Friday's coronavirus roundup: Start of WNBA season delayed
The WNBA has postponed the start of its season because of the coronavirus pandemic, with no indication when play would begin.
The league was scheduled to open training camps April 26 and the regular season was set to begin May 15.
The WNBA will still hold a “virtual” draft April 17.
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement the league will “use this time to conduct scenario-planning regarding new start dates and innovative formats.”
“Our guiding principle will continue to be the health and safety of the players, fans and employees,” Engelbert said.
The WNBA, which was set to begin its 24th season, is the longest running professional women’s sports league.
The Preakness is looking for a new date this year and has decided to cancel the infield party that is a staple of the Triple Crown race normally held on the third Saturday in May.
The owners of Pimlico Race Course and the Maryland Jockey Club said in a statementthat the outbreak of the coronavirus around the country has caused officials to delay the race and cancel InfieldFest 2020.
“Our first priority in these difficult times is the health and well-being of our customers, our vendors, our employees and the horses we all love,” the statement read.
“A decision will be made on a new date for Preakness 145 and will take into consideration all of the recommended best practices from local and governmental health authorities to protect our community.”
The Preakness usually draws more than 100,000 fans to aging Pimlico.
Most of the attendance gathers on the infield, where patrons can enjoy beer, food and free concerts by a variety of performers.
The move to cancel InfieldFest was “a difficult decision but we are confident that it was the right one,” officials said.
The Preakness was scheduled to be held on May 16. The Kentucky Derby has already been moved from May 2 to Sept. 5, and it’s possible the Preakness could follow suit and be held in mid-September.
U.S. Women’s Open paused
The U.S. Women’s Open in Houston is now scheduled for two weeks before Christmas. The LPGA Tour pushed back the resumption of its schedule until the middle of June and found slots for three tournaments that have been postponed.
Commissioner Mike Whan keeps looking at the calendar at a dwindling number of dates and trying to figure out how it will fall into place, missing one key piece of information brought on by the spread of the new coronavirus.
“Not knowing when our restart button gets pushed,” Whan said.
That was delayed by a month with a chain of events that began with the U.S. Women’s Open announcing it would move from June 4-7 at Champions Golf Club to Dec. 10-13, the latest a major championship has ever been played.
The 1929 PGA Championship ended on Dec. 7 in Los Angeles.
The last time an official LPGA Tour event was played entirely in December was the LPGA Tour Championship in 2010. And there could be more.
It’s not as simple as finding open dates and filling them with tournaments.
Whan said if a major — the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship outside Philadelphia is next up and still on the schedule for June 25-28 — that would take priority.
Of the four events cleared from the schedule Friday, only the Pure Silk Championship at Kingsmill in Virginia will not be reschedule, instead returning in 2021.
The Women’s Open is the second LPGA major to be rescheduled. The ANA Inspiration in the California desert was to be played this week and now is set for Sept. 10-13
EPL’s hiatus indefinite
The English Premier League was suspended indefinitely following a meeting of its 20 clubs, who discussed financial painkiller measures including asking players to take a substantial pay cut during the coronavirus outbreak.
Having previously given a tentative — and improbable — return date of April 30, the world’s richest league said the season would not be resuming at the start of May and “will only return when it is safe and appropriate to do so,” and only with the full support of government and medical guidance.
Teams have nine or 10 games left to play in the Premier League, with Liverpool — the leader by 25 points — still needing two more wins to clinch its first title since 1990. The FA Cup is at the quarterfinal stage.
“There is a combined objective for all remaining domestic league and cup matches to be played,” the league said, “enabling us to maintain the integrity of each competition.”
UEFA, in a letter signed by the European Club Association and the European Leagues, has urged members not to abandon their competitions.
Halting leagues without approval from UEFA could see teams blocked from qualifying for the Champions League and Europa League as they are determined based on final positions in domestic standings.
The meeting, which was held by video conference, came at the end of a week when Premier League players came under growing pressure to forego some of their salaries to help protect the jobs of club staff.
Tottenham and Newcastle are among those to have furloughed non-playing staff during soccer’s shutdown and, on Thursday, British health secretary Matt Hancock called on Premier League players to “take a pay cut and play their part.”
The league said clubs agreed to consult players over a wage deduction or deferral of 30% “in the face of substantial and continuing losses,” adding there would be meeting on Saturday between the players’ union, the league, players, and club representatives.
Talks were held separately on Friday between captains of the Premier League clubs over the creation of a fund to raise money for Britain’s National Health Service, which is being overwhelmed during the pandemic.
Following its meeting, the league said it was committing 20 million pounds ($24 million) to the NHS and other vulnerable groups.
In another financial commitment, the league voted to advance funds of 125 million pounds ($150 million) to clubs in the English Football League and fifth-tier National League, many of which are struggling to cope with the financial consequences of the suspension of matches.
That sum — which takes in solidarity payments, so-called “parachute payments” to teams relegated from the Premier League, and academy grants — would usually have been paid in August, the first month of the English season.
The EFL — the three divisions below the Premier League — and the Women’s Super League also were halted indefinitely.