Back pages: calls for coronavirus calm as Cheltenham begins, Marler faces rap
A round-up of the sport headlines from UK newspapers on 10 March
Cost of coronavirus
The spectre of coronavirus hangs over sport in Britain as the government grapples with ways prevent the spread of the disease after Italy suspended all sport in the country for a month.
The prospect of playing matches behind closed doors has been greeted with dismay, reports The Times, the English Football League (EFL) and rugby authorities fear they “could be made bankrupt by the loss of gate receipts and doubt that insurance policies would offer sufficient protection”, says the paper. Meanwhile, there have been calls for Sky and BT Sport, who own the rights to the Premier League to consider making all games free to air in order to salvage the season should there be a ban on public gatherings.
But the message from the Daily Telegraph is simple: “Keep calm and carry on”, it urges.
Marler to face the music
Amid the panic over coronavirus rugby makes an appearance in The Guardian, which reports that Joe Marler’s season could be over after the England prop was called to appear before a disciplinary hearing in Dublin on Thursday. Marler isn’t the only Englishman on the naughty step after the Wales game with Manu Tuilagi and Courtney Lawes also summoned to explain their actions in the 33-30 victory. The latter was sent off for a dangerous tackle on George North, while Lawes has also been cited for a reckless tackle and both are expected to receive bans no longer than six weeks.
But it’s Marler who could be in the most trouble after cameras caught him interfering with the genitals of Wales’ captain Alun Wyn Jones. The Guardian says that the shortest ban for “grabbing, twisting or squeezing the genitals” is 12 weeks, with a top-end level of 24 weeks or more. The Times also predicts Marler’s high jinks will result in a lengthy lay-off, and the paper adds that it is not the first instance of his wandering hands. In a BBC documentary about his club, Harlequins, cameras “captured him doing the same to Alex Dombrandt, his team-mate, during victory celebrations in the changing room.”
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The start of the Cheltenham Festival is mentioned on most of the back pages with numerous pullouts offered by the newspapers giving tips and analysis. Writing in The Times, veteran racing correspondent Brough Scott speaks for the racing world in expressing his delight that the festival hasn’t fallen victim to coronavirus. “This year, more than ever, we need the Cheltenham Festival, not just as a race meeting but as a rite of spring,” writes Scott. “At the end of this soggiest of winters and on the eve of an epidemic for the ages there will be real refuge in four days of hope against expectation when life must be judged at the gallop.”
The focus of the Daily Star and the Daily Mirror on their backpages is the 4-0 thrashing of Aston Villa by Leicester. Jamie Vardy, who adorns both papers, scored twice for the Foxes as they collected only their third Premier League win in their last nine matches, and as a result they consolidate their third position, four points behind Manchester City and five in front of Chelsea.
Man Utd plot Birmingham raid
The tabloids also carry some good old-fashioned transfer gossip, with the Daily Mirror reporting that “Manchester United are planning a £100m double swoop for Jack Grealish and Jude Bellingham”. Birmingham starlet Bellingham, just 16, has met Old Trafford officials with a view to a £35m move and Aston Villa star Grealish, valued at £70m, is also in United’s sights, says the paper.