A view of the empty Juventus Stadium as a measure against the infection with coronaviruses before the Serie A football game between Juventus and Inter in Turin, Italy, Sunday, March 8, 2020. Serie A played on Sunday despite the request from the Italian Minister of Sport and the President of the Players' Association to suspend the games in Italy's top football league (Marco Alpozzi / LaPresse via AP)
The novel outbreak of the corona virus, which has already changed the professional sports landscape in Europe, led to major changes on Tuesday to restrict access to fans in the USA. Important decisions were pending on the opening day of baseball and the NCAA tournament of college basketball.
College games are played without fans in Ohio and California. Given the restrictions on large gatherings there and elsewhere, further disruption to the sports calendar seems inevitable. The NCAA said it would "make decisions about its men's and women's basketball tournaments in the coming days" after two conferences excluded fans from their championships and another canceled their tournament altogether.
The baseball season begins in just over two weeks and includes games in Seattle. Of the 29 known deaths in the United States, 24 were in the Seattle area, 19 were tied to a single nursing home.
The Mariners will host the Texas Rangers on March 26th. If Major League Baseball can't play in front of fans at a team's home stadium, it would likely be the sport's first preference to move the games to the visiting team's stadium, if possible, a person familiar with the considerations told The Associated Press.
The person spoke on Tuesday on condition of anonymity as no decisions were made.
Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos said Tuesday that he was concerned about the trip to Seattle.
"I know the season is starting in Seattle and we know what Seattle is like," Chirinos said. "So in two and a half weeks we will hear some news as we get closer to the opening day."
Jay Inslee, governor of Washington, said the state is potentially preparing for tens of thousands of cases based on estimates of the spread of the disease.
MLB expects government officials to decide whether it is safe to play in front of fans in any city. If changes to the schedule were required, MLB would make provisions at the point where a ballpark was closed.
None of the major sports leagues in North America postponed games or blocked fans to protect them, but there was a lot of activity when college conferences and schools started taking these steps. The Ivy League was the first Division I conference to cancel its basketball tournaments.
Discussions about the next steps have been going on for weeks because shifts and fan restrictions have become common elsewhere. Earlier Wednesday, London-based Arsenal football club announced that its players would isolate themselves from possible exposure to the virus, which would force the postponement of their Premier League game in Manchester City. It was the first Premier League game to be canceled due to the virus and the potential exposure of players to a major sports league.
In the coming days, numerous top-class football matches will be played in Spain, France and Portugal as well as some in Germany and a qualifying match for the European Championship in Slovakia in empty stadiums.
The Spanish league said that games in the first and second leagues are played without fans for at least two weeks. The league said it "gave priority to the health of fans, players, club employees, journalists, etc. due to the COVID-19 health crisis".
The French league said football games in their top two divisions will be played without fans until April 15, and Portugal has announced similar measures. Italy said earlier this week that all sporting events, including Serie A football matches and preparatory events for the Tokyo Olympics, were suspended until April 3. The Italian ski team decided not to send any participants to Slovenia for the last World Cup races of the season.
In most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more serious illnesses, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people are recovering from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illnesses recover in about two weeks. People with more severe illness can take three to six weeks to recover.
Sports and government officials in almost all parts of the world have sought to address concerns that could affect fans and possibly stop the virus from spreading. Fear has spread from Asia – especially through the Tokyo Summer Olympics – to Europe and now to North America:
– Ohio Governor Mike DeWine recommended keeping fans away from all indoor sporting events. The state is home to the Cleveland Cavaliers of the NBA and the Columbus Blue Jackets of the NHL, among others. The Blue Jackets said they had no intention of keeping fans away from the games this week. The state also hosts a number of high school and college tournaments this month. The first games of the NCAA men's tournament – the first four – are scheduled for next week in Dayton. The games of the first round are to be played on March 20 and 22 in Cleveland.
The NCAA released a statement three hours after DeWine's announcement that it "continues to evaluate how COVID-19 affects behavior or our tournaments and events."
"We are consulting public health officials and our COVID-19 Advisory Board, who are leading experts in epidemiology and public health, and will make decisions in the coming days," said the NCAA.
The Mid-American Conference announced that its men's and women's tournaments, scheduled to take place this week in Cleveland, will be closed to the general public.
– The Great West announced a similar move with its men's and women's tournaments, which will take place this week at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
Also in Southern California, USC and UCLA said that all of their home sporting events will take place without fans at least until April 10 or until further notice. This would include NCAA first and second round women's tournament games, which are likely to be hosted by UCLA.
– The NHL also examined the impact of a decision by the Santa Clara County, California health authorities to ban gatherings of more than 1,000 people in response to the spread of the virus. The San Jose Sharks have scheduled games for March 19, 21 and 29.
– The NBA last week asked the teams to prepare for the opportunity to play games in empty arenas. LeBron James, the star of the Los Angeles Lakers, initially said he didn't want any part of it and wouldn't play, but said on Tuesday that he would do everything the NBA would do and urge the teams to do so.
– In Germany, the Bundesliga announced that six of nine games will be played without fans this week, including one of Germany's biggest rivalries, Borussia Dortmund against Schalke. The German ice hockey league canceled the rest of the season one day before the start of the playoffs.
– The Champions League football games are also affected, including next week's game between Barcelona and Napoli in Spain and Bayern Munich against Chelsea in Germany. Both games are played without fans, as is the Dortmund game in Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday.
Liverpool coach Jürgen Klopp said closing stadiums to fans – a measure the English football authorities have not yet taken – is not necessarily the best solution.
"The problem with football matches," said Klopp, "is that if you are not in the stadiums, take a close look at the rooms and I am not sure which is better in this case, to be honest his." ”
– One of the largest tennis tournaments of the year in Indian Wells, California was canceled this week. The next Grand Slam tournament is the French Open, which is due to start in Paris on May 24th. The French tennis association said he did not expect to cancel the open.
– The MotoGP postponed the American Grand Prix in Austin, Texas to November. Bobby Epstein, chairman of the Circuit of the Americas, said the decision was made by MotoGP due to global concerns about travel, especially in Italy.
– The Dutch province of North Brabant has canceled all professional football matches for the rest of this week. The province belongs to Eindhoven, where the USA is to compete against the Dutch national team in an exhibition on March 26. The U.S. Football Association said he was following the situation there and in Cardiff, where the Americans are scheduled to play against Wales four days later.
More news about the new corona virus can be found here.
What You Need to Know About Corona Virus.
EDITORS & # 39; PICK
Don't miss the latest news and information.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer and others over 70 titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to news, download at 4am and share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.