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The Latest: Cricket Australia cancels games, ends season

March 17, 2020 GMT
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Empty seats ring the field during a One Day International cricket match between Australia and New Zealand at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney, Friday, March 13, 2020. Cricket Australia announced that three one-day international matches between Australia and New Zealand would be played in empty stadiums because of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. The first of the three matches began at the 48,000-seat Sydney Cricket Ground, where television announcers spoke of the "eerie" silence in the stadium devoid of fans. (Dean Lewins/AAP Image via AP)
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Empty seats ring the field during a One Day International cricket match between Australia and New Zealand at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney, Friday, March 13, 2020. Cricket Australia announced that three one-day international matches between Australia and New Zealand would be played in empty stadiums because of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. The first of the three matches began at the 48,000-seat Sydney Cricket Ground, where television announcers spoke of the "eerie" silence in the stadium devoid of fans. (Dean Lewins/AAP Image via AP)

The Latest on the coronavirus outbreak’s effect on sports around the world (all times local):

8:15 p.m.

All professional cricket has been canceled in Australia in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and national organizers are “strongly recommending” that the remainder of the season be called off at all levels — right down to children’s community games.

Cricket Australia declared New South Wales state the winner of the Sheffield Shield, the national firsts-class competition. The last round of the regular season in the Sheffield Shield had already been scrapped.New South Wales won six games, lost two and drew one in the Shield, finishing 12 points clear of Victoria state. International cricket series between Australia and New Zealand had already been canceled.

Cricket Australia chief executive Kevin Roberts says the measures are aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.

“By effectively canceling the remainder of our season, Cricket Australia is playing its part in protecting fans, players, staff, volunteers and match officials during this unprecedented global health issue,” Roberts said.

The cancellation comes nine days after Australia hosted and won the women’s Twenty20 Cricket World Cup final against India, attended by more than 86,000 people at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

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7:15 p.m.

WrestleMania in Tampa, Florida is down for the count.

The WWE’s annual wrestling extravaganza -- often called the Super Bowl of wrestling -- will not be held at the home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Raymond James Stadium. WWE, however, said it will still hold its scheduled April 5 card on the closed set at WWE’s training facility in Orlando, Florida. WWE ran an empty arena edition of “Smackdown” last Friday and was set to run Monday’s “RAW” from the performance center.

Brock Lesnar is set to defend the WWE championship against Drew McIntyre at WrestleMania. WrestleMania will be broadcast live on the WWE Network. It has been held annually in football stadiums in 2007 and usually draws some of the biggest crowds of the year for any sports entertainment event.

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6:45 p.m.

USA Swimming has canceled next month’s TYR Pro Swim Series meet in Southern California and postponed the combined open water national and junior national championships in Florida.

The TYR meet was to be held April 16-19 in Mission Viejo, California. It was set to replicate the Tokyo Olympics schedule, with finals in the morning and preliminaries in the evening.

The open water nationals were to be April 24-26 in Fort Myers, Florida.

The last meet of the TYR series set for May 5-9 in Indianapolis is still being evaluated. If the meet is held, it’s possible the schedule will be switched to morning finals and evening prelims.

The U.S. Olympic trials are scheduled for June 21-28 in Omaha, Nebraska.

USA Swimming says its previous suspension of all events, camps, conferences or any occasion that requires people to travel and gather now extends through April 30.

The governing body is asking its member clubs to limit practices and training sessions as recommended by their local health officials and the Centers for Disease Control.

— Reporting by Beth Harris

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6 p.m.

Watkins Glen International has postponed its opening weekend because of the spread of COVID-19.

The traditional opening of the storied road course in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York was slated for April 4-5 and is an important fundraiser for charity.

Members of the general public with a valid driver’s license can pay a fee and drive three controlled laps around the 2.45-mile layout used by NASCAR for its August races. Proceeds benefit the facility’s Racing and Community Enrichment (R.A.C.E.). Annual turnout is between 1,000 and 2,800 vehicles, track president Michael Printup said. No decision on a new opening date has been made.

The International Motor Racing Research Center in Watkins Glen also announced it would close after business hours on Tuesday. It’s tentatively scheduled to reopen in mid-April.

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5:40 p.m.

The Sun Belt Conference has canceled all organized athletics and related activities, including practices, through the remainder of the academic year.

In a written announcement the Sun Belt says the decision was made Monday in consultation with the league’s presidents, chancellors and athletic directors “to address growing concerns surrounding the spread of the coronavirus.”

The Sun Belt is comprised of 12 institutions in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas.

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12:10 a.m.

The Kontinental Hockey League is taking a one-week pause in its playoffs to come up with a new format and schedule for the six remaining Russian teams. Finland-based Jokerit and Kazakhstan-based Barys Nur-Sultan pulled out of the playoffs amid the oronavirus pandemic.

The American Hockey League, which has the NHL’s top minor league teams, announced that the indefinite suspension of its regular season won’t be lifted before May. The league also announced it is recommending its teams work on returning players to their primary residences, like the NHL is doing.

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4:45 p.m.

A person familiar with the discussions tells The Associated Press that the American Hockey League is allowing its players to return home while determining it won’t be able to resume its season until May at the earliest.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Monday because the league has not announced the decisions reached by the AHL’s executive committee during a conference call.

The move follows last week’s decision by the 31-team AHL to suspend its season until further notice. The decision coincides with the NHL placing a roster freeze on player movement, as well as pushing back the possibility of resuming its season for several weeks, if not more than a month.

Previously, players were encouraged to remain with their teams.

-- Reporting by AP Hockey Writer John Wawrow

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8:50 p.m.

The Grand National Steeplechase, one of the iconic sporting events in Britain, has been canceled following the stringent measures put in place during the virus outbreak.

The Jockey Club says the horse racing meeting at Aintree, Liverpool, from April 2-4 will not take place.

The British government has said emergency services are being withdrawn from supporting mass gatherings in the country from Tuesday, so the Jockey Club “has decided that it is no longer appropriate to stage” the Grand National Festival.

Sandy Dudgeon, senior steward of the Jockey Club, says “we were working on a plan to stage the Grand National behind closed doors given its importance to the racing industry and beyond, but … this is not a viable option.”

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4:10 p.m.

Live horse racing without fans will continue at Aqueduct during New York’s ban on public gatherings of more than 50 people.

Fans were banned as of last Thursday. Racing resumes Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The winter meet ends March 29.

The New York Racing Association said horse owners are not allowed access to Aqueduct.

Belmont Park’s backstretch and its facilities remain open to horsemen and training is allowed. Owners won’t be allowed in the stable area until further notice.

Also, The Jockey Club will close its offices in New York and Kentucky to outside visitors as of Tuesday while contiuning to provide services. All business-related travel has been suspended and some employees are working remotely. The Jockey Club is the breed registry for thoroughbred horses in North America.

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4 p.m.

Keeneland race track in Kentucky has canceled its spring meet because of COVID-19. The meet was scheduled for April 2-24, with the $1 million Blue Grass Stakes awarding 170 points toward the Kentucky Derby, the highlight of the opening weekend. On Sunday the historic track announced it would be closed to non-essential guests and set up screening checkpoints for those seeking access.

The track says no horses will be allowed at Keeneland and it recommended that horsemen not at the track remain where they are.

Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason calls the decision to cancel “agonizing” and adds that the track had exhausted all avenues for safely conducting the meet.

The Blue Grass is the second Derby prep to be canceled. The $700,000 Sunland Derby in New Mexico was canceled Sunday. It was set for March 22 and would have awarded 50 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby.

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1 p.m.

USA Water Polo has canceled a key tournament set to begin in late April in Indianapolis because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. men and women have already qualified for the Olympics. But the the 2020 FINA Men’s and Women’s Intercontinental Tournament would have been been one of their biggest warmups for the Tokyo Games.

The cancellation also hurts USA Water Polo’s effort to growing the sport in the Midwest. The event was scheduled for April 28 to May 3.

USA Water Polo also announced the cancellation of the inaugural Division III Women’s National Championship. It was scheduled for May 8-10 in Southern California.

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7:10 p.m.

The European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup rugby quarterfinals scheduled for April 3-5 were postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

All eight matches and thus the European club season were suspended by governing body European Professional Club Rugby.

The English Premiership was also suspended for five weeks, following government advice against mass gatherings.

The same advice prompted the English Rugby Football Union to suspend all activities until April 14.

The activities were at professional and community level, “including club training, league and cup matches plus rugby education courses,” the RFU said.

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2:35 p.m.

The Baseball Hall of Fame has canceled Hall of Fame Classic weekend because of the spread of the new coronavirus.

The Hall of Fame said advance purchases for the May 22-24 event in Cooperstown, New York, will be refunded.

The Hall of Fame is closed to the public indefinitely.

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2:30 p.m.

Major League Baseball has pushed back opening day until mid-May at the earliest on Monday because of the new coronavirus after the federal government recommended restricting events of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks.

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred made the announcement following a conference call with executives of the 30 teams.

“The clubs remain committed to playing as many games as possible when the season begins,” the commissioner’s office said in a statement.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Sunday that gatherings of 50 people or more be canceled or postponed across the country for the next eight weeks.

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1:50 p.m.

The DeVos family that owns the Orlando Magic has unveiled plans for a $2 million fund to pay hourly workers who will miss time because of sports shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The $2 million will be earmarked to help about 1,800 workers who are employed at Magic games, Lakeland Magic G League games, Orlando Solar Bears minor-league hockey games and other Amway Center events.

In addition, Magic players have told the organization that they want to provide even more money for those workers.

Magic CEO Alex Martins says: “The DeVos Family has a history of stepping up during challenging times. Today is no different. If someone is losing a paycheck because we are not playing, they will be fairly compensated.”

The Magic say the part-time employees will receive paychecks for missed games through what would have been the end of the regular season.

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6:40 p.m.

The Super League — Europe’s top division in rugby league — has been suspended, initially until April.

The league says the decision was taken following the British government’s updated advice on limiting social contact and mass gatherings.

In a joint statement, Super League executive chairman Robert Elstone and Rugby Football League chief executive Ralph Rimmer said the suspension presents “significant financial and commercial implications for rugby league, which will be further considered during the period of suspension.”

The Super League includes teams from France and Canada.

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1:35 p.m.

The Arizona Coyotes will pay all part-time arena and team employees through the end of the previously scheduled NHL season.

Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo and his family have partnered with Gila River Arena to pay part-time and hourly arena employees scheduled to work the team’s final eight home games. All part-time and hourly team employees will be paid through April 4.

The Coyotes also will pay part-time Tucson Roadrunners employees affected by the suspension of the American Hockey League.

The NHL announced last week it would pause the 2019-20 season in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Coyotes defenseman Aaron Ness became the NHL’s first known player to be tested for COVID-19 after experiencing flu-like symptoms last week. His agent, Neil Sheehy, said Monday that Ness tested negative for the virus.

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1:20 p.m.

The NHRA drag racing series has suspended its season 30 days with the intention to resume events April 17-19 in Houston.

An event at Las Vegas has been postponed with no new date announced.

“We made this decision with heavy hearts as we see the effects this pandemic is having on the world,” NHRA said in a statement. “We are all in this complicated uncertain and rapidly changing situation together, and we encourage everyone to look out for each other.”

Other motorsports such as NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula One already pulled the plug on racing.

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12:45 p.m.

The Penn Relays, one of the oldest and largest track meets in the nation, has been canceled in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Penn Relays were scheduled for April 23-25 and had been held uninterrupted since 1895. The event celebrated its 125th consecutive running last year. The Philadelphia-based University of Pennsylvania says it will attempt to host a substitute track meet at a later date in late May or early June. The new event wouldn’t meet the standard Penn Relays format. The three-day event would shorten into a one-day event for youth, high school and open runners.

The Penn Relays has adapted to worldwide conditions in the past. The meet was altered in 1917 and 1918 when several colleges, including most Ivy League institutions, curtailed their track programs during World War I. During World War II, travel restrictions reduced participation and spectator attendance while gas rationing was in effect in 1943 and 1944.

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12:40 p.m.

A staff member of Canucks Sports & Entertainment has tested positive for COVID-19.

Trent Carroll, chief operating officer of the Vancouver Canucks’ parent company, said the diagnosed individual was in self-quarantine and feeling better.

The organization closed its offices Monday and employees were preparing to work from home “wherever possible.”

“We are receiving guidance from the health authorities on next steps,” Carroll said.

Canucks Sports & Entertainment, formerly known as Orca Bay Sports & Entertainment, owns the NHL Canucks and Rogers Arena, among other properties.

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12:30 p.m.

The international beach volleyball tour has postponed two more events, clearing the schedule of everything until May 6.

The FIVB says a three-star event that was supposed to take place this week in Gold Coast, Australia, and a four-star tournament next week in Cancun, Mexico, have been postponed because of travel restrictions in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The events are crucial for athletes trying to qualify for the Summer Olympics, with more points available at the higher-rated tournaments.

The FIVB says it is in contact with the IOC about “potentially revising the beach volleyball qualification system” for the Tokyo Olympics.

As of Monday, four of the last nine points-rich four- and five-star events have been postponed or canceled.

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12:20 p.m.

NHL players have been told they can return home and self-isolate there until the end of March while hockey is on hold amid the coronavirus pandemic.

This signals a significant update on the league’s potential timeline to resume the season. Commissioner Gary Bettman announced last week the season was on pause and did not provide more specifics on how long that would last.

Players had previously been told to remain in their team’s city and await further direction. The new directive comes in the aftermath of the CDC’s recommendation the U.S. not hold gatherings of 50 or more people for the next eight weeks.

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3:30 p.m.

The Russian soccer league has taken a step closer to shutting down after CSKA Moscow canceled its upcoming game with Zenit St. Petersburg.

The league is to meet Tuesday to discuss its response to the coronavirus outbreak. However, CSKA said it was no longer able to host Sunday’s game against Zenit after restrictions on mass gatherings in Moscow were tightened.

CSKA says it will discuss potential rescheduling and refunds for spectators later.

The Russian league was the largest European soccer competition still operational over the weekend, with more than 33,000 fans attending a game between Zenit and Ural Yekaterinburg on Saturday.

One large banner at the match read: “We’re all infected with soccer and will die for Zenit.”

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2:10 p.m.

The German soccer league has extended its suspension through at least April 2.

The extension covers the next round of games and the upcoming international break.

League CEO Christian Seifert says “it doesn’t mean that we assume we can play from April 3.”

Seifert adds that some clubs could face potential financial collapse and put “tens of thousands of jobs” at risk without funding from TV broadcasts and sponsors.

Paderborn player Luca Kilian has tested positive for the coronavirus. Three players in the second division also have the virus.

Germany was the last of Europe’s top five leagues to suspend games.

The German soccer federation says that games in the top two women’s divisions and the women’s cup will be suspended through April 19.

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2:05 p.m.

British horse racing will take place without spectators and with restrictions on the number of attendees.

The British Horseracing Authority says “the intention is for scheduled race meetings to take place wherever possible.” It adds that “decisions may have to be made to cancel meetings.”

BHA chief executive Nick Rust says the racing industry is “following the government’s advice to strike a balance between protecting public health and maintaining business activity.”

More than 250,000 people attended the four-day Cheltenham Festival last week.

No decision has been made on whether the Grand National Steeplechase will go ahead at Aintree next month. More Britons bet on that race than any other.

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1:55 p.m.

The Hungarian soccer federation has temporarily suspended all of its competitions.

Federation spokesman Jeno Sipos says clubs have been asked to forego training sessions and make it possible for players and staff members to stay home.

Sipos says in a video posted on the federation’s Facebook page “we hope we are contributing to stopping the spread of the epidemic.”

The federation’s announcement was in line with a government decision to have sports matches played in empty stadiums and only if organizers took responsibility.

Speaking Monday in parliament, famously soccer-mad Prime Minister Viktor Orban said it would be even better if matches were not played at all.

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1:30 p.m.

The women’s professional tennis tour has suspended all competition until May 2 because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The WTA says it is calling off clay-court tournaments in Stuttgart, Istanbul and Prague, adding those to a list of events previously canceled.

Each of those three tournaments was scheduled to begin in April.

The tour says a decision will be made “in the week ahead” about the rest of the European clay-court circuit.

The next Grand Slam tournament is the French Open, which is scheduled to begin in Paris on May 24.

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11:25 a.m.

The leader of the IOC’s coordination commission for the Tokyo Olympics says there is no May deadline to cancel the games and he remains confident the event will go ahead despite sports coming to a virtual standstill globally amid the coronavirus outbreak.

John Coates, who will have to go into government-mandated self-isolation when he returns to Australia this week from Olympic business in Europe, told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper: “It’s all proceeding to start on the 24th of July.”

Former IOC vice president Dick Pound said in an interview with The Associated Press last month that the end of May loomed as a possible deadline for the IOC to make a call on the Tokyo Olympics.

But Coates, an IOC vice president and head of the Australian Olympic Committee, told the Sydney paper in a telephone interview from Switzerland that the IOC didn’t recognize the deadline and he thought Pound had backed away from it, too.

Coates says “it’s never been the IOC’s position. It was Dick’s idea. There is four months to go.”

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11:10 a.m.

McLaren says the team member who tested positive for coronavirus at the Australian Grand Prix “is recovering well” and that his “symptoms have gone.”

The British team pulled out of the season-opening Formula One race on Thursday because of the positive test. The race was canceled on Friday.

Fourteen members of the team were also placed in quarantine for 14 days after coming into close contact with the person who tested positive for the virus. McLaren chief executive Zak Brown says they are in “good spirits.”

McLaren says the rest of the team has returned to Britain but will not go to the team’s headquarters for two weeks as a precaution.

With the first four races postponed, the F1 season will not resume until May at the earliest.

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11 a.m.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials say they are holding off on postponing the month of May activities that conclude with the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend.

The Indy 500 draws crowds in excess of 300,000.

“We are aware of the CDC’s interim guidance suggesting the postponement of events involving more than 50 people over the next eight weeks,” the speedway said in a statement released before 6 a.m. local time.

“Our priority is to do our part in protecting the public health while still conducting the 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge as scheduled on May 24. This continues to be a dynamic situation which we are monitoring constantly in coordination with federal, state, local and public health officials.”

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10:10 a.m.

A second team has withdrawn from the Kontinental Hockey League playoffs because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The KHL is widely considered to be the strongest hockey league outside the NHL and is one of the few major sports organizations still operating in Europe.

There are now six teams remaining in an eight-club conference semifinal bracket.

Finnish club Jokerit withdrew Saturday citing concern for the health of its players and staff. Now Barys Astana says it is withdrawing after authorities in Kazakhstan banned sports events and restricted entry to the country.

All six of the remaining teams are based in Russia, where various cities and regions have imposed their own restrictions. Spartak Moscow and Dynamo Moscow played in an empty arena on Wednesday.

The KHL said Saturday it was “in consultation with clubs and all relevant authorities to diligently manage the impact” of the virus outbreak.

The KHL has not commented on the withdrawals and its website still lists those teams as competing. The next scheduled games between teams which have not withdrawn are Wednesday.

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9:55 a.m.

The Greek Olympic committee says the Olympic flame handover ceremony for the Tokyo Games will take place without spectators in an effort to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

The committee says the accreditation cards that had been issued for Thursday’s ceremony at the stadium in Athens where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896 would not be valid.

The body’s headquarters will also remain closed from Monday until further notice.

The committee canceled the remainder of the Olympic torch relay last week after crowds gathered in southern Greece to watch part of the torch relay in Sparta, where the torch was carried by actor Gerard Butler.

Greek health authorities have warned people to stay home, and have shut down everything from restaurants, bars and cafes to public organized beaches, ski resorts, hair salons and movie theaters, in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.

Greece currently has 331 confirmed cases and four deaths.

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