Daily Briefing

Today’s back pages: Tokyo Olympics set for 2021 and footballers ‘revolt’ against games with no fans

A round-up of the sport headlines from UK newspapers on 24 March

Olympics off until 2021

Most of the papers are united in declaring that the Olympic Games will now not take place but will be rescheduled for 2021 - which is shaping up to be the busiest summer of sport in history. 

Football’s European Championships have already been moved back a year, and there is the existing British and Irish Lions rugby tour to South Africa, not to mention the usual cricket, tennis and golf events. Now the Olympics in Japan are also set to be rearranged.

“Torched” is the headline on the back of the Daily Express, which claims that the decision has already been taken. 

The paper quotes International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Dick Pound, who told USA Today: “On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided.

“The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on 24 July, that much I know.” 

The Times says that the games will be rescheduled for 2021, possibly in September, a month after the World Athletics Championship, which “could still go ahead, as planned, on 6 August next year”.

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Footballers revolt

The Daily Mirror leads on its back page with a story headlined “No fans… no way” in which it claims that players from “all levels are against games being resumed without any fans”. 

The proposal was mooted last week by the Premier League and English Football League (EFL) as one way of finishing the season in the face of the coronavirus crisis which has now become a national lockdown following the Prime Minister’s statement last night

The Mirror says that the Premier League has “mapped out a plan to return behind closed doors as early as 2/3 May” in order to complete the remaining ten rounds of matches, and satisfy broadcasters who have paid “hundreds of millions in multi-billion pound TV contracts”. 

The Mirror says that players are concerned first and foremost for their own wellbeing, and that of their families, but also feel it would be unfair on the fans to play behind closed doors.

“Players do have concerns and understandably so,” said PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor. “It would not be our preferred option but everything has to be considered at the moment.”

There are also the financial realities, however, and players are aware that without television money the clubs will suffer and that could have an impact on their own salaries.

Rugby’s ready to roll

Another sport anxious to fulfil its television obligations is rugby union, reports The Times, with the paper claiming that Premiership Rugby “wants its competition to be the first sport back on television and is determined to finish this season”. 

The RFU has shut down rugby in England until 20 April with nine rounds of the regular season and the play-offs remaining but Premiership Rugby (PRL) chief executive Darren Childs has declared his intention to complete the season come what may. 

“If that means playing over the summer, then we will do that, as long as it is safe to do so,” said Childs. “We are looking at midweek games. There is no reason why we couldn’t play four games over a weekend in a stadium. 

“To be able to concentrate things in one area means we can be sensible about trying to reduce the impact on the TV operations by compressing it into one venue.” 

The Premiership final is already exceptionally late in the season - on 20 June because of the 2019 World Cup - and if the season goes beyond that date there will be ramifications for England’s tour to Japan, where they are scheduled to play two Tests on 4 and 11 July.

Today’s sport headlines

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