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Basketball

‘NBA 2K’ Players Tournament prize money: How much will the winner make for charity?

Desperate for a way to reach fans during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the NBA is trying something new: A players-only video game tournament between star players broadcast on ESPN.

The competition, which begins Friday, is a nothing-to-lose endevor for the league with the real-life NBA season on hold. Sixteen competitors, including Kevin Durant and Trae Young, will square off on “NBA 2K20” in a four-round bracket.

The NBA perhaps saw the recent emergence of eNASCAR during the pandemic as inspiration to jump headfirst into a TV event of its own. Over the past three weeks, NASCAR has had its drivers battling on the simulator “iRacing” in a series broadcast on Fox and FS1. Early viewership returns paint it as a smashing success.

NBA players are also accustomed to spending time on the sticks, often streaming video games on their own time.

There’s incentive for this competition, too. Here’s the reward breakdown for claiming the first-ever Players Tournament:

“NBA 2K” Players Tournament prize money

The NBA player that wins the tournament will claim $100,000 to donate to a coronavirus-related charity of his choice. 

While players will not pocket income of their own for winning, they do claim bragging rights and potentially hardware to display at home. If there is a trophy, however, it better be sanitized multiple times before being shipped out.

Which charities will receive donations?

This will be dependent on the winner of the competition, as each player has his own organization picked out.

It will be a particularly meaning prize for players considering how close COVID-19 has cut in the NBA community. Two “NBA 2K” competitors, in fact, tested positive for the coronavirus before making full recoveries (Donovan Mitchell and Kevin Durant).

NBA 2K Players Tournament entry list

Below is the list of participants and their seeds in the tournament, which are determined by in-game player rating and real-life NBA tenure.

What virtual teams will the players be using?

Before the tournament starts, each player selects their own eight-team pool from which they’re allowed to use. Teams can’t be re-used by a player; for example, Kevin Durant could only play as the Nets once before moving on to his other seven choices.

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Sports News

County players face playing six days-a-week if cricket resumes

County cricketers face playing SIX days a week as ECB draw up bold plans to salvage County Championship season if cricket resumes this summer

  • The ECB are understood to have produced five different season calendars
  • One itinerary would mean four-day games with a day-off in an ongoing cycle
  • Four of the five schedules feature a County Championship in some form

County cricketers could be asked to play six days-a-week if a truncated season is permitted later this summer with the ECB aiming to provide as much cricket as possible for players and supporters. 

Under one draft itinerary based on a July resumption seen by Sportsmail counties would face an onerous schedule of a four-day game, followed by one day off, and then another four-day game in an ongoing cycle which would attempt to salvage a meaningful County Championship, alongside the more lucrative Twenty20 Blast and international cricket.

The ECB are understood to have produced five different season calendars based on differing start dates, four of which feature a County Championship in some form, including one in which the season does not begin until 1 August.

The ECB are understood to have produced five different calendars for this season

ECB chief executive Tom Harrison stressed earlier this week that as well as protecting the clubs his priority this summer is to serve the sports core audience, and there is a strong desire to provide red ball cricket for county members and players, many of whom do not play in the Blast.

There is a belief among most counties that a meaningful Championship of eight or nine matches could be staged if cricket resumed in the middle of July, although the format would have to be altered and promotion from Division Two may be scrapped, or limited to one team. 

Talks have even taken place about creating a regional competition instead of the Championship if the season is delayed until even later, which could involve three conferences of six counties each.

Essex were crowned champions in a dramatic finale to the County Championship last year

Counties are unlikely to complain about a busy schedule and may run two separate squads to compete in the Blast and the Championship if both take place. 

The Professional Cricketers Association remain in talks with the ECB and counties over the issue of collective wage deferrals and cuts, although given wide ranging size of the different clubs involved a uniform approach is proving hard to achieve.

HOW CORONAVIRUS HAS HIT THE WORLD OF SPORT SO FAR

2020 OLYMPIC GAMES  

The 2020 Olympic Games has been postponed until 2021 on March 24 – becoming one of the last major sporting events this summer to fall victim to the coronavirus.

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe held a crucial conference call with Olympics chief Thomas Bach on Tuesday to formally decide a plan and they have chosen to postpone for 12 months.

The decision also means the Tokyo Paralympic Games will be subject to a one-year delay.

Despite the delay, the name of the delayed Games will still be Tokyo 2020, the city’s governor Yuriko Koike revealed.

A joint statement from the IOC and Tokyo 2020 organising committee read: ‘In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the WHO today, the IOC President and the Prime Minister of Japan have concluded that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.

‘The leaders agreed that the Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present. 

‘Therefore, it was agreed that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan. It was also agreed that the Games will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.’ 

There was plenty of scepticism whether the Olympics would pull through and continue as scheduled while events linked to the games were called off. The Olympic torch relay in Greece was cancelled on Friday March 13 – just a day after the flame was lit in Olympia.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games have been postponed by one year due to the coronavirus

Large crowds mobbed Hollywood actor Gerard Butler as he lit the cauldron in the Greek city of Sparta despite repeated warnings for spectators not to attend because of coronavirus.

That forced the decision by the Greek Olympic Committee to halt the torch relay on Greek soil on just the second day of its scheduled eight-day journey. It is the only the third time that a relay to Athens for the summer Games has not been completed.

The Olympic flame will still be handed over to the Tokyo 2020 organising committee at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens on Thursday March 19, but without fans present. 

Athletes were told to keep training but many struggled considering the government lock-down measures put in place. 

On Friday March 13 US president Donald Trump’s suggestion to postpone the Tokyo Olympics for a year because of the coronavirus was immediately shot down by Japan’s Olympic minister.

‘The IOC and the organising committee are not considering cancellation or a postponement – absolutely not at all,’ Seiko Hashimoto, an Olympic bronze medalist, told a news conference in Tokyo.

On Tuesday March 17, Kozo Tashima, one of the Japanese Olympic Committee’s vice presidents and president of the Japanese Football Association, tested positive for coronavirus.  

The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo organisers have stayed on message since the viral outbreak in China three months ago spread across Asia and then the globe: The games will open as scheduled on July 24. 

Tokyo 2020 organisers received the Olympic flame in a scaled-down handover ceremony in the Greek capital on March 19. 

ATHLETICS 

The World Athletics Indoor Championships, which was due to be held from March 13-15 in Nanjing, is postponed until March 2021.

The World Athletics Indoor Championships in Nanjing, China, has been postponed due to concerns over the danger of the coronavirus and its ability to spread

North Korea cancelled the Pyongyang Marathon scheduled for April after imposing a border lockdown due to the level of outbreak in South Korea, where the Seoul Marathon is cancelled in a bid to protect runners.

The Paris half-marathon is cancelled and the French government also decided to ban all public gatherings of more than 100 people, before ordering people to stay at home from March 15 for at least 15 days. The race involving some 44,000 competitors was scheduled for Sunday March 1. Organisers said the race will be postponed to a date yet to be determined.

The London Marathon, which had been scheduled to take place on April 26, has been postponed until October 4. Over 40,000 runners were due to take part. 

The Barcelona marathon scheduled for March 15 has been postponed until October.

BOXING 

Olympic boxing qualifiers to be staged in Wuhan were cancelled by the International Olympic Committee, but went ahead in Amman from March 3-11.

The IBF title fight between Daniele Scardina and Andrew Francillette in Milan on February 28 was postponed by Matchroom due to restrictions in Italy following the outbreak.

The Japanese boxing commission cancelled all fight cards scheduled for March on government advice to suspend all pending sporting fixtures. They will not be rescheduled.

Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce’s Battle of Britain has been pushed back from April to July

The British Boxing Board of Control announced on Tuesday March 17 that all boxing events under their jurisdiction for March will be postponed due to the coronavirus.

That decision has lead to the heavyweight clash between Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce being postponed. That fight, which had been penciled in for April 11, has been rescheduled for July 11 at the O2 Arena. 

Anthony Yarde, who was due to fight Lyndon Arthur on the undercard of the all-British clash, announced on March 29 that his father had died as a result of contracting the coronavirus. 

He revealed in an Instagram post that he had no underlying health issues and urged everyone to stay at home.  

Matchroom Boxing has also postponed all events scheduled for March and April, including Josh Kelly’s European title fight against Russia’s David Avanesyan (scheduled for March 28). 

The European Olympic boxing qualification tournament in London has been suspended. It was due to secure qualification for Tokyo 2020 for 77 male and female boxers, with 322 taking part. 

Matchroom Boxing chief Eddie Hearn has said Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight title defence against Kubrat Pulev, which is scheduled for June 20, could be rearranged for July. All Matchroom promoted fights in March and April have been postponed. 

Canelo Alvarez vs Billy Joe Saunders, earmarked for May in Las Vegas, was postponed before even being announced, however the Mexican is reportedly still planning to make the bout happen in June. 

CRICKET 

England’s tour of Sri Lanka was postponed on March 13, with the England and Wales Cricket Board citing ‘completely unprecedented times’.

The decision was confirmed while Joe Root’s side were in the field at Colombo’s P Sara Oval, contesting a warm-up game for a two-Test series.

On March 18, the West Indies offered to host England’s upcoming home Tests against them in the Caribbean instead of in the UK – should the coronavirus outbreak not have improved by then. England are due to face the Windies in a a three-Test series, which is due to start at the Oval on June 4 but could be delayed until September. If playing the series in England proves unworkable, CWI have offered to step in for this series, and also for England’s three Tests against Pakistan, due to start on July 30. Although there are Covid-19 cases in the Caribbean, its impact there has been limited so far. 

The start of the Indian Premier League season has also been delayed until April 15. The 2020 campaign had been set to start on March 29. The IPL franchises are also ready to quarantine their foreign players for a period of 14 days, if travel restrictions are lifted to allow them to arrive.

On March 13, India’s ongoing one-day international series against South Africa was postponed, while Australia’s one-day internationals against New Zealand will be played behind closed doors.

Scotland’s one-day series against the United States and UAE have been postponed. The games were scheduled to be played in Florida in April. 

England’s cricketers would not play any rescheduled Test series against West Indies in the Caribbean until December at the earliest, it emerged on March 19.

CYCLING 

Cycling’s Giro d’Italia has been called off, with the race scheduled to start in Hungary in May. 

The final two stages of the UAE Tour were cancelled after two members of staff on the race were suspected of having the disease. 

Danish cyclist Michael Morkov was tested for coronavirus after being put in isolation

The Tour de France is under threat of cancellation, with the scheduled start in Nice taking place in just over three months, on June 27. With British and French governments anticipating that the pandemic will last until the summer, race organizers are studying alternative scheduling. 

The Paris-Roubaix cycling race, another major event on the French sports calendar, was postponed due to the pandemic, while the April 5 Tour of Flanders, only previously cancelled during World War I, was also postponed in a further sign that Le Tour is under grave threat.

FOOTBALL 

This summer’s Euro 2020 tournament has been moved to next summer (2021) following a UEFA conference held on March 17. The postponement provides a chance for European club competitions to be completed.

All football in England is suspended until at least April 30 – but the 2019-20 season should eventually be completed after the FA bend their own rules to extend the campaign INDEFINITELY after holding crisis talks on March 19.

The decisions to suspend follows players and staff becoming affected by the virus, or individuals self-isolating as a precaution after reporting symptoms consistent with Covid-19.

The Premier League has moved to cancel games following the global outbreak of coronavius

The Premier League clash between Manchester City and Arsenal, scheduled for March 11, had already been postponed as a ‘precautionary measure’ after Olympiacos and Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis tested positive for coronavirus weeks after watching his Greek team play at the Emirates Stadium. 

On March 13, UEFA announced all Champions League and Europa League fixtures scheduled are postponed, as well as the quarter-final draws for both competitions. UEFA hope to conclude the competitions in the summer but no dates are yet set. 

Birmingham City become the first Championship side to see players take temporary 50 per cent wage cuts to ease financial pressure.  Leeds United soon followed in a bid to keep paying all of their non-football staff. 

All Chinese domestic fixtures at all levels were postponed and the season pushed back, the first football to be affected by the outbreak in the country of its origin. However, reports suggest that the league could resume on April 18 as China gets to grip with the virus.

Asian Champions League matches involving Guangzhou Evergrande, Shanghai Shenhua and Shanghai SIPG are postponed until April.

The start of the Korean K-League season is postponed. The four teams in the AFC Champions League are playing their matches behind closed doors.

Japan’s J-League postponed all domestic games until the middle of March, but further delays are inevitable. 

Ludogorets players were taking no chances after the coronavirus outbreak in Italy

Italy, the country worst hit by the virus outside China, suffered a spate of cancellations before the government put the population on lockdown. All sport, including Serie A games, were suspended until at least April 3 to contain the virus.

In France, it was announced on Friday 13 March that there will be no top-flight football in France for the immediate future after their governing body postponed all matches.  

In Spain, April 18’s Copa del Rey final between between Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad has been postponed. LaLiga is also postponed until the end of March at least.

Germany’s Bundesliga, the other major European league, is also suspended until April 3 at least. 

The Dutch Eredivisie and Portugal’s Primeira Liga are also suspended.

The Football Association of Ireland announced that all football under its jurisdiction will cease until March 29. 

Major League Soccer has been suspended for 30 days until mid-April with David Beckham’s first Inter Miami home game delayed.  

The South American Football Confederation postponed this year’s Copa America, due to take place from 12 June to 12 July, until 2021.

FIFA said that the newly-expanded Club World Cup, originally scheduled to take place in China in June 2021, will be postponed and a new date announced when ‘there is more clarity on the situation’.

On March 13, the FA announced that all of England’s games scheduled for the month would be postponed, including those of development teams. It means that England’s friendlies with Italy and Denmark have been called off.    

Euro 2020 play-off matches due to be held on March 26, including Scotland v Israel have been put off until June. 

Olympiakos’ owner Evangelos Marinakis has tested positive for the coronavirus

Manchester United clash at Austrian side Lask was behind closed doors, with United handing out £350 to each fan to help with travel and accommodation after they sold 900 tickets for the Europa League game. 

Newcastle United banned their players from shaking hands with each other amid coronavirus fears. 

Cristiano Ronaldo went into isolation in Madeira after it emerged that his Juventus team-mate, Daniele Rugani, has coronavirus. Squad members Blaise Matuidi and Paolo Dybala also tested positive. 

Elsewhere in Italy, Fiorentina striker Patrick Cutrone, who is on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers, tested positive for coronavirus.

In Spain, 35% of Valencia’s squad staff tested positive for coronavirus, with all cases being asymptomatic. 

Real Madrid’s first-team squad were in quarantine after a member of the basketball team tested positive for Covid-19. The two teams share the same training facility.   

Liverpool have announced a charity match between a Reds Legends side and Barcelona Legends, due to be played at Anfield on March 28, has been postponed.

FIFA says it will postpone South American World Cup qualifying matches due to take place in March. 

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta tested positive for coronavirus on March 12 with the entire first-team squad being put into isolation. The Gunners’ game against Brighton, scheduled for Saturday March 14, has been postponed.

In the early hours of Friday, March 13, Chelsea announced that winger Callum Hudson-Odoi had been diagnosed with the illness.

The club’s first team went into self-isolation, while two buildings at their training ground in Cobham were closed. 

Premier League clubs, including Manchester United and Manchester City, have sent players home to train alone following the British government’s increasing crackdown on mass gatherings and unnecessary social contact.   

West Ham chief Karren Brady called for the season to be null and void while Aston Villa believe no team should be relegated. In this situation Liverpool, the runaway league leaders, could face the horror of being denied the title despite being on the brink of securing their first league trophy in nearly 30 years.

Reports suggest football bodies across England and the rest of Europe are bracing themselves for a reported total shutdown of every league until September.

Top-level English and Scottish football was initially suspended until April 3 at the earliest. The Football Association, the Premier League, the English Football League, FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship all agreed to call a halt to competitive action with immediate effect. 

All levels of English football below the National League North and South have been called off and voided with no promotion and relegation due to the calendar being decimated by the coronavirus outbreak.  

FORMULA ONE 

The season-opening Australian Grand Prix was called off after a McLaren team member came down with Covid-19, leading to the British team pulling out prior to a decision being made on whether the race would still go ahead. 

The announcement came hours after Lewis Hamilton said it was ‘shocking’ that the race was going ahead. 

The Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai on April 19 was the first race to be postponed, with no decision over whether it will be reinserted into the 2020 calendar for later in the season. 

The Bahrain Grand Prix, scheduled for March 20-22, is also called off, as is the inaugural Vietnam Grand Prix, which was scheduled to take place in Hanoi on April 5. 

It was hoped that the Dutch Grand Prix on May 3 would be the first race of the new season but that has also been postponed due to Covid-19. 

The iconic Monaco Grand Prix on May 24 was cancelled for the first time in 66 years before Formula One announced their race in Azerbaijan had been postponed. 

The Chinese GP was first to be cancelled and other races could yet follow that lead

GOLF 

On March 13, the Masters was postponed. In a statement released online, Fred Ridley, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, emphasised that the decision makers hope to hold the championship ‘at some later date’. The first men’s major of the year was due to begin on April 9.

The US PGA Championship, the second major of the year, has now joined the  Masters in being postponed. It had been due to take place at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco from May 11-17, but has been rescheduled for later this summer.

After deciding to play with no spectators from the second round of the Players Championship onwards, the PGA Tour cancelled the event entirely after the first round on March 12. 

They also scrapped the following three events leading up to the Masters, but after that was cancelled four further events in April and May – the RBC Heritage, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, the Wells Fargo Championship and the AT&T Byron Nelson – also bit the dust. It is hoped that the season can be resumed in late May.

The European Tour have cancelled all tournaments until the popular Made in Denmark event on May 21. Many of them were due to be held in China or east Asia in countries badly hit by the outbreak.

The women’s game has also been hit by postponements and cancellations, with the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration, the highest profile casualty.

The Masters has been postponed for the first time since the Second World War

Lorenzo Gagli and Edoardo Molinari were withdrawn from the Oman Open on medical grounds after Gagli showed symptoms of the virus. He shared a hotel room with Molinari and he was told to self-isolate. They were later reinstated to the tournament after testing negative for the virus. 

HORSE RACING 

The Grand National was called off following new British government restrictions to fight the spread of coronavirus made it impossible to stage the Aintree showpiece on April 4. The Cheltenham Festival went ahead amid some criticism before the social distancing measures were tightened. 

The Japan Racing Association revealed that ‘government-sanctioned races’ will go ahead behind closed doors.  

Racing in Ireland attempted to take place behind closed doors starting on March 29 – but that decision was changed after government cancelled all sporting events.  

The Dubai World Cup meeting will go ahead on March 28 ‘without paid hospitality spectators’. 

Racing Post forced to temporarily suspend publication of the flagship daily racing newspaper for the first time since their inception in 1986 due to all action in UK and Ireland being suspended.  

The Cheltenham Festival went ahead despite travel disruption caused by the virus

RUGBY 

This year’s Six Nations will have to wait for its conclusion with all remaining games postponed.

England’s game with Italy and Ireland’s trip to France had already been called off with Wales and Scotland leaving it until the day before before calling off their game. 

Saturday, 31 October is a possible date for the final weekend of matches. 

The Women’s Six Nations has also been hit by postponements.

Ireland’s Six Nations encounter with Italy on March 7 has been postponed

The RFU has suspended all levels of rugby in England until April 14, with the announcement coming shortly after the Premiership was halted for five weeks. 

The quarter-finals of the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup have also been postponed. Those games were scheduled for April 3, 4 and 5.   

The RFL and rugby league’s Super League have now followed suit and postponed all fixtures for at least three weeks. Eight Leeds Rhinos players had been confirmed to be self-isolating.  

TENNIS

Wimbledon has been cancelled for the first time since World War II as All England Club chiefs called the tournament off at an emergency meeting.

It was considered impossible for the tournament to be moved back to later in the year, or to be played without fans, and so chiefs have pulled the plug entirely.

This is the first time that Wimbledon will not be staged since 1945. Only one Grand Slam has missed a year since the war, the 1986 Australian Open, and that was for the technical reason of the date shifting forward from December into January. 

The French Open, one of the four Grand Slam tournaments, is postponed until September amid a wide lockdown in France.

The clay-court major was scheduled for May 24 to June 7, but that has shifted to September 20 to October 4, after the US Open, which was due to be the final major of the year. 

Players have been quick to criticise the move, which has created a conflict with the Laver Cup men’s team event spearheaded by Roger Federer, and a women’s tournament in China.

All events on the ATP Tour have been suspended for six weeks. 

The BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells in California, set to start on March 9, was postponed at the eleventh hour.  It came after a confirmed case of the coronavirus in the nearby Coachella Valley.

The final of an ATP Challenger event in Bergamo, Italy, between Enzo Couacaud and Illya Marchenko of Ukraine was cancelled. Both players received ranking points and prize money for getting to the final. They were denied the opportunity to play behind closed doors.

China forfeited a Davis Cup tie because the men’s team were unable to travel to Romania for the March 6-7 play-off.

WTA events have also been cancelled. The WTA announced they are assessing their schedule with a number of events set for China in the second half of the season.

The International Tennis Federation has announced that the Fed Cup finals have been postponed. The event was due to be held in Budapest in April and the competition’s play-offs, which were set to take place in eight different locations, have also been placed on hold.

The WTA also announced no tournaments will be staged for at least five weeks.   

Wimbledon has been cancelled for the first time since World War II

OTHER SPORTS 

The NBA has been suspended indefinitely after two Utah Jazz players contracted the virus. On March 17 Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant confirmed he had tested positive for the virus alongside three unnamed team-mates.

In an aid to decrease risks of exposure to the virus, the NBA had told players to avoid taking items such as pens, markers, balls and jerseys from autograph seekers. 

The NHL has announced it has paused the 2019-20 season with no date confirmed for when it will resume. 

The UFC has cancelled its next three events, although president Dana White is still pushing ahead for the highly-anticipated lightweight title fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson. 

MotoGP have cancelled their first two races of the season in Qatar and Thailand. 

South Korea’s baseball league cancelled all 50 pre-season game which were slated to take place from March 14-24. It is the first time since the leagues inception in 1982 that an entire set of exhibition matches are off. 

The first-stage draw for the Table Tennis World Championships, scheduled for South Korea from March 22-29, is postponed.

A beach volleyball tournament, due to be held in Yangzhou from April 22-26, is postponed until after the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

World Short track speed skating championship in Seoul is cancelled.

The World Triathlon Series event in Abu Dhabi was postponed as a precautionary measure.  

The Women’s World Ice Hockey Championships in Canada have been cancelled.   

All 72 pre-season baseball games in Japan are to take place behind closed doors

In badminton, the German Open (March 3-8), Vietnam Open (March 24-29) and Polish Open (March 26-29), all Olympic qualifying events, are cancelled due to ‘strict health protection’. 

The Japanese professional baseball league made the decision to play their 72 pre-season games behind closed doors until March 15. Baseball is among the most popular sports in Japan.  

Doubts remain as the Asian weightlifting championships, scheduled for March, are relocated from Kazakhstan to neighbouring Uzbekistan. They could still be postponed. 

 

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Rugby

AFL and players close to deal on pay cuts

The AFL and the league's players are close to completing a deal on player payments to help the competition endure the 2020 shutdown.

Sources with a knowledge of the discussions said the AFL and the players' union, the AFL Players' Association, were hoping to finalise the deal shortly and that deal on pay could be finalised as soon as later on Friday.

Despite the conflict and differences of opinion between the AFL and the players during the negotiations, both parties are keen to have the deal resolved soon, allowing the AFL to show the banks their cost savings before the banks grant them a line of credit of more than $500 million.

Sources said the deal, which will see the players take a major cut in pay, will be complicated, because of the doubt about when the games will come back and whether there will be crowds.

The players, led by AFLPA chief executive Paul Marsh and AFLPA president and Geelong champion Patrick Dangerfield, want the pay reduction to be less significant when the games come back and if and when crowds are permitted back later this year in a reduced 17-game home and away season.

The players have been criticised in some quarters for the way they've handled the pay negotiation, given the community suffering in the midst of the coronavirus emergency, with AFL great Leigh Matthews saying he had lost respect for the players during this period.

The AFL, while having differences of opinion with the players – and having pushed for a massive cut – still takes the view that the players were entitled to negotiate a deal. The player payments are the biggest chunk of costs for clubs, which have stood down close to 80 per cent of staff in recent days.

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MLB

30 MLB players we’ll miss watching most on what should have been Opening Day

Today, March 26, was supposed to be Opening Day.

That’s not happening, as you know, but that’s not going to stop us from dreaming about what might have been, even as we watch the smorgasbord of baseball games from the past that are being broadcast all day long. 

Here’s one player from each team we were especially looking forward to seeing perform on Opening Day. 

American League 

Andrew Heaney, SP, Angels

Why him? The Angels wasted no time naming the lefty as their Opening Day starter this spring. This was supposed to be his first Opening Day nod, which is a pretty cool honor for any pitcher, and that’s reason enough to watch (and it’s the reason we’ll pick another couple of players on this list). But, there’s also this: Heaney didn’t hold back when asked for his thoughts about the Astros and their cheating scandal this spring, and guess who the Angels were scheduled to play on Opening Day. The popcorn was already ready. 

Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros

Why him? Because it’s impossible to think about the Astros and their first game of 2020 without thinking of the sign-stealing scandal that broke this offseason. And Altuve somehow became the central figure in this scandal despite the data showing he heard the fewest trash can bangs recorded in 2017. But Altuve hit the home run off Aroldis Chapman in the 2019 ALCS and told his teammates not to rip off his jersey as he approached home plate. And, well, that just seemed all kinds of suspicious. So, to pick one Astros player the most eyes would be on, the nod goes to Altuve. 

And now we’re done with sign-stealing scandal stuff, I promise. 

Mike Fiers, SP, Athletics

Why him? OK, one more, dammit. The A’s hadn’t announced their Opening Day starter yet, but Fiers was certainly a possibility. He got the nod for the first game in 2019 and was a reliable part of the A’s rotation last year, posting a 3.0 bWAR and 3.90 ERA in 33 starts. Fiers, of course, is the player who went on the record with The Athletic and kicked the whole sign-stealing scandal into high gear. So, yeah, his first 2020 start would have been interesting. Worth noting, though, that the A’s host the Astros in the second series of the season, so if the A’s wanted to make sure Fiers wouldn’t face the Astros — seems like an unnecessary early season distraction — they could have pushed him back to start the third game of the year. 

OK, THAT is the last scandal mention. Double promise, pinkie swear. 

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Blue Jays

Why him? Because he’s kind of amazing and is likely to have a monster season, and popping a couple baseballs over the fence wouldn’t have surprised anyone. 

Shane Bieber, SP, Indians

Why him? Bieber is coming off an outstanding season — fourth place finish in the AL Cy Young award and All-Star Game MVP — and was scheduled to face the rebuilding Tigers at home. Feels like a no-hitter, or at least a shutout, was on the table. 

Kyle Lewis, OF, Mariners

Why him? Lewis, the No. 11 overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, skipped over Triple-A last year and posted a .885 OPS in 18 big-league contests for the Mariners last year. He’s likely to have his ups and downs, but he’s an outstanding talent and watching him hit that spring training grand slam was a lot of fun. 

Chris Davis, 1B, Orioles

Why him? Because hope springs eternal, and Davis was on fire this spring. And, sure, spring stats mean very little, but when you’re talking about a player with a -4.8 bWAR and 53 OPS+ over the past two years combined, any little sliver of success is welcome. 

Joey Gallo, RF, Rangers

Why him? Because we were deprived of Gallo for far too much of a 2019 season — his year ended July 23 when he went on the DL with a broken hamate bone in his right hand — that was setting up to his the breakthrough year we’ve all been waiting for. 

Jose Martinez, DH, Rays

Why him? Because Martinez feels like a perfect fit for Tampa Bay, a professional hitter without much of a defensive position who is finally in the American League and can shine, primarily as a DH but also spot starter at first and in right field. And what better way to get going than with two or three hits at his new home against an NL team?

Alex Verdugo, RF, Red Sox

Why him? New face in a new place, replacing a superstar in Mookie Betts. Intrigue. 

Adalberto Mondesi, SS, Royals

Why him? He’s fun to watch, especially when he gets on base. Big season could be in the works, if he figures out how to get on base more regularly. 

Miguel Cabrera, DH, Tigers

Why him? Because, as I said when I watched a Tigers game from the press box this spring, any time you can see a future Hall of Famer play, that’s a good day. 

Jose Berrios, SP, Twins

Why him? His breaking stuff is just mesmerizing. Berrios is coming off back-to-back All-Star seasons and he’s still just 25 years old. Last year, he got the Opening Day nod and struck out 10 in 7 2/3 shutout innings at home against Cleveland. This assignment, at Oakland, would be been a bit tougher but still a chance to shine. 

Luis Robert, CF, White Sox

Why him? The White Sox took “service time” distractions off the table, signing Robert to a deal that guarantees $50 million over six years, and has team options that could add two years and $38 million. All this despite that he’s yet to make his big-league debut, which is why we picked him here. Robert was brilliant in 2019, batting a combined .328 with a 1.001 OPS, 32 homers and 36 stolen bases at three levels in the White Sox organization. 

Gleyber Torres, SS, Yankees

Why him? Because he’s pretty much the only healthy starter, right? Really, though, Torres has been exactly the player Cubs fans feared he would be when their favorite team traded him to the Yankees for rental closer Aroldis Chapman (though he did contribute to that little World Series title). 

National League

Ronald Acuña, Jr., Braves

Why him? Because he’s a damn superstar, that’s why. 

Christian Yelich, RF, Brewers

Why him? Has any trade ever worked out any better than the Brewers’ deal to land Yelich? He’s been an incredible player — one MVP award and one second-place finish — and this offseason agreed to a lucrative extension to stay in Milwaukee for a long, long time. The Brewers were supposed to open their season at home against the Cubs, and the home-crowd reception would have been really something. 

Jack Flaherty, SP, Cardinals

Why him? How do you follow up an incredible finish — he had a 0.93 ERA in his last 16 starts — to the 2019 season? Well, that’s why we picked him. 

Javier Baez, SS, Cubs

Why him? He’s a star, with a flair for performing on the big stage. Like, for example, Opening Day 2019, when he popped a pair of homers and had four RBIs in a win against the Rangers on the road. 

Starling Marte, CF, Diamondbacks

Why him? It feels like years ago that the Diamondbacks acquired the two-time Gold Glove winner from Pittsburgh. But he’s coming off back-to-back 20/20 seasons, and all eyes would be on him for his first regular-season game in his new uniform. 

Mookie Betts, RF, Dodgers

Why him? Well, duh. 

Johnny Cueto, SP, Giants

Why him? He’s only made 13 starts the past two years, but he’s healthy and was named the Opening Day starter. Cueto gives a clinic on disrupting batters’ timing, every time out. 

Lewis Brinson, CF, Marlins

Why him? I am going to believe that Brinson can develop into a star until the day he retires, apparently. He’s been, well, not good in the bigs so far, but Brinson was pretty good this spring — .345 average, three homers in 13 games — and I know spring stats don’t mean much, but I would have been watching and hoping Opening Day would have been his new, fresh start. 

Jacob deGrom, SP, Mets

Why him? Because when a two-time Cy Young winner takes the mound, you watch. 

Juan Soto, LF, Nationals

Why him? Soto and Acuña — who finished 1-2 in the 2018 NL Rookie of the Year voting — will be linked as long as they both defy their ages and play like superstars, and they’ll always be worth watching. 

Tommy Pham, LF, Padres

Why him? Pham feels like the perfect addition to a Padres team that’s on the rise, and I’d expect that impact to be obvious from Day One. Or, y’know, Opening Day. 

Bryce Haper, RF, Phillies

Why him? Boring choice? Yep. But you’ll be watching, too. 

Jarrod Dyson, CF, Pirates

Why him? Been a fan of Dyson since his days as the speedster who helped the Royals thrive in 2014-15, and because that’s what speed do. 

Joseph Daniel Votto, 1B, Reds

Why him? Because if the Reds are going to be legitimate contenders in 2020, they need Votto to be the Votto of old. And what better time to start than Opening Day? 

Nolan Arenado, 3B, Rockies

Why him? It was — well, it has been — an interesting offseason for Arenado and the Rockies, and watching him play again would have been great for Rockies fans. 

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Basketball

Coronavirus: NBA players finding ways to fill hours while social distancing

The NBA has got through its first weekend following the league’s suspension and players practising social distancing have been finding different ways to fill the hours.

Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson is among those taking advantage of a chance to share family time, including reading with his younger brother

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Golf

Coronavirus: Players Championship cancelled after one round

The Players Championship in Florida has been cancelled after one round with organisers saying it was “the right thing to do” in order to safeguard against the spread of coronavirus.

The PGA Tour has also postponed all tournaments between now and the Masters – the first major of 2020 – which is scheduled to start at Augusta National in Georgia on 9 April.

The Tour said: “At this point – and as the situation continues to rapidly change – the right thing to do for our players and our fans is to pause.”

The event, held at TPC Sawgrass, is not a major championship but is often referenced as ‘the fifth major’ given its status in the golfing calendar.

Earlier on Thursday organisers said fans would not be able to attend the prestigious course for the final three rounds of play.

But later they announced: “It is with regret that we are announcing the cancellation of The Players Championship.

“We have also decided to cancel all PGA Tour events – across all of our Tours – in the coming weeks, through the Valero Texas Open.

“We have pledged from the start to be responsible, thoughtful and transparent with our decision process. We did everything possible to create a safe environment for our players in order to continue the event throughout the weekend, and we were endeavouring to give our fans a much-needed respite from the current climate.”

Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama shot a nine-under 63 to equal the course record on Friday.

The Players Championship was first played in 1974 and has never been cancelled.

On Thursday, the next three tournaments on the LPGA Tour – including the first major of the year – were postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Analysis

BBC Sport’s golf correspondent Iain Carter

The big question mark now surrounds next month’s Masters. There has already been a lot of speculation that the tournament might be played with reduced crowds or behind closed doors but with no competitive men’s golf on the PGA Tour between now and Augusta it seems more and more likely that the first men’s major of the year will be called off.

The opening women’s major, the ANA Inspiration, has already fallen victim to the coronavirus crisis so it would be out of kilter with the current trend if the 2020 Masters survives in its usual April date.

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Soccer

Man United players catch second glimpse of Odion Ighalo's wonder goal

Manchester United players catch second glimpse of Odion Ighalo’s wonder strike on pitch side monitors while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer marvels at Nigerian’s goal in routine Europa League victory over LASK

  • On-loan Odion Ighalo scored a brilliant opener for Manchester United at LASK
  • He took three touches in the air before rifling an effort in off the crossbar
  • It was his fourth goal in his last three starts since moving to United on loan
  • Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his United teammates were amazed at his latest goal 

Odion Ighalo continued his excellent start to life at Manchester United with a fine solo effort in the Europa League – which was rather openly admired by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his team-mates.

The on-loan striker, drafted in in the final few hours of the January transfer window, fired in a brilliant left-foot opener to put United ahead in their first-leg Europa League clash at Austrian side LASK.

The Nigerian international controlled a delightful through ball from Bruno Fernandes brilliantly, before taking three touches in the air and rifling an effort into the net off the underside of the bar. 

Odion Ighalo continued his excellent start to life at Manchester United with a fine goal at LASK

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was visibly impressed by the effort and applauded Ighalo’s effort

He was mocked for missing out on Erling Haaland but was seen grinning with Ighalo’s effort

It was the 30-year-old’s fourth goal in his last three starts following his switch from Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua.

Ighalo’s move was mocked by many after the club had failed to sign Norwegian starlet Erling Haaland, but the former Watford man’s latest strike saw more adulation poured onto him.

And his United teammates were clearly keen to see an action replay of the goal, rushing to the pitch-side monitor to get another glimpse of his wonder strike.

The whole bench rose to try and catch another glimpse of the Nigerian’s brilliant strike

‘Odion has done really well when he’s come in and he’s enjoying himself,’ Solskjaer said after being captured grinning on the touchline.

‘He will improve and get better, but he has qualities that we saw in him that we needed and we’ll still need those qualities for next season so let’s see what we do.

‘He’s a goalscorer and he’s a striker. He doesn’t worry too much about all that nonsense build-up play – that’s a joke obviously – but he knows his job and what his role in the team is.

His teammates rushed to the pitch-side monitor to get another glimpse of his wonder strike

‘He is very good back to goal, you can play up to him. Great link player, but maybe the best thing about him is his personality, so he’s got the whole lot really.

‘He had three touches before his fourth, the finish. All them touches were high quality but he had to make them to create the space for himself.

‘But the strike is on the half-volley, great timing. No-one would have saved that one so anyone would be proud of that finish.’

United completely dominated the first leg of their last-16 tie, with Daniel James, Juan Mata, Mason Greenwood and Andreas Pereira all netting in a 5-0 rout.

But the game had to be played behind closed doors to the coronavirus outbreak. 

It was the 30-year-old’s fourth goal in his last three starts following his loan move from China

 


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Soccer

Three Leicester players self-isolate over coronavirus fears, confirms Rodgers

Three Leicester City players are currently in isolation after showing symptoms of coronavirus, according to manager Brendan Rodgers.

The Northern Irishman says that the club has followed advice from doctors and the unnamed players have been kept away from the squad.

‘We’ve had a few players who have shown symptoms and signs,’ Rodgers said in a press conference ahead of Leicester’s game at Watford on Saturday.

‘We’ve followed procedures and they’ve been kept away from the squad.

‘We’ve self-isolated them and we’ll see how that develops.

‘We’ve had three players (in self-isolation).’

There is the prospect of Premier League games being played behind closed doors as the outbreak continues, which is something Rodgers will accept as the wise course of action, although feels the matches would be ‘totally different’ as a result.

‘From a football perspective it would be a shame but the public’s health is the most important aspect in all of this,’ Rodgers said.

‘We’re guided on that. There are experts in various fields that will be looking at that.

‘The game is about the players and the fans and if you have one not there, it’s not the same. It’s a totally different experience.

‘You saw the athletics championships recently in Qatar, and you felt for the athletes who had been working all this time.

‘There is synergy, it’s what it’s about. You go out when the stands are full and that’s your time to shine. You’re trying to make your people proud, your city proud.

‘Sport, and in particular football, it’s about the players and the fans.’

Leicester travel to Watford for the 12.30pm kick-off on Saturday and the game has not been cancelled or postponed, as yet.

There was further bad news from Rodgers as he also confirmed Ricardo Pereira is out for the season due to an ACL injury and James Maddison is sidelined for a number of weeks with a calf problem.

Rodgers said of Pereira’s season-ending problem: ‘He’s a brilliant player and has been great for us all season. It’s a blow for us.

‘With an injury like that you’re looking at four months earliest, latest six months. That’s the time-scale we’re expecting.’

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Golf

Players Championship leaderboard 2020: Live golf scores, results from Round 1 at TPC Sawgrass

Rory McIlroy is on top of the world as the 2020 golf season swings into high gear this weekend with the Players Championship.

McIlroy, the defending 2019 champion at TPC Sawgrass, looks to become the first repeat winner in the history of the PGA Tour’s so-called “fifth major.” He’s yet to win in 2020, but the Northern Irishman is still planted firmly at No. 1 in the World Golf Ranking having finished top five in four consecutive tournaments to start the year.

McIlroy is the biggest name in the Players field, which doesn’t include an injured Tiger Woods. But life at the top could become crowded quickly with 47 of the world’s top 50 golfers in competition in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. McIlroy tees off with Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka at 1:51 p.m. ET Thursday.

Follow live scores from each round of the 2020 Players Championship with our leaderboard, along with updated tee times and TV information.

Players Championship leaderboard 2020

Click here or refresh if you don’t see scores and results above.

How to watch the Players Championship

NBC and the Golf Channel will broadcast live coverage of the Players Championship in 2020. The tournament airs exclusively on Golf Channel for the first two days, before shifting to NBC for the final rounds on Saturday and Sunday. You can stream the Players on PGA Tour Live, which offers early coverage starting at 7:30 a.m. ET daily.

Players Championship tee times

Thursday’s featured group includes the three top players in the World Golf Ranking: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka. They tee off at 1:51 p.m. ET.

Here is the complete list of Players Championship tee times for Round 1.

Round 1: Thursday, March 12

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MLB

MLB players, managers still skeptical about new three-batter minimum rule

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Baseball’s most controversial rule change in recent memory, the three-batter minimum for relief pitchers, will be put into effect for spring training games Thursday. Sporting News spent the past week talking with players and managers in the Grapefruit League, and it was hard to find anyone who has warmed up to the idea since its chilly initial reception at the Winter Meetings, when the rule was officially announced.

“We’re going to have to live with it, so we want to be as proactive as possible with it,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “As far as understanding the why, when and how of using it, we’ve gone through that process and are still doing it. 

“It’s not a small change. It’s a very significant change in the strategy of our game, and it’s my job to understand it the best I can.”

That’s the goal, to understand all the unintended nuances of the three-batter minimum rule. I asked Astros manager Dusty Baker the same question I asked most people: Do you feel like you have a handle on all the ways the rule will impact the game?

“Not really,” Baker said. “I don’t think anybody does.”

Not everyone was as straight-forward with their answer as Baker — few ever are — but the feeling was the same. Let’s start with MLB’s stated intention/hope: By forcing pitchers to face at least three batters every time out — the exception being when a relief pitcher needs to face only one or two batters to end an inning — the number of time-consuming pitching changes will be reduced, shaving minutes off the average game time, which is north of three hours. 

That’s the working theory. Whether that theory works, well, that remains to be seen. 

“I’m trying to keep an open mind about it, but I just think it’s one of those things that, in practice, I don’t really see how it’s going to speed up the game,” Nationals lefty Sean Doolittle said. “I think it puts teams at a disadvantage by not being able to play matchups late in games.

“You know, I don’t know. It doesn’t feel like it’s a way to help us put the best version of the game on the field.” 

Because if managers can’t play batter-to-batter matchups, bringing in a LOOGY — the common name for a left-handed one-batter-only reliever — to face a lefty hitter, maybe that lefty hitter reaches base on his favorable matchup and extends a rally. Extended rallies mean more baserunners, longer innings and more minutes added to the time of game. 

“My whole thing with the three-batter minimum,” Nationals manager Davey Martinez said, “after looking at it and reading everything, I don’t necessarily think it’s going to speed up the game, but you’re going to see more offense.”

Yep. Skepticism abounds. 

“I’m not crazy about it, and it does kind of get rid of the specialty lefty, or the specialty guy — guy you bring in to get the ground ball,” Baker said. “It’ll probably add to the offense, I think, because you’re going to have guys facing guys that you wouldn’t normally have facing them. We’ll see.”

There a little frustration, too, even if it’s framed with a more positive spin. 

“It’s going to rework, which is my job, how you think about running a bullpen,” Shildt said. “I’ve studied bullpen management for years and had some really good tutelage from some really good people in that subject, because it’s a really big part of my job. Have to rethink what that looks like.” 

There’s been a lot of rethinking. 

“I mean, what are you going to do? If you get upset about the rule, that doesn’t help. You still have to go do it. You have to adapt,” Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki said. “You can’t control what rules they make, you can only control how you react to it. As a pitcher, as a catcher, as a team, you just have to adapt to it and make the best choices.”

We’ll see the new rule in practice starting with Thursday’s spring training games, but even those won’t give us a true picture of how it will impact the regular season. Relievers are only brought in mid-inning during spring training exhibitions when the current hurler reaches a pitch count or just can’t seem to get anyone out, not for righty/lefty matchup reasons. 

And even when that reliever is brought in mid-inning, the opposing manager isn’t going to counter that move by pinch-hitting; the batter is up there because he needs work, too, facing live pitching in a game situation. So even though the rule will be in place for the rest of spring training, it’s not really going to influence managers’ actions. 

The real testing of the new theories and strategies of bullpen management won’t happen until Opening Day. 

Expect frustration. Expect left-handed hitters who normally would have been pulled when a LOOGY was brought in to face them to deliver that big base hit against a right-handed pitcher. Expect games to be lost that, in years past, might have been won. 

Expect anger. If there’s enough anger? And if the rule doesn’t help MLB reach its goal, reducing the average time of game after a month or two?

There is precedent for a bad rule to be changed. 

Remember in 2014, the transfer rule? That year, as part of replay rules, MLB said that a player had to cleanly transfer the baseball from his glove to his throwing hand for it to be considered a catch. In the past, if a player bobbled the baseball making that transfer, it was still considered an out. 

That rule was met with near-universal criticism in baseball circles. 

“After a month-and-a-half, they banged it,” Doolittle brought up last Friday. “Just, one day it was gone. I don’t know if that’s even a possibility here. I really don’t know.”

And that — “I really don’t know” — is a pretty good summation of where baseball stands with this latest new rule heading into the last few weeks of spring training. 

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