Sports leagues seek return to play but with no guarantees
UNDATED (AP) — Sports fans hoping for a fast return to the games they love might need to temper their expectations. Although sports leagues talk publicly about their desire to return to competition before summer, those are best-case scenarios.
Behind closed doors, they are hatching different potential plans: all 30 baseball teams playing in Arizona; home run contests to decide tie games; the Stanley Cup being hoisted in an empty arena that neither team calls home; end-of-season soccer standings decided by vote; college football games in spring.
Over the past week, The Associated Press interviewed more than 20 policymakers, coaches and players across the globe for their assessments of the situation. They all conceded that sports may not restart for months, if at all this year. Most agree that what's needed is a drastic ramp-up in testing, a vaccine or some type of improved treatment to make players feel safe to compete.
Dr. Anthony Fauci (FOW’-chee), the infectious disease expert, has suggested that sports could conceivably return with no fans in arenas and constant testing for the players, who would likely need to be quarantined in hotels for weeks or months. Not all players are on board.
In other developments related to the coronavirus pandemic:
— Wayne Gretzky is optimistic the NHL will be able to resume at some point this summer. He tells The Associated Press he’s hopeful hockey and other sports will be able to come back from the coronavirus pandemic and serve as a sign that conditions are improving. Gretzky says he believes leaders in the U.S. and Canada will find a way to bring back hockey and other sports in June, July and August. The league is considering several options on trying to resume this season, including going directly to the playoffs at several neutral sites.
— Soccer has resumed in Turkmenistan with spectators as the Central Asian nation lifted a suspension of its national league. Around 500 people attended Sunday’s game in a 20,000-capacity stadium in the capital. The crowd size was broadly in line with typical domestic league games in Turkmenistan and as usual attendance was free. The game ended 1-1. The eight-team league was suspended on March 24 amid the coronavirus pandemic. Turkmenistan is one of the few countries in the world not to have reported any cases of the coronavirus.
— The stadium of English Premier League club Brighton has been converted into the south coast’s biggest drive-in coronavirus testing center. The appointment-only center has been put in place at the American Express Community Stadium as part of the drive to increase testing for National Health Service staff and other key workers. Officials say the center was scheduled to see more than 50 NHS frontline workers on Saturday, and they’ll have the results of their tests within 48 hours. Within a few days, the site should reach its capacity of up to 1,000 tests a day.
— Players and coaches for Italian soccer team Roma have waived their salary for four months. The team hasn’t played a competitive match since March 1 because of the pandemic, so the players and coaching staff will forgo salaries due to them for March, April, May and June.
— British horse racing’s most successful flat trainer of all time is recovering after contracting the coronavirus. Mark Johnston has been isolating since having the symptoms confirmed and his family says he is making good progress. In 2018, Johnston celebrated his 4,194th winner, which is the most of any trainer in British flat racing.
— A Japanese professor of infectious disease says he is “very pessimistic” the postponed Tokyo Olympics can open in 15 months. Kentaro Iwata of Kobe University says, “To be honest with you, I don’t think the Olympics is likely to be held next year.” The CEO of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee expressed similar reservations 10 days ago. Since then, the organizing committee and the International Olympic Committee have said there is no "Plan B'' other than working for the Olympics to open on July 23, 2021.
— Australia’s top rugby players will demand a greater say in the future of the sport after agreeing to pay cuts designed to allow the game to weather the financial fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. Some players reportedly will give up as much as 60 percent of their income in the short term as Australian rugby faces uncertainty with major competitions shut down, perhaps for the rest of the year.
Former NBA top pick Bogut unsure about playing future
UNDATED (AP) — Andrew Bogut (BOH'-gut) is close to making a decision on when to end his career after 15 years in professional basketball.
Bogut was planning to retire after playing for Australia at the Tokyo Games this summer. With those games delayed until July 2021, the 35-year-old is debating whether to wait it out. He says he probably needs to decide by mid-May.
Bogut was a 2005 No. 1 draft pick by Milwaukee and won an NBA championship with the Golden State Warriors in 2015. He has played for Sydney in the National Basketball League the past two seasons.
Byron makes it 2 straight wins
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — William Byron won his second consecutive NASCAR virtual race by holding off Timmy Hill in a drama-free event at virtual Richmond Raceway.
The most excitement came when Matt DiBenedetto was parked for intentionally crashing Ryan Preece and the two then engaged in a Twitter spat. The iRacing Series has had a sour taste since Bubba Wallace lost a sponsor for quitting a game in a rage and Kyle Larson was fired for using a racial slur.
Leclerc wins virtual GP, again
UNDATED (AP) — Charles Leclerc has won his second straight Formula One Virtual Grand Prix, taking the Chinese GP from the pole position.
The Ferrari driver finished ahead of Red Bull’s Alex Albon and Guanyu Zhou (gwahn-yoo zhoo), who races in Formula 2.
The 22-year-old Leclerc has won two actual F1 races and only started playing the video game at the start of the month. The actual Chinese GP originally was scheduled for April 19 but was postponed in February due to the coronavirus pandemic.