Live sport returns: Judd Trump wins on snooker’s return
World number one Judd Trump kicked off snooker’s return with a 3-0 whitewash win over David Grace at the Championship League in Milton Keynes.
The most important results came off the table – with confirmation that the round of Covid-19 testing had yielded no positive tests – but Trump brought some familiarity back to the baize after 78 days of shutdown.
Trump took an understandably rusty first frame and then eased into his work, finishing up swiftly as his opponent failed to convert a couple of openings.
As soon as the players departed a thorough cleaning process began, reflecting the new protocols that allow behind-closed-doors sport to take place during a pandemic.
Italian football is considering allowing fans into stadiums next month. The Italian federation issued a 40-page document on Monday outlining strict new rules for the resumption of Serie A on June 20.
The document specifies teams must go on and off the pitch at different times and limits the number of people in stadiums to 300, including players, staff and journalists.
However, Italian media reports that the soccer federation could discuss at its next meeting a vastly reduced number of fans being permitted to attend.
“It’s something I really wish for with all my heart,” federation president Gabriele Gravina said. “It’s unthinkable that in a stadium that can hold 60,000 there’s not space for a small percentage of fans with the necessary precautions.”
The revised Serie A calendar is expected to be announced on Monday night. It was decided last week to resume with the four catch-up matches postponed when Italian sports shut down in March because of the coronavirus.
There are 124 Serie A matches remaining, which will be played in 43 days. Most of them will take place at night, with the earliest ones kicking off at 5:15 p.m., because of the heat in the country, especially in July and August.
Juventus, bidding for a record-extending ninth successive title, has a one-point advantage over Lazio. Third-placed Inter Milan is nine points behind the leader with a game in hand.
The Italian Cup will be completed the week before Serie A restarts. The first legs of the semifinals have already been played: AC Milan drawing with Juventus 1-1, and Napoli winning at Inter Milan 1-0.
A strict medical protocol has been put in place which includes the contentious, and potentially problematic, regulation that if one person at a club _ player or staff _ tests positive for COVID-19, the entire group must go to a training camp retreat for 14 days.
The federation is hoping to get that shortened if the number of new cases in Italy continues to decrease.
“Football has never asked for shortcuts,” Gravina said. “There are clear rules that allow you to continue activity, isolating an athlete or member of staff, and continuing training.
“The hope is that soon there will be a re-evaluation, a week before the start of the tournaments. We will send a new proposal, in the hope that it can find space in the revision of the rules, which are today creating anxiety and worry in our sport.”
County cricket’s reduced pay deal has been extended to the end of July, as players continue to wait for their season to resume.
The existing agreement between the Professional Cricketers’ Association and the 18 first-class counties covered April and May, with salary reductions capped at 20 per cent and domestic prize money foregone.
That has now been extended for another two months, in line with the England and Wales Cricket Board’s recent announcement that there would be no domestic competition before August 1, though players in the final year of their contracts have been offered granted dispensation.
The earlier collective bargain included provision for players to accept furlough conditions if offered and 16 counties – all barring Surrey and Lancashire – have since taken up the Goverment scheme.
PCA chairman and Worcestershire batsman Daryl Mitchell said: “Although a great amount of uncertainty remains in domestic cricket, it does appear there is light at the end of the tunnel for players to return at some stage this summer.
“However, with no cricket to be played in June or July, and therefore no revenue to be generated by counties, players have agreed to extend measures to protect the futures of all counties.
“This has not been an easy decision and causes a great deal of disruption to many of our members, however, the PCA Players’ Committee ultimately agreed this is the right thing to do.”
On those who are approaching the end of their current deals, Mitchell added: “We have 134 players out of contract at the end of this summer and protecting their interests has been a consensus across the playing membership, I am sure the measures brought in over the next two months provides some comfort to them.”
FOOTBALL: Macclesfield charged over late payment of wages
Macclesfield have been hit with fresh charges over late payment of wages which could put their English Football League status under serious threat.
The Sky Bet League Two club have already been deducted a total of 11 points this season for offences including late payments to players and sit just three points from the bottom of the table.
An EFL statement read: “Macclesfield Town has been issued with further misconduct charges for alleged breaches of EFL Regulations and will “be referred to an Independent Disciplinary Commission.
“The club has been charged with failing to pay a number of players on the applicable payment dates due in March 2020, whilst also failing to act with utmost good faith in respect of matters with the EFL and for breaching an order, requirement, direction or instruction of the league.”
The club declared they were “deeply surprised” by the charges as the arbitration panel at their last hearing had stated it would require “strong persuasion” to impose a further points deduction for any such breach.
The statement added: “Macclesfield Town will understandably be appealing these charges vehemently and will provide a further update in due course.”
The Silkmen’s previous punishment last month left them just three points above bottom club Stevenage – who have a game in hand – and also carried a suspended two-point deduction.
EFL clubs are set to vote on a framework to end the season after a meeting on June 8. Clubs in the fourth tier have indicated a wish to curtail the season but without relegation, but the league framework includes relegation to the National League.
Only one team would go down and a further deduction for Macclesfield could send them bottom on points-per-average.
The Cheshire club were first deducted a total four points for non-payment of players and for failing to fulfil a fixture against Crewe on December 7 after players refused to play in protest at the financial problems.
They then admitted two misconduct charges relating to an unfulfilled fixture against Plymouth on December 21 – after failing to get a safety certificate for their Moss Rose stadium – and for non-payment of players in February.
That drew an immediate four-point punishment with a three-match suspended deduction also triggered from the previous hearing.
As sport returns, nothing beats the thrill of not knowing what will happen
Chief Sports Writer Paul Hayward has written on today’s resumption of live sport, with racing at Newcastle and snooker at Milton Keynes.
You can watch all the re-runs you want – bathe in as much nostalgia as the TV firms can dig from their archives – but nothing can match the ‘now’ of scrambling for the remote control to find out what’s going to happen next. If you already know, with a Euro 96 look-back, say, sport is stirring memory. With live action everyone who watches is part of a small new tale.
Art Power was a notable selection from Telegraph Sport’s top tipster Marlborough in his best bets for today’s racing at Newcastle, and he came up trumps by winning the Betway Novice Stakes, pulling clear in the final furlong.
Marlborough’s nap, Ice Pyramid, is running in the 5.05pm Betway Handicap and is currently priced at 7/2.
You can view the rest of his selections for the rest of today’s racing, here.
Formula One drivers respond to Lewis Hamilton’s criticism of ‘white-dominated sport’
Several Formula One drivers have issued hasty statements in response to a furious rebuke by Lewis Hamilton, who called out his “white-dominated” sport for its silence amid the escalating protests over the death of George Floyd.
Hamilton excoriated his peers for the failure to speak out on racial injustice in the US, with violent demonstrations across the country urging justice for Floyd, who died in Minneapolis after a white police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes.
David Baddiel incurs wrath of horse racing community after ‘toffs’ tweet
The British comedian faced criticism on Twitter when he replied to a post from Health Secretary Matt Hancock that read: “Thanks to the nation’s resolve, horseracing is back from Monday. Wonderful news for our wonderful sport.”
Steve Smith prepared to give throw-downs after cost-cutting measures
Australia’s senior players will be ready to assume additional duties like giving throw-downs to team mates in practice if further cost-cutting means fewer support staff, leading batsman Steve Smith said on Monday.
Cricket Australia (CA) has furloughed about 80 per cent of its workforce due to the coronavirus pandemic and state associations have made deep staff cuts in recent weeks.
CA chief Kevin Roberts suggested on Friday there could be another round of cost-cutting to shore up the board’s finances.
“Particularly the senior players being able to maybe take a bit of time off your own game and help someone else out at training or something like that,” Smith said after returning to training with his New South Wales team mates on Monday.
“They [support staff] all have a role to play, particularly as the game evolved and got more professional.
“We’ve got people in different areas of expertise to help the team prepare and get ready to play.
“Guys might have to throw to one of the other batters or help out the bowlers in some way.
“If that happens, it will take a bit of adjusting.”
NRL ‘Fan in the Stand’ falls victim to concerning pranks
A feel-good campaign allowing fans to have cardboard cut-outs of themselves at Australian rugby league games has been hijacked by pranksters, with a notorious serial killer among those making an appearance – while one TV show edited an image of Adolf Hitler into the crowd.
The National Rugby League launched ‘Fan in the Stand’ to coincide with the sport’s return last weekend after its season was put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Supporters are barred from stadiums under strict health protocols, but can pay Aus$22 (£11.95) to have their photo printed on a life-size cut-out and placed in the stands of their team’s home venue.
While most played by the rules, TV viewers spotted some anomalies as cameras panned over the fake fans, including a dog and another showing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s embattled top aide Dominic Cummings.
Cummings sparked a political scandal when newspapers discovered that he left London and took a cross-country trip to stay on his parents’ property during Britain’s strict coronavirus lockdown.
But it was a cut-out of infamous serial killer Harold Shipman, known as ‘Dr Death’, at Sunday’s clash between the Penrith Panthers and Newcastle Knights that caused concerns.
Shipman was an English doctor who in 2000 was found guilty of murdering 15 patients, although he is widely believed to have killed more than 200.
Some found it amusing, but others did not.
In a statement to Australian media, the NRL said: “We are reviewing the vetting process for Fan In The Stand. The weekend was a trial run and trials are designed to iron out issues.”
Broadcaster Fox Sports, meanwhile, apologised after one of its television shows photoshopped an image of Hitler onto one of the cut-outs, sparking condemnation for its “stupidity” from the Australian Jewish community.
“The segment on my Fox League show on Sunday in which we showed an image of Hitler in crowd cut-outs was in poor taste and completely inappropriate,” said the show’s host Matty Johns, a former Australia international.
“I acknowledge it was wrong and I apologise to our viewers and to everyone in the community who is rightly concerned and offended by the segment.”
Argentinian rugby players encouraged to travel abroad
Argentina’s rugby union (UAR) has encouraged Jaguares players to take deals overseas amid an uncertain outlook for Super Rugby due to the coronavirus pandemic, centre Jeronimo de la Fuente told ESPN.
Super Rugby has been suspended since March and the future of this year’s competition remains in doubt due to travel curbs and border controls.
“The UAR … told us that if [a player] had an offer in the future, to take it to ease the economic issue a little,” De La Fuente said.
“They told us that if we had any possibility of emigrating that we take it and that the UAR was going to be predisposed to help us to be able to travel.
“Not that the UAR is going to let all its players go. It will try to retain a base so that professional rugby remains in place, competing, and basically so that there’s some competition within the country where they can take Jaguares, Ceibos or Argentina XV.”
Super Rugby’s governing body SANZAAR has yet to officially abandon the 2020 season, which was suspended after seven rounds.
However, the Tokyo-based Sunwolves, Japan’s sole team, confirmed their exit from the competition on Monday after a bid to play in Australia’s domestic “Super Rugby AU” tournament fell through.
QPR furious over lack of consultation from EFL ahead of Championship’s return
Queens Park Rangers have lambasted the English Football League over its announcement that the Championship season will restart in less than three weeks.
The announcement was made on Sunday night but QPR say that they received only 40 minutes notice and that they, along with a number of other clubs, are furious at the lack of consultation and communication.
Greyhound racing to be first sport to resume after shutdown
Something that might have slipped under the radar is that greyhound racing will return this morning as the very first sport to resume following the UK coronavirus shutdown.
At 10.21am at Perry Barr in Birmingham, history will be made as a greyhound becomes the first competitor to win a British professional sporting event since the easing of lockdown measures – as competitive greyhound racing gets the UK sporting calendar off and running hours before horse racing takes place behind closed doors in Newcastle.
The contest at the Birmingham venue has been titled the ‘Arc Thanks to NHS and Key Workers’ race and the favourite is the Peter Holland-trained Catunda Taya, who will wear the black-and-white jacket of trap six for this sprint contest while bidding to create her own slice of history as the winner of the first sporting event in the UK.
The exhilarating staple of the UK’s sporting scene for nearly a century sees greyhounds racing at up to speeds of 40mph – with some able to run 100 metres in just five seconds – almost double the speed of Usain Bolt.
England’s three-match Ashes series with Australia has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Rugby Football League and its Australian counterparts announced the news on Monday morning, as both bodies focus on completing their domestic club competitions.
The games had been due to take place in England in October and November, with the competition being revived after a 17-year absence. Talks have already begun about a series in 2022, with the World Cup taking place next year.
RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer said: “We make this announcement with great reluctance and disappointment, as we had been looking forward so much to welcoming the Kangaroos for the revival of the Ashes in 2020 – and the prospect of the series had captured the imagination of our players, broadcast and commercial partners, supporters and media alike.
“However the current circumstances have had a seismic impact on rugby league, as on all other sports, and we all now need to give in order to find solutions for the greater and longer term good of the game.
“After regular discussions with the ARLC over the last few months, combined with those within our domestic competitions, we have concluded that the right thing to do for the game as a whole is to make this decision now.
“It will have a considerable impact on the finances of rugby league here in England, as we were banking on a significant boost from Australia’s first full tour since 2003.”
Super League clubs are yet to finalise plans to restart the 2020 season, but could return in the middle of August.
The proposed return date of August 16 is seen as crucial to minimise any rebate due to Sky Sports, which holds broadcast rights through to the end of the 2021 campaign.
The British Basketball League has announced that the remainder of the 2019-20 season has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The BBL said in a statement that clubs had “unanimously agreed” to the cancellation.
BBL chairman Sir Rodney Walker said: “We looked at every option, including playing behind closed doors or restarting the season in the summer, in order that we could get to a League and play-off winners, but with the continued uncertainty, we just ran out of time and options.
“The clubs were united that now was the right time to bring the current season to a close.”
The independent directors of the BBL management board have agreed that there will be no winner of the 2019-20 championship title.
Rugby – Rugby Australia rules out Sunwolves addition to Super Rugby while announcing redundancies
The Sunwolves said on Monday that their final season in Super Rugby is over after the Tokyo-based team’s bid to play in a domestic tournament in Australia fell through due to Covid-19 travel and logistics issues.
With rugby preparing to return from the coronavirus shutdown, the Sunwolves had been in talks to join Australia’s four Super Rugby teams and Perth-based Western Force in a 12-week tournament slated for July-September.
However, Rugby Australia (RA) said earlier on Monday that travel curbs and border controls had made it too hard to involve the team.
The Sunwolves were playing their last Super Rugby season in 2020 after the competition decided to cut them last year.
Australia’s “Super Rugby AU” competition is scheduled to start on July 3, pending signoff from broadcasters.
Meanwhile, RA has laid off a third of its full-time staff as well as dozens of contractors and casual workers as part of restructuring efforts to alleviate the financial pressures brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Today the organisation has announced a program of cuts that will result in the departure of 47 of its 142 full-time staff over the coming months,” RA said in a statement on Monday.
“A further 30 contractors and casual workers have also had their roles terminated with immediate effect.”
RA said it would ask remaining senior staff to take a 5% reduction in base salary effective from their return date.
Jurgen Klopp hails ‘brilliant’ start to full-contact training
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp has said resuming contact training has made a “massive difference” for the Premier League leaders as they step up preparations for the restart of the season on June 17 following the Covid-19 disruption.
The league was suspended on March 13 due to the pandemic, with teams returning to training in small groups before voting last week to return to contact training.
“It’s absolutely brilliant, a massive difference … we could work on all the things we wanted to work on,” Klopp told the club website.
“The first week was already really good with small groups, I enjoyed that … it was important to get on track again, to get used to the pitch, ball and boots… now we work on tactical things, that works really well.
“… Hopefully we can make progress in the next two or three weeks, there are a lot of things that need to be organised… we need to get hopefully a couple of [bits of] information but we take it like it is and use each second we are together.”
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