This year again the world of professional sport is not spared by the Covid-19 pandemic. From the Premier League to European Rugby Cups to American basketball, many matches have been postponed due to positive cases among players or due to new restrictive measures.
The current wave of Covid-19 is impacting professional sport, especially in Great Britain, where the Premier League is hit hard by contaminations of players, while the European Rugby Cup is threatened by travel restrictions .
Nothing to do, for now, with the situation in 2020, when all competitions were put on hold for months around the world. But the upsurge in the virus and the measures imposed by the authorities are seriously disrupting certain disciplines.
- Premier League turned upside down
Nine Premier League matches, including six this weekend, have already been postponed due to player contamination, and the list of affected clubs is growing day by day.
“The club does not have enough valid first team players,” Leicester management assured Thursday (December 16th), two of which were postponed Thursday and Sunday. Manchester United-Brighton, Southampton-Brentford and West Ham-Norwich, scheduled for Saturday, are also postponed.
The very busy schedule makes the situation in England particularly delicate: from the traditional “boxing day” of December 26, matches are scheduled every day until January 3, with the exception of 31.
Six Real Madrid players positive for Covid-19 in two days Wednesday and Thursday: Marcelo, Luka Modric, Gareth Bale, Marco Asensio, Rodrygo and Andriy Lunin. The club has taken strict measures to try to stem this new focus of infection, three days before the reception of Cadiz, Sunday (9 p.m.), for the 18e La Liga matchday.
The Spanish federation has, moreover, canceled from this weekend “all official salutes or tribute ceremonies” before matches, “an additional measure in the face of the increase in cases”.
- European rugby suspended
The two European Rugby Cups, including the 2e day runs from Friday to Sunday, are suspended. The matches between French and British clubs scheduled for Saturday and Sunday in the two European Rugby Cups have been postponed due to travel restrictions between the two countries, the organizer of the competition announced on Friday (December 17th).
This concerns five matches of the second day of the European Cup and two matches of the European Challenge, specified the EPCR which said its intention to “reprogram them (…) at a later date”.
“This is a consequence of the new travel restrictions between the United Kingdom and France which have been put in place by the French government,” explain the organizers. Paris has, in fact, reinstated, on Saturday, the obligation of “compelling reasons” for travelers from and to the United Kingdom in the face of “the extremely rapid dissemination of the Omicron variant”.
The matches of La Rochelle in Bath, Clermont in Sale or Bordeaux-Bègles against the Scarlets (Llanelli) will therefore be played at a later date. Just like the reception of the English from Bristol and the Wasps by the Stade Français and Toulouse respectively. In Challenge, Worcester-Biarritz and London Irish-Brive are concerned.
“All the other matches of the 2nd day scheduled for tonight (Friday) and this weekend will be played as planned,” said the EPCR. Lyon traveling to Wales to face the Dragons, Castres in Munster, and Toulon, which receives the Italians from Zebre, will therefore be the only three Top 14 teams to play this weekend.
A little earlier, Montpellier and Racing 92 in the European Cup, as well as Pau in the Challenge had won their meetings on the green carpet due to cases of Covid-19 in the ranks of their opponents. For postponed matches, it will be a question of finding time in an already overloaded calendar between championships and matches of national teams.
European clubs are threatening not to release their internationals for the Africa Cup of Nations in January-February in Cameroon because they are not satisfied with the health protocol.
>> Postponement or cancellation of the CAN: what we know
The ECA (Association of European Clubs) especially points to the risk of an absence of internationals longer than the period of provision provided, because of “quarantines and travel restrictions”.
Germany, where the Covid wave is currently killing between 400 and 500 people per day, has severely limited attendance in sports arenas. Some Länder (regional states) have even declared total closed doors, including Bavaria. This measure affects Bayern Munich, deprived of spectators, but also all the winter sports World Cup events, including the two German stages of the prestigious Four Springboards Tour, a major event of the ski jumping season.
In North America, the NBA is greatly disturbed by the absences of many players, sick or placed in quarantine. In recent days, the Chicago Bulls have seen two of their matches postponed because they could not field a minimum of eight players, and on Tuesday six players of the Brooklyn Nets, including star James Harden, were sidelined and isolated due to sanitary measures.
In NHL (ice hockey), the Montreal Canadiens played behind closed doors on Thursday for the first time since last year’s playoffs, and the Quebec government is talking about a return of the gauges to 50% in the stands.