Daily Briefing

Sports shorts: Indian Wells cancelled over coronavirus, Premier League in jeopardy

Ten things from the world of sport on Monday 9 March

1. Indian Wells cancelled

The Indian Wells tennis tournament in California has been called off because of concerns about the spread of coronavirus.

Organisers of the BNP Paribas Open made the decision to call off the event “due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus and the safety of the participants and attendees... This is following the guidance of medical professionals, the Centres for Disease Control, and State of California.”

Many of the world's leading players, including men's world number two Rafael Nadal, had already arrived in California for the event.

Qualifying was due to begin today with the main draw matches beginning on Wednesday.

The combined ATP and WTA event is one of the biggest non-Grand Slam tournaments in the calendar and attracts draws more than 400,000 fans each year to Indian Wells, 130 miles east of Los Angeles.

2. Fears for the Premier League

The coronavirus outbreak could also threaten the Premier League season and the Government was due to hold crisis talks with sports leaders and broadcasters today.

Premier League clubs fear being ordered to play behind closed doors reports The Daily Telegraph, which says that two clubs believe the season could still have to stop.

“Concerns that playing Premier League games without spectators would just transfer the problem to pubs showing live matches are behind proposals such as cutting off the feed to such establishments or even showing any match in a closed stadium on free-to-air television,” it reports.

“In the worst-case scenario, the season could be suspended at a critical moment in the fixture list in terms of the title race and with eight ­top-flight clubs still involved in the FA Cup and four in the Champions League.”

3. Serie A confusion

In Italy Serie A games were played behind closed doors at the weekend, but the country’s sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora said it was “irresponsible” not to suspend the competition.

His comments on Sunday meant Parma's Serie A match against SPAL kicked off 75 minutes late after as the players awaited a decision on whether the game would go ahead or not.

Earlier Brescia striker Mario Balotelli called for all games to be postponed, echoing calls from Italy’s players’ union.

Elsewhere in Europe France has announced a ban of gatherings of more than 1,000 people, a ruling certain to impact on sporting events, says the BBC, while the German health minister has also called for similar measures.

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4. Liverpool two games from glory

Liverpool fans will be waiting with bated breath to see whether the Premier League season can continue, as the club is now just two matches away from winning the title for the first time since 1990.The Reds’ victory over Bournemouth and Man City’s defeat to local rivals United on Sunday mean that Jurgen Klopp’s side need just six points from nine games to secure the league.

If Man City lose to Arsenal this week then victory in the Merseyside derby next Monday would see Liverpool crowned champions. If City win their next match then the Reds could still be champions if they can beat Everton and then Crystal Palace.

Premier League: Man United maintain superiority over City

5. Doubts over Cheltenham favourite

Despite a case of coronavirus being confirmed in the town organisers of the Cheltenham Festival say it is “business as usual” ahead of the four day racing meet.

But punters have other things to worry about apart from the Covid-19 after one of the event’s big draws became a doubt for the festival.

“Altior is lame and at great risk of not being able to run in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at this week’s Cheltenham Festival,” reports The Guardian.

“The news puts at risk what had been built up as the most exciting race this week, the much anticipated clash of Altior, Defi Du Seuil and Chacun Pour Soi in Wednesday’s Champion Chase. Altior, winner of the race for the past two years, had been favourite at 2-1 but was immediately pushed out to 3-1 and those odds looked set to lengthen.”

6. England beat Japan

England kept their hopes of retaining the SheBelieves Cup alive after substitute Ellen White scored a late winner against Japan.

England, who are holders, lost their opening fixture to the US and failed to impose themselves on Japan. Manager Phil Neville picked a side with an average age of 21 and a front three with just 12 caps between them. However, experienced second half substitutes Toni Duggan and White combined in the 83rd minute to secure his side the win.

The Lionesses face Spain, who have also lost to the US and beaten Japan, in their final game of the round robin tournament on Wednesday.

7. Australia win T20 World Cup

Hosts Australia won the women’s T20 World Cup, crushing India in front of more than 86,000 fans in Melbourne.

After winning the toss and choosing to bat Australia hit 184-4, with Alyssa Healy smashing 75 off just 39 balls. India appeared overwhelmed by the occasion and were bundled out for just 99 in the final over, although the result was never in doubt after they subsided to 58-5 in the 12th over.

Australian captain Meg Lanning admitted: “When they said they wanted to get 90,000 people to the MCG for a World Cup final, I must admit I was a little bit sceptical. This day is certainly the best of my career so far.”

8. Joe Marler in the dock 

There were two red cards in the weekend’s two Six Nations games. France prop Mohamed Haouas was sent off for punching James Ritchie as Scotland ended French hopes of a Grand Slam at Murrayfield, and Manu Tuilagi also saw a late red for a dangerous tackle on George North, although England  beat Wales at Twickenham. There could be more disciplinary fall-out if England prop Joe Marler is cited after he was caught on camera grabbing Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones’s genitals during the match.

Coronavirus: England’s Six Nations finale in Italy postponed

9. Bahrain GP behind closed doors 

The Bahrain Grand Prix will take place behind closed doors because of the coronavirus outbreak, organisers have said. The news comes a week before the season starts in Australia and following the postponement of the Chinese Grand Prix in April.

Organisers in the Gulf state said the race would go ahead as a “TV only” event. However, the Australian organisers insisted the race in Melbourne would go ahead as planned in front of fans.

Meanwhile, Ferrari, which is based in the part of Italy most affected by the coronavirus outbreak and where travel restrictions are now in place, said its preparations for the race in Australia were proceeding as normal, and that team members were already in Melbourne.

Ricciardo: Australian GP ‘can’t go ahead’ without full grid

10. Hatton wins Arnold Palmer Invitational

English golfer Tyrrell Hatton won the Arnold Palmer Invitational in challenging conditions in Orlando. His victory came a week after Paul Azinger questioned whether English golfers on the European Tour “have what it takes” to win on the PGA Tour.

“This was some response for his country and his continent. It is hard to remember a regular tournament on the US circuit when the conditions were so tough and the garlands so difficult to earn. But Hatton, the 28-year-old from Buckinghamshire, showed his mettle to claim the £1.25m prize, fending off players of the quality of Marc Leishman and the previous week’s winner in Im Sung-jae, as well as world No1 Rory McIlroy,” says The Daily Telegraph.

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