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Coronavirus latest: Gallagher Premiership expected to be suspended this week

Coronavirus latest: Gallagher Premiership expected to be suspended this week
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Officials are meeting on Monday to discuss the immediate future of the competition

Rugby union’s Gallagher Premiership is set to be suspended as a result of the coronavirus crisis, the PA news agency understands.

Officials are meeting on Monday to discuss the immediate future of the competition, where they are expected to preempt government advice and postpone the season until further notice.

A Premiership Rugby spokesperson said: “The welfare of fans, players and staff is our first concern and it’s crucial to get these important decisions right.

All Gallagher Premiership fixtures are set to be suspended (David Davies/PA)

“We are working closely with our own medical experts, DCMS & Public Health England and our clubs. That advice will allow us and our clubs to make a well-informed decision in the coming days.”

Rugby league clubs are set to meet on Monday to consider their options, but in the meantime the RFL has repeated its threat to punish Leeds Rhinos for calling off Saturday’s Super League game at Catalans Dragons – despite fears that the club had been struck by coronavirus.

Rhinos chiefs took the decision shortly before they were due to fly to Barcelona on Friday after one of their players displayed symptoms of the virus. Subsequent tests on the unnamed player proved negative.

RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer told BBC Radio Five Live: “It (a sanction) is a possibility.

“We spoke with Leeds at some length this week on that particular issue. We’ve applied all the guidelines that the government asked us to observe, and Leeds took a unilateral decision not to travel to that fixture. That will follow due process now.”

Leeds, who had no comment, were due to travel on a scheduled Jet2 flight, and return on Sunday. On Saturday, Jet2 planes bound for Spain turned around mid-flight after new restrictions imposed by the Spanish government.

Racing in Britain is set to move behind closed doors later in the week, initially until the end of March, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has announced.

The Cheltenham Festival took place as scheduled last week, but fixtures in Ireland were closed to the public from Friday evening and it is a similar situation in Scotland, following guidance from the Irish and Scottish governments regarding the banning of mass gatherings with over 500 people.

Crowds during day four of the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Aintree’s three-day Grand National meeting is due to take place on April 2-4 and the BHA added in a statement: “The UK Government has also been briefed on the issues involved in staging the Randox Health Grand National. A decision will be announced as soon as possible.”

Also on Sunday, Valencia defender Ezequiel Garay became the first LaLiga player to announce that he has tested positive for coronavirus, with the club later confirming five more positive cases among members of first team and club staff.

The president of Switzerland’s Football Association has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The federation said 70-year-old Dominique Blanc, who attended UEFA’s annual meeting in Amsterdam on March 3, received the results of a test on Sunday and is self-isolating at home.

The Vitality Netball Superleague announced it has cancelled all fixtures with immediate effect, and world cycling’s governing body, the UCI, said all its events would be postponed until at least April 3 – including imminent Olympic qualifiers for BMX and mountain-biking.

As a projected government ban on mass gatherings threatened to curtail even more of the sporting calendar, other sports continued to go ahead, including the boxing Olympic qualifiers in London and snooker’s Gibraltar Open.

With no end to the crisis in sight, Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk admitted he fears being forced to lift Liverpool’s first Premier League crown in an empty stadium.

All top-flight matches have been postponed until at least next month and the Premier League is set to meet on Thursday to discuss potential next steps.

Liverpool are currently 25 points ahead of second-placed Manchester City in the table and Van Dijk told several national newspapers: “If we won it in an empty stadium and the fans weren’t there, I’d be gutted for them.

“Obviously, if there are no fans at Anfield, then it will be a bit of a blow – no one wants to play games without the fans.

“Until a decision is made on how we go on from here, then we just have to deal with it. But when it happens, we are still bringing the title to our fans, definitely.”

The coronavirus outbreak continues to affect the Formula One calendar, with the Dutch Grand Prix, scheduled for May, due to be the next one to be postponed, the PA news agency understands.

In addition, Ferrari announced a cessation of production at their Maranello and Modena factories until at least March 27.

However despite the chaos being caused to many of its qualification processes, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his intention on Saturday that this summer’s Tokyo Games will continue “without a hitch”.

At a press conference reported by Kyodo News, Abe said: “We hope to overcome the spread of infections first and foremost and hold the Olympics as planned without a hitch.”

A Minor League player with the New York Yankees has tested positive for the coronavirus, although he has no link to any of the Major League players, according to the club.

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