spread of coronavirus made it impossible to stage the Aintree showpiece on April 4. The Cheltenham Festival went ahead amid some criticism before the social distancing measures were tightened. 

The Japan Racing Association revealed that ‘government-sanctioned races’ will go ahead behind closed doors.  

Racing in Ireland attempted to take place behind closed doors starting on March 29 – but that decision was changed after government cancelled all sporting events.  

The Dubai World Cup meeting will go ahead on March 28 ‘without paid hospitality spectators’. 

Racing Post forced to temporarily suspend publication of the flagship daily racing newspaper for the first time since their inception in 1986 due to all action in UK and Ireland being suspended.  

The Cheltenham Festival went ahead despite travel disruption caused by the virus

RUGBY 

This year’s Six Nations will have to wait for its conclusion with all remaining games postponed.

England’s game with Italy and Ireland’s trip to France had already been called off with Wales and Scotland leaving it until the day before before calling off their game. 

Saturday, 31 October is a possible date for the final weekend of matches. 

The Women’s Six Nations has also been hit by postponements.

Ireland’s Six Nations encounter with Italy on March 7 has been postponed

The RFU has suspended all levels of rugby in England until April 14, with the announcement coming shortly after the Premiership was halted for five weeks. 

The quarter-finals of the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup have also been postponed. Those games were scheduled for April 3, 4 and 5.   

The RFL and rugby league’s Super League have now followed suit and postponed all fixtures for at least three weeks. Eight Leeds Rhinos players had been confirmed to be self-isolating.  

TENNIS

Wimbledon has been cancelled for the first time since World War II as All England Club chiefs called the tournament off at an emergency meeting.

It was considered impossible for the tournament to be moved back to later in the year, or to be played without fans, and so chiefs have pulled the plug entirely.

This is the first time that Wimbledon will not be staged since 1945. Only one Grand Slam has missed a year since the war, the 1986 Australian Open, and that was for the technical reason of the date shifting forward from December into January. 

The French Open, one of the four Grand Slam tournaments, is postponed until September amid a wide lockdown in France.

The clay-court major was scheduled for May 24 to June 7, but that has shifted to September 20 to October 4, after the US Open, which was due to be the final major of the year. 

Players have been quick to criticise the move, which has created a conflict with the Laver Cup men’s team event spearheaded by Roger Federer, and a women’s tournament in China.

All events on the ATP Tour have been suspended for six weeks. 

The BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells in California, set to start on March 9, was postponed at the eleventh hour.  It came after a confirmed case of the coronavirus in the nearby Coachella Valley.

The final of an ATP Challenger event in Bergamo, Italy, between Enzo Couacaud and Illya Marchenko of Ukraine was cancelled. Both players received ranking points and prize money for getting to the final. They were denied the opportunity to play behind closed doors.

China forfeited a Davis Cup tie because the men’s team were unable to travel to Romania for the March 6-7 play-off.

WTA events have also been cancelled. The WTA announced they are assessing their schedule with a number of events set for China in the second half of the season.

The International Tennis Federation has announced that the Fed Cup finals have been postponed. The event was due to be held in Budapest in April and the competition’s play-offs, which were set to take place in eight different locations, have also been placed on hold.

The WTA also announced no tournaments will be staged for at least five weeks.   

Wimbledon has been cancelled for the first time since World War II

OTHER SPORTS 

The NBA has been suspended indefinitely after two Utah Jazz players contracted the virus. On March 17 Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant confirmed he had tested positive for the virus alongside three unnamed team-mates.

In an aid to decrease risks of exposure to the virus, the NBA had told players to avoid taking items such as pens, markers, balls and jerseys from autograph seekers. 

The NHL has announced it has paused the 2019-20 season with no date confirmed for when it will resume. 

The UFC has cancelled its next three events, although president Dana White is still pushing ahead for the highly-anticipated lightweight title fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson. 

MotoGP have cancelled their first two races of the season in Qatar and Thailand. 

South Korea’s baseball league cancelled all 50 pre-season game which were slated to take place from March 14-24. It is the first time since the leagues inception in 1982 that an entire set of exhibition matches are off. 

The first-stage draw for the Table Tennis World Championships, scheduled for South Korea from March 22-29, is postponed.

A beach volleyball tournament, due to be held in Yangzhou from April 22-26, is postponed until after the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

World Short track speed skating championship in Seoul is cancelled.

The World Triathlon Series event in Abu Dhabi was postponed as a precautionary measure.  

The Women’s World Ice Hockey Championships in Canada have been cancelled.   

All 72 pre-season baseball games in Japan are to take place behind closed doors

In badminton, the German Open (March 3-8), Vietnam Open (March 24-29) and Polish Open (March 26-29), all Olympic qualifying events, are cancelled due to ‘strict health protection’. 

The Japanese professional baseball league made the decision to play their 72 pre-season games behind closed doors until March 15. Baseball is among the most popular sports in Japan.  

Doubts remain as the Asian weightlifting championships, scheduled for March, are relocated from Kazakhstan to neighbouring Uzbekistan. They could still be postponed. 





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Patriots cut QB Cody Kessler, leaving Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer as only options on roster

Could the Patriots be in the market for another quarterback? After Wednesday, it seems more than likely after the Patriots released Cody Kessler. Signed last year, Kessler was the third quarterback on the Patriots roster and that now leaves the team with just Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer on the depth chart.

Moving on from Tom Brady won’t be easy and it makes sense for the Patriots to enter this 2020 season with three quarterbacks in training camp. There were benefits to having Kessler in camp. He had a year in the Patriots system and worked with Stidham last season. The 26-year-old also has made 12 career starts.

After the Patriots kept him on the roster last year, behind Brady and Stidham, it seemed logical to keep him around this year as the Patriots move on from Brady. Add in the fact that the Patriots only get minor salary cap relief (around $260,000) from releasing Kessler and it would certainly seem like the Pats are planning on adding another quarterback to the mix. The biggest question now is whether that’ll be a rookie in the upcoming 2020 NFL draft or a seasoned veteran.

GLARING NEEDS: Breaking down what NFL's top contenders are lacking

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The two biggest names available on the free-agent market are Cam Newton and Jameis Winston. It’s also possible that a veteran like Andy Dalton is available on the trade market. This offseason, however, the only veteran quarterback the Patriots added was Hoyer, who signed a one-year deal.

The biggest issues with adding a newcomer to the team now are the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. The NFL won’t be holding OTAs this month and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see minicamp canceled in June. That could mean new players don’t practice with their new teams until training camp.

The Patriots are also running out of cap space, so adding a veteran like Newton, Winston or Dalton would be tough. The team entered Wednesday with just $1,568,575 in cap space, according to the NFLPA. They have several ways to clear space but haven’t utilized any of the easier options yet, such as extending or trading Joe Thuney, who signed a franchise tag worth close to $14.8 million.

Perhaps the easiest thing for the Patriots to do is add a quarterback through the upcoming draft. At the NFL scouting combine, the Pats met with Justin Herbert (Oregon), Jordan Love (Utah State), Jake Fromm (Georgia) and Jake Luton (Oregon State). The team also had representatives at the pro days for Jalen Hurts (Oklahoma) and Steven Montez (Colorado). The team also met with James Morgan (Florida International) at the East-West Shrine Game.

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Rashford goes for 'all out attack' in his dream Man United 6-a-side

Marcus Rashford goes for ‘all out attack’ in his dream Manchester United 6-a-side team with Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney but forward doesn’t name himself in star-studded line-up

  • Rashford went for Cristiano Ronaldo on the left and Ryan Giggs on the right
  • He named his former team-mate Rooney as the best player he’d played with
  • United forward also credited Ryan Giggs for aiding his development as a player

Hot-shot Marcus Rashford went for ‘all out attack’ in his all-time Manchester Utd 6-a-side team but he couldn’t find a place for himself.

The 22-year-old forward has scored 41 goals in 133 appearances for the Red Devils since making his debut in 2015.

He has also bagged 10 goals in 38 games for England.


Marcus Rashford went for Cristiano Ronaldo (above) on the left and Ryan Giggs on the right

But despite his impressive record, the boyhood United fan does not feel he is up to the level of some of the other Old Trafford icons.  

Rashford told Bleacher Report: ‘At the back I’d have Rio Ferdinand. I’d probably have [David] De Gea, but it was a close one between [Edwin] van der Sar. 

‘I’m all out attack from there,’ he continued. ‘I’d have [Paul] Scholesy in front of Rio, [Ryan] Giggs on the right, [Cristiano] Ronaldo on the left and [Wayne] Rooney up front.

‘I’m not putting myself in. Not yet.’

Wayne Rooney was up front in Rashford’s dream Manchester United 6-a-side team

Rashford named Rooney as the best player he’d played with.

‘To get the opportunity to play with him was an unbelievable experience and it was just the little things he did for our games that makes him a special player,’ he said.

‘I was watching him quite closely. It’s just the way he transitions between the positions like it’s nothing. That’s what makes him a world class player.’

Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand added the backbone to the dream line-up

He also credited both Rooney and Ryan Giggs for aiding his development as a player.

Asked which player he had learnt the most from in his short career thus far, Rashford replied: ‘Rooney. Or maybe Giggs when I first came in and he was coaching under [Louis] van Gaal. He [Giggs] helped me a lot with what he used to say to me.

‘But on the pitch, Rooney. You learn a lot when people speak to you but more when you’re on the pitch with them.’ 

Boyhood United fan does not feel he is up to the level of some of the other Old Trafford icons

 


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Peyton Manning's Broncos debut airs tonight on NBCSN

Historically, many of the NFL’s finest quarterbacks have not fared well after moving on from the franchises they initially starred.

Then again, historically there aren’t too many quarterbacks like Peyton Manning.

Revisit two of Manning’s most memorable outings in his second act as Broncos quarterback as the all-time great’s Denver debut and return to Indianapolis are replayed tonight on NBC Sports Network at 7 p.m. ET and 9:30 p.m., respectively.

In the fall of 2012, Manning wasn’t just debuting in a Broncos uniform, but he was also returning to the field after a season away due to a neck injury. He made his long-awaited debut as the Broncos faced the Steelers and didn’t miss a beat.

Following a full season with the Broncos, Manning made his long-awaited return to Indianapolis. It was an emotional return and one in which Manning was at his best, but could he lead the Broncos to a victory against the Colts in his old stomping grounds?

Tune in tonight for the Peyton Manning Broncos double dip beginning at 7:30 p.m. on NBCSN.

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Solskjaer believes footballers have a duty to help NHS heroes

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insists footballers have a duty to act as role models and help support the ‘real heroes’ of the NHS

  • Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes Manchester United can help set an example 
  • Solskjaer has labelled the health workers in the NHS as the real heroes  
  • The United boss also called on supporters to do their bit and stay at home 
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes footballers have a responsibility to act as role models and support the ‘real heroes’ working in the NHS.

Football has been suspended across most of the world due to the coronavirus pandemic which is affecting every walk of life, with Manchester United and Manchester City working together to help people in the local area.

United striker Marcus Rashford has also worked with charity FareShare to ensure children who are missing out on free meals due to school closures can be fed.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes his Manchester United players have a duty to act as role models

Solskjaer believes it is vital that the club sets an example in this time of global crisis.

‘We all know, sometimes, we’re the heroes but, at the moment, we can be the back-up support. The NHS and the health service, they are the real heroes now,’ Solskjaer said in an interview published by the club.

‘I think it’s important we as footballers, and we working as role models, we’ve got a difference to make and we can do that just by sending out messages on social media and stuff.

Solskjaer also wants his players to do what they can to support the ‘real heroes’ in the NHS

‘It’s the same for me in Norway, watching what is happening there. I think we all realise how much [is being done] and I don’t think we should save money on health. Health is a critical thing. Sorry for the political message, it just got me involved there!’

The football season in England remains suspended indefinitely but Solskjaer is confident his players will be keeping themselves in good shape for if and when the season resumes.

‘Our players have been really good. They’re good lads and I trust them,’ he added.

‘They’re naturally fit anyway and want to improve. The training side is fine, you find they’re good people and you try to encourage, as we’ve all got to adjust.

‘Some of our players have families abroad and some of them were able to go back home to be with them.

‘I don’t know when we are going to get back into football and we’ve got to set dates for when we are going to report but, of course, we’re updated all the time with the government and the authorities.

‘Hopefully, our fans will know they want to come back into football in a good frame of mind but the players need some time back home now.’

Solskjaer also called on all United supporters to play their part by following the advice to stay at home to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

‘We’ve all got to adjust and I think everyone knows what is more important than anything now is people’s lives,’ he said.

‘When football is part of our life and, when football is back, we know normality has come back. I am sure the fans are eager to come back but they also have a part to play. Let’s make sure we get through this together.

‘We’re all patient and looking forward to football coming back to the stadiums and on TV but, in the meantime, we’ve all got a real important role to play in staying at home and following the guidelines to help the NHS.

‘If anyone can volunteer and help, that’s fantastic and that’s the way we save lives.’ 





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Marcus Rashford tells Mason Greenwood what he needs to do to be top forward

Marcus Rashford has urged Mason Greenwood to ignore any outside noise and push himself if he wants to be considered a top forward.

The 18-year-old is following in Rashford's footsteps after progressing through the academy ranks to become a member of Man Utd's senior squad.

Greenwood has been drip-fed first-team action this season in what has been his breakthrough campaign, but has still chimed in with 12 goals in all competitions.

He no doubt looks a star for the future, and Rashford believes the sky is the limit for the youngster, providing he is willing to put in the hard yards.

"Mason's got everything to be as good as he wants to be," Rashford told Bleacher Report. "All the attributes to be a forward at the top level.

"It's just about him pushing himself. don't need to listen to things on the outside, just keep pushing and improving."

Speaking on an Instagram Live Q&A, Rashford admitted he was unsure what Greenwood's strongest foot was, and even joked the starlet didn't know himself.

Rashford added: "As a forward there's not much else you can ask for in terms of natural ability.

"Hopefully he continues to work hard. Unbelievable talent."

While Greenwood is still learning his trade, it seems the England youth international is in the best place for his development at United.

Rashford discussed how boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has had an impact on every member of the United squad, but most notably on him and his fellow strikers like Greenwood.

"As well as a manager he's an unbelievable coach," Rashford said of the former United frontman.

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