The Coronavirus has taken the world by its plums, and the world’s sporting competitions are feeling its effects. How will our sport be impacted? Or further impacted?
1. Right. We’ve got ourselves a problem. On one hand this looks like just a super catchy flu bug that shouldn’t panic-buy us out of toilet paper, its not any more dangerous to the average Joe than the shit we combat each winter. On the other the other hand it’ll kill thousands in no time and bring economies to their knees without proper and swift totalitarian Governmental actions. We laugh about it like its the greatest overreaction, but then you hear a cough these days and almost jump. Weird shit, ey?
2. So what does it all mean, where do we start? Chronologically from a sport sense the stuff in Europe has the earliest relevance for us. Italy has been hit hard and had scheduled closed-stadium games for a couple weeks now. The Derby D’Italia, Juventus vs. Inter, top of the table clash, was held in front of no-one. More recently this no-crowd tactic has been applied to Champions League fixtures, PSG vs. Dortmund this morning was to an empty Parc De Princes even though Liverpool vs. Atletico in England was to a packed Anfield.
3. The amount of fans, in Europe alone, going through stadium turnstiles on your average weekend for football matches, is insane when you think of it. If its good enough for Italy, reactively, and Paris, semi-reactively, to enforce this measure, you reckon some countries will follow suit proactively as a preemptive measure, to avoid the statistics the Italians are suffering. EPL, La Liga, every chance their seasons go close to finishing behind closed doors.
4. Do some leagues not continue? Playing behind closed doors is one thing, not having them played at all is also on the table. We’ve seen Serie A already go this way. The Italian Football Federation already has three radical ideas to resole their issue:
“Without being in order of priority, one option would be not assigning the Scudetto and consequently informing UEFA of the teams qualified for Europe. Another would be referring to the table as it stands up until the moment the season was interrupted”.
“One last option would be to organise playoffs for the title of Champion of Italy and play-outs to decide relegation into Serie B.”
Could Liverpool end up champions after all these years by being in first place when the music stopped and the EPL is suspended pre-Easter? Do they miss out altogether perhaps instead because they decide in an unfinished year there is to be no winner. This is all real right now if parts of Europe don’t see two weeks postponement as the only hit they’re going to cop.
5. Then we need to address Rudy Gobert. In one of the greatest instances of irony of all time, the all-star centre just Monday joked in a press conference about the threat of coronavirus and in a super poor attempt at satire in hindsight deliberately over-touched all the microphones and recording devices in said presser. Four days later he tests positive to said virus he 99% would have had at the time.
6. And its with his positive test that the NBA didn’t just postpone the game his team was about to play in, but indefinitely suspend the entire season 3/4 of the way through. How long for? Given there’s a couple states, Washington particularly, where the virus has spread far too quickly for anyone’s standards, the US if they’re not too careful could be in a spot of bother for some time. So does the NBA find ‘appropriate’ time to reconvene and finish this 19/20 season off during their summer? Or is it cut the losses, they won’t have the time before the 20/21 season to do it properly, sorry. My guess, season needs to resume by the start of May to be sure, otherwise sorry Laker fans, no dice.
7. I sense the NHL will tomorrow probably do the same thing. Sure, no player yet has tested positive like Gobert, but the two leagues share far too many venues for there not to be a compelling-enough case now to not follow suit than muster up the wherewithal to delay the inevitable another couple of days.
8. Onto stuff in our neck of the words. NRL first, they’re playing tonight, the Eels and Bulldogs in Parramatta. They look destined to exercise the empty stadiums option pretty soon, let’s watch and see. But so far for Round One this weekend, play on.
9. AFL is in a similar boat, and for now, Round One next Thursday is on, but it will be a long seven days to get there, that’s for sure.
10. Empty stadiums is a curious thing. On one hand it keeps your competition going at least, it minimises the interruption factor among everything else. But economically its screwed up. You continue on to satisfy broadcast schedules and what not, but there’s no gate receipts so its almost redundant anyway. Crowds of any variety look to be banned pre-Easter, by the Government, barring a miracle, so let’s see how they go.
11. The talk has been any postponed games will end up being made up in bye rounds and the such. Yeah nah. Postponed games would end up in the dozens, its not like it’ll be a game here or game there we lose. Hard to see this not impacting quite significantly and the solution being not at all that simple as a result.
12. So all that being said, whats the go with the footy? Best case, we only lose two rounds to postponement, but have other rounds impacted with closed-stadiums. By the bye rounds we’re out the other side and its been messy but we got away with it.
13. Worst case, the season becomes too wounded once all the impacts come our way and we end up with a lost year and, if that’s the result, we have bigger fish to fry than worrying about a blank record for 2020. I don’t think this is likely, but it wouldn’t be difficult to end up here.
14. Sam Switkowski. Poor bugger. Should he have been named? My gut feel is no, because its something serious, its to do with a fatal disease let’s be honest. If he had stuffed up off-field, yeah perhaps, go for it. So I like Sam McClure, but on this one, especially as Freo asked the media not to, I wouldn’t have.
15. The Grand Prix is going ahead. That’s ridiculous. Lewis Hamilton even said so himself:
“I am very, very surprised we are here…for me it’s shocking that we’re all sitting in this room.
“It seems like the rest of the world is reacting probably a bit late, but already this morning we have seen Trump shutting down the borders from Europe to the United States.
“The NBA is being suspended and (YET) F1 continues to go on.”
We make a loss on it as a State anyway, if you have any chance for a debt-collector to say ‘you know what, don’t worry about it’, you take that chance, you don’t say ‘no, I insist I must lose money to you, don’t be silly’.
16. Felt like the Olympics were no chance, then some optimism, maybe they will go on all ok after all. China might be ok by then, maybe, dunno, we don’t know… Yeah nah. I don’t think Japan, or even China is the issue. By the time the Olympics are on half the world will still be amidst the pandemic and who knows how many travel bans will still be out there. Yes, it is still four months away, so maybe there’s enough progress by then. But now, making the prediction, it can’t go on.
17. Tour de France. Is that far enough away too? Gee might go close. Starts three-ish months from now. Giro is beforehand, that looks doomed. Le Tour? 50-50 at this stage.
18. The Six Nations will be ok, just weird. The postponed games will be picked up in the Spring time so for 2020 there’ll be a normal winner, just the record books will say what’s usually a month and a half tournament went almost six months instead.
19. French Open tennis in just over two months, can’t see it happening to be honest. France will need a quick turnaround, which isn’t impossible, but unlikely. Cooked.
20. And if you thought this wasn’t all getting a bit heavy, if it’s not Missy Higgins dad, an actual doctor getting it, but then Tom Hanks says he and his missus got it, whilst down here in Australia? It’s here and its about to go up a notch I feel. Whether it indeed is getting more hot air than it deserves or actually, no silly, this ain’t no Y2K or bird flu annoyingly. Wash your hands folks, that’s all. And cross fingers.