Coronavirus cancellations and reactions in sports

As a new strain of coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, has spread around the globe in recent months, tournaments, games and other sporting events have been canceled, while others have been held without spectators. For example, the Tokyo Marathon was recently held without any of its usually million-plus spectators and Paris Saint-Germain’s Champions League knockout clash with Borussia Dortmund will take place behind closed doors Wednesday night. As fears mount, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are officially on notice for being disrupted in some sort of way. Professional sports leagues in the U.S. and abroad are monitoring the situation and trying to determine the best course of action, starting with the NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS all closing their locker rooms to media and non-essential personnel.

It is a complicated process as teams and venues decide whether to hold events with or without spectators, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Here’s a look on how coronavirus is affecting sports both domestically in the U.S. and around the world.

Football and other sports

  • March 11: Europa League fixtures chaos as Roma abandon Sevilla trip, Getafe refuse to travel: The Europa League round-of-16 ties between Roma and Sevilla and Inter Milan vs. Getafe are in the balance.

  • March 10: Premier League matchup Arsenal vs. Man City postponed: Arsenal’s Premier League match Wednesday against Manchester City has been postponed after a number of the squad made “close contact” with Olympiakos owner Evangelos Marinakis two weeks ago.

  • March 10: PGA Tour has no plans to cancel events: PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said that the tour has no plans to cancel upcoming events, including the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas, in two weeks.

  • March 10: La Liga to be played behind closed doors for two weeks: Top-flight football in Spain will be played behind closed doors for at least the next two weeks with the ban on supporters attending games also extending to the country’s second division.

  • March 10: Guardiola: Cancel Premier League games over coronavirus: Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has said he would rather suspend fixtures than play behind closed doors in response to coronavirus.

  • March 9: List of sporting events canceled because of coronavirus

  • March 9: Serie A, all sport in Italy halted due to coronavirus: All sports in Italy were halted because of the coronavirus outbreak, including games in Serie A and preparatory events for the Tokyo Olympics.

  • March 9: Gaming and esports events are postponed, cancelled or played without a live audience: Some events are postponed, others are cancelled or some are held without a live audience or public access.


  • March 11: Tokyo Olympic president dismisses comments about delaying 2020 Games: Yoshiro Mori, the president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee, said a board member who said the 2020 Games should be delayed a year to two because of the coronavirus has apologized and the games are going forward as planned in July.

  • March 10: The International Judo Federation cancels all Olympic qualifying events through April: Qualifying events in Russia, Georgia and Turkey have been cancelled with the federation saying they want to keep athletes “safe.”

  • March 9: Fans banned from Tokyo 2020 torch-lighting ceremony in Greece: For the first time since the 1984 Olympics, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics torch-lighting ceremony in ancient Olympia will be held without spectators. Greece’s Olympic Committee said spectators would be excluded from both the dress rehearsal on Wednesday and the ceremony on Thursday.

  • March 6: Tokyo organizers held a spectator-less test event: Most sporting events and large gatherings in Tokyo have been cancelled, but a climbing event on Friday took place with no fans and no top athletes. Instead, amateurs tested the climbing facility.

  • March 4: The International Olympic Committee says 2020 Olympics are going forward: After an executive board meeting in Switzerland, the IOC remains steadfast in Tokyo going forward as planned on July 24.

  • March 3: Coronavirus and the Tokyo Olympics: A lot of questions, few answers: The IOC wants the 2020 Olympics to go forward as planned, but the unknown nature of the coronavirus puts that in doubt.


  • March 11: Could the NBA move games?: The NBA has mulled moving games from a city with a large coronavirus cluster to the away opponent’s arena if that city hasn’t suffered an outbreak or possibly neutral cities and sites. The NBA’s board of governors has a conference call with the NBA commissioner’s office Wednesday.

  • March 10: LeBron will ‘listen’ if NBA bars fans over virus: LeBron James said he would be “very disappointed” if the NBA decided to play games without fans in response to the coronavirus crisis, but admitted he would “listen” to the league if that’s what it decided to do.

  • March 9: Locker room access at NBA games to be limited: The NBA plans to dramatically curb access to players in locker rooms, which means limiting access to what the NBA considers to be nonessential team personnel.

  • March 9: NBA books conference call to discuss coronavirus strategy: The NBA has scheduled a conference call with team owners and governors to discuss next steps in the growing coronavirus crisis, league sources tell ESPN.

  • March 2: Fist-bumps among short-term recommendations as NBA plots coronavirus strategy, memo says: Among the NBA’s short-term recommendations to teams in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, players should utilize fist-bumps over high-fives with fans and avoid taking items such as pens, balls and jerseys to autograph, according to a memo to teams obtained by ESPN.


  • March 10: ​Sharks may host games without fans: The San Jose Sharks may play home games in an empty arena after Santa Clara’s mass gatherings ban.

  • March 9: Santa Clara County bans gatherings of 1,000-plus: Following the first death in San Jose, there are now serious doubts about the status of three San Jose Sharks hockey games, the NCAA women’s basketball tournament at Stanford University and one MLS game. Santa Clara County announced a ban of all large gatherings of at least 1,000 people for the rest of March.

  • March 5: Sharks to play despite concerns: The San Jose Sharks are playing their home game against the Minnesota Wild despite a recommendation from Santa Clara County to “cancel mass gatherings” as the coronavirus spreads.

  • March 4: NHL limiting employee travel: The NHL is not allowing its employees to make work-related trips outside of North America in response to the global fears over the coronavirus.

  • March 2: NHL looking at plans if coronavirus spreads: The NHL is “starting to explore contingency plans” should the coronavirus become a more significant health threat in North America ahead of the 2019-20 NHL playoffs, deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN.


  • March 5: Worker at XFL game has coronavirus: A stadium employee who worked at the XFL’s Seattle Dragons home game Feb. 22 at CenturyLink Field has tested positive for the coronavirus.


  • March 10: Big West to play its tournaments without fans: The Big West will play its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments this week without fans. The women’s tournament began Tuesday night on Long Beach State’s campus and both tournaments will be played at the Honda Center on Thursday-Saturday.

  • March 10: MAC tournament to go on without fans: Hours after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine recommended Tuesday that sporting events at indoor facilities in the state take place without spectators, the Mid-American Conference announced a “restricted attendance policy” for its men’s and women’s postseason tournaments in Cleveland, closing both events to the general public.

  • March 10: Ivy League cancels conference basketball tournaments: Neither the men or women’s Ivy League conference tournament will take place this year, which were scheduled to be played in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Yale will receive the conference’s automatic bid into the NCAA men’s tournament, while Princeton will receive the automatic bid for the NCAA women’s tournament.

  • March 4: Chicago State hoops team not traveling: The Chicago State men’s basketball team will not travel for two regularly scheduled WAC games this week, and its women’s team will not host two games, the school said, citing the spread of the coronavirus.

  • March 4: UMKC won’t play in Seattle: University of Missouri-Kansas City will not play its road game at Seattle due to concerns over coronavirus, the Western Athletic Conference announced.


  • March 8: BNP Paribas Open won’t be played because of coronavirus: The BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament has been called off after a case of the new coronavirus was confirmed in the Coachella Valley in Southern California.


  • March 4: WrestleMania 36 plans continue amid coronavirus: The WWE is planning on moving forward with WrestleMania 36 in Tampa, Florida, despite multiple confirmed cases of coronavirus in the area.

Formula One

  • March 10: Members of F1 paddock tested for coronavirus: At least three members of the Formula One paddock have been tested for coronavirus and have entered self-isolation on the eve of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

  • March 9: Australian Grand Prix plans to continue with fans in attendance: The season-opening Formula One race in Melbourne will proceed as planned this week, and there is ‘no chance’ fans will be excluded because of coronavirus fears.

  • March 8: Bahrain Grand Prix to take place behind closed doors: The Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix will be restricted to participants only and no fans will be allowed to attend, due to coronavirus concerns.


  • March 11: European Tour postpones Indian Open: The European Tour has decided to postpone the Indian Open which was due to take place on March 19-22.

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