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Coronavirus: How is sport affected?

How is the coronavirus affecting sport?

The coronavirus continues to hit the sporting calendar and the vastly-spreading Omicron variant could wreak havoc over the next few weeks. 

Empty seats have become a regular feature in sporting stadiums in recent times as the action has gone behind closed doors or with a reduced crowd.

As we head into what is a typically busy period for sport and with Covid passes introduced in England for any event with more than 10,000 people, we look at what the impact of coronavirus is on each sport.

Football

The calendar has been decimated in recent weeks with less than half of the weekend’s scheduled Premier League games going ahead and a further 19 games postponed in the EFL due to Covid-19.

Premier League clubs have been instructed to return to emergency Covid-19 measures that were in place during the great restart in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and the top brass are set to meet this week to discuss the best way of combatting the impact of Covid-19.

Although the idea was mooted, there appears to be no plans of delaying the round of fixtures taking place between Christmas and the new year as yet but it would be no surprise to see further postponed Premier League games.

“It just shows that again there is too much football.”

Jamie Carragher admits the developing Covid situation is concerning for football and questions when games will be able to be played within an already crowded fixture schedule. pic.twitter.com/b0oqpOHirZ

— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) December 17, 2021

It is not just in Great Britain where coronavirus has caused problems, with Gareth Bale part of a selection of Real Madrid players to fall victim of a positive test recently while in Germany football has been returned to behind closed doors for some time now.

There is a drive to try and encourage players to take the vaccine to limit the risks while Tottenham have been eliminated from the Europa Conference League having been unable to field a team for their matchday six fixture with Rennes.

Cricket

Despite concerns over the impact of coronavirus and the detrimental long-term effects of stringent bio-secure bubbles, England made the decision to tour Australia this winter and fulfil their Ashes series commitments.

This was based on an understanding between the players and ECB that the rules and regulations relating to bubble life would be kept to a minimum and players’ families would not be subject to Australia’s brutal quarantine requirements at the border.

Inter-state politics have since turned the series into a logistical minefield for the ECB and their Aussie counterparts to navigate.

With England 2-0 down, their life is set to get even tougher as they cross into Victoria and New South Wales for the third and fourth Tests, where restrictions have been tightened in recent weeks to combat the threat of the new variant.

Australia captain Pat Cummins missed the second Test due to being a close contact of a positive case and it is hard to envisage he’ll be the sole coronavirus casualty of the series.

Tennis

With the first grand slam of the new season less than a month away, it is unknown how the Omicron variant could affect the Australian Open.

It has already been documented that unvaccinated players won’t be able to take part in the tournament which casts doubts on the eligibility of Novak Djokovic to defend his title in Melbourne.

Last year the players were subjected to strict hotel quarantines in the build-up and during the tournament and with Australia known for having some of the harshest Covid-19 restrictions, time will tell what conditions await the players this time around.

Rafael Nadal has recently tested positive for Covid-19 after returning home from the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi, which also puts his Australian Open participation in doubt. 

Closer to home, the Battle of Britain exhibition featuring the Murray brothers was also postponed, with Emma Raducanu missing out on picking up her BBC Sports Personality of the Year award following a positive test while in Abu Dhabi.

Rugby Union

Travel restrictions placed on UK visitors by France resulted in seven European matches featuring French and British teams being postponed, which will mean a hefty fixture backlog when things clear up.

Earlier in December, the whole of the Saracens squad and backroom staff went into isolation following a Covid-19 outbreak at the club while Montpellier were awarded a 28-0 win in the Champions Cup due to a number of Covid cases in the Leinster camp.

There are also concerns teams in the Gallagher Premiership could be down to their bare bones over the Christmas period, with a full schedule pencilled in for Boxing Day.

Horse Racing

Up to now it is business as usual in the world of horse racing with the sport’s main concern being any restrictions that could limit the amount of paying customers coming through the turnstiles.

Horse racing will always be associated with the Coronavirus pandemic due to the Cheltenham Festival continuing while the first wave of Covid-19 was gaining pace, with the highlight of the National Hunt season since classified as one of the first real ‘super-spreader events’.

Racing was one of the first sports to return during the first lockdown unlocking process and has continued to race throughout subsequent periods of restrictions with a minimum of fuss.

However, race day crowds are essential to keep the sport thriving and the courses who usually cash in during the popular Christmas period will be eager to see limited restrictions placed upon their gate numbers.

US Sport

The NBA has postponed five games due to take place between December 19-21, including two matches involving Brooklyn Nets, while the NFL and NHL has also had to postpone many of its fixtures due to Covid concerns for both spectators and participating athletes. 

The NBA has introduced stricter coronavirus protocols over the Christmas and New Year period as teams are left depleted by rising cases in north America and in the hope of fulfilling as many fixtures as possible. 

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