Daily Briefing

Sport shorts: Lewis Hamilton hits out at ‘irresponsible’ lack of social distancing and Hearts captain agrees 50% pay cut

Ten things from the world of sport on Monday 23 March

1. Lewis: it’s irresponsible and selfish

Six-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton has criticised people for ignoring the UK government’s advice over social distancing. 

At the weekend there were many reports of the public crowding in parks and beaches despite warnings they should be least two metres apart.

British driver Hamilton, who is self-isolating after coming into contact with people who have tested positive for the coronavirus, said: “I’m so sad to hear of the amount of deaths happening around the world.

“I know most of us are limited with the knowledge of why and how this has happened. 

“There is nothing we can do about it either way except to try to isolate ourselves, stop ourselves from catching it and spreading it.

“There are people out there still going to clubs and bars and large gatherings which I personally feel is totally irresponsible and selfish.

“I’m praying for those working at the local store, deliverers, doctors and nurses who put their own health at risk to help others and keep the countries running. Those are the heroes. Please stay safe, people.”

2. Azerbaijan GP is postponed

Organisers of the F1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix have today confirmed that the 2020 race has been postponed. The Azerbaijan GP, which was due to be held at the Baku City Circuit from 5-7 June, is the eighth F1 race to be called off. 

With Azerbaijan making its announcement, the 2020 F1 season will now not start until the Canadian GP on 14 June. However, the race at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal is also a major doubt. 

3. Cole: restart the Prem in September

The Premier League last week vowed to finish the season in the summer, despite the current shutdown of international sport, but former England star Joe Cole believes it would be in the best interests of everyone if football shut down until September. 

“If we can’t finish the season, and it’s getting close to the following season, the only situation which I think is fair is to just restart it,” said Cole, who is now employed as an academy coach with Chelsea. 

His words will alarm Liverpool fans, whose club are 25 points clear at the top of the table, but Cole - a former Red himself - believes that they may have to sacrifice their ambition in the greater interest. 

He added: “We’re in a situation where people have to be selfless in their lives and in football we need to lead the way. It’s going to benefit some clubs and others are going to be very upset but bigger things than football are at stake.”

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4. Manny on the frontline in the Philippines

Boxing legend Manny Pacquiao says he is “not afraid to die” and will risk his health by leading from the front in the Philippines’s battle with coronavirus. 

The 41-year-old WBA super welterweight champion - who is also a senator in his home country - has paid for 50,000 testing kits, 700,000 face masks, and donated five buses to transport health workers in the capital city Manila. He is also touring the streets to boost people’s morale.

‘Not afraid to die’: Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao leads from the front in coronavirus battle

5. Sport England campaigns to #StayInWorkOut

Sport England is launching a national campaign - #StayInWorkOut - to encourage people to remain active even if they are at home. 

Chief executive Tim Hollingsworth said: “Even if social isolation means being inside - if you feel well, it is easier than ever to get active. 

“We all know that right now what matters most is listening to what the official advice is telling us to do, so we can save lives and protect the NHS. What that doesn’t mean is that we stop being active, which we believe is now more important than ever.”

6. Naismith agrees 50% pay cut

BBC Sport reports that Hearts captain Steven Naismith has agreed to a 50% cut in his wages in a bid to help the Scottish Premiership club during the shutdown. 

“My family and I feel that, through a long career, football has been very good to us,” said Naismith. “Therefore, I personally feel that I can and should accept the 50% reduction in wages. 

“I hope this can contribute in some way to the long-term survival of the club at a challenging time and save jobs, especially those that are the lowest earners and hence those who will be struggling the most at this time. 

“I know every one of my team-mates have unique circumstances with their finances, homes and families. I can assure everyone they are all doing what they can.”

7. Aubameyang’s in demand  

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s future at Arsenal remains a major talking point with the striker’s contract expiring in the summer of 2021.

Barcelona have regularly been linked with the frontman and the Daily Mail reports that the Spanish giants, French champions Paris Saint-Germain and Arsenal’s Premier League rivals Manchester United are all interested.

Merson: Aubameyang is just what United are missing

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8. Arsenal cancel training return but will pay staff

Sky Sports reports that Arsenal have cancelled plans to resume training tomorrow and urged players, staff and fans to “stay at home and save lives”. 

The north London club has also pledged to continue paying matchday and non-matchday casual workers until 30 April - when the Premier League is scheduled to return.

Arsenal managing director Vinai Venkatesham said: “These are challenging times for everyone, but in particular our casual workers. This gesture is intended to ease their financial uncertainty while football is currently suspended to 30 April 2020. We look forward to welcoming football back to Emirates Stadium as soon as possible.”

9. Farah back in the spotlight over report row 

Mo Farah is back in the headlines, The Times reports, after UK Anti-Doping accused the body in charge of British athletics of withholding important parts of a report into the Olympic champion’s American coach, which include the athlete’s sensitive medical data. 

The independent review examined the handling by UK Athletics of the row surrounding the Nike Oregon Project, where Farah trained with the now disgraced coach Alberto Salazar. 

10. Back pages: Olympics under threat

“The flame flickers” is the headline in the Independent, one of several papers to devote its back page to the fate of this summer’s Olympic Games. 

The paper says that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will make a decision on whether to scrub the Tokyo 2020 games within the next four weeks.

Overnight Canada became the first nation to withdraw from the games and this will only increase the pressure on the IOC to make a decisive announcement as soon as possible with some wanting the event to be staged in 2021. 

IOC urged to make decision as Team Canada withdraws from Tokyo 2020

Today’s back pages

Flame flickers on the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo

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