More sporting events have been hit by the ongoing coronavirus outbreak as domestic cricket in England was delayed and the Betfred World Snooker Championship was postponed.
The England and Wales Cricket Board met on Friday and determined that no professional cricket would be played until May 28 at the earliest.
Talks had stepped up over how best to proceed, with the County Championship scheduled to start on April 12.
The Champion County match, the annual curtain-raiser for the year, was due to be played between the MCC and Essex later this month in Sri Lanka, but had subsequently been called off.
On Friday, a statement from the ECB read: “The ECB Board has today agreed that no professional cricket will be played in England and Wales until at least May 28 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Board approved the recommendation to delay the start of the season following discussions with the First Class Counties, the MCC and the PCA.
“It was agreed that, given the current information available, a seven-week delay to the start of the season is the most appropriate approach.”
Earlier in another major change to the sporting calendar caused by the pandemic, the Betfred World Snooker Championship had been postponed.
The World Snooker Tour said in a statement that it intends to host the tournament, which had been due to run from April 18 to May 4, in July or August at the Crucible.
The statement added: “We are awaiting feedback from the BBC and our other principal broadcasters before dates are confirmed and we hope to make a further announcement in the coming days.”
WST chairman Barry Hearn said: “These are tough times for everyone but we are determined to get through it.
“Fans around the world – as well as the 144 players involved – are anxious to know if and when the World Championship will go ahead. I can assure everyone that we are doing all we can alongside our broadcasters, the venues and other partners to confirm new dates as soon as possible.”
Meanwhile, England boss Gareth Southgate has urged fans to work together to combat the virus.
In an open letter to supporters on the official England Twitter account, Southgate wrote: “For everyone in our country, the primary focus is undoubtedly to look after our families, support our communities and work together to come through what is clearly the most extreme test that we’ve faced collectively in decades.
“On behalf of all the team and staff, I would like to take this opportunity to send our sympathies to those who have lost loved ones already. Our thoughts are with you and with those who sadly will suffer similarly in the coming period.
“In the way you’ve all come together to support our team, we must now work together to combat a virus that is causing physical and emotional issues to so many. So, please continue to follow the guidelines for hygiene and also the sensible precautions put in place to control the spread of the virus in order to protect those most vulnerable to its impact.
“That responsibility lies with us all.”
Southgate also stressed “the heroes will be the men and women who continue working tirelessly in our hospitals and medical centres to look after our friends and families”.
England had home friendlies against Italy and Denmark that were due to take place this month cancelled, and UEFA then confirmed this week that Euro 2020 was being postponed by a year.
Southgate added: “When we play again as an England team, it will be at a time when not only our country but the rest of the world as well is on the road to recovery.
“To play in a European Championship next summer will still be possible for all of our squad and so we shouldn’t spend another moment thinking about the postponement of the competition.”
The Rugby Football Union has announced all league rugby beneath the Gallagher Premiership has been brought to an end for the 2019-20 season. The RFU is in active discussion with the Premiership, which has been suspended for five weeks.
Wasps announced they are imposing reductions of 25 per cent to player wages to offset the slump in revenue caused by the suspension of the top flight.
On Thursday, Formula One confirmed the Dutch, Spanish and Monaco Grands Prix had all been postponed, and the Monaco race was subsequently cancelled. The earliest the new F1 season can now start is on June 7 in Azerbaijan.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said in a statement on the team’s Twitter account: “We fully support the decisions taken yesterday, and we will work closely with F1, the FIA, the local promoters and our fellow teams to find the best answers for our sport in the coming months.”
The LPGA has postponed three more tournaments – the LOTTE Championship in Hawaii, the HUGEL-AIR PREMIA LA Open in Los Angeles and the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship in California, all originally slated for April – while rescheduling what was intended to be the year’s first major championship. The ANA Inspiration in California moves from April 2-5 to September.
Swimming’s European governing body LEN announced the European Aquatics Championships, due to be held from May 11-24 in Budapest, had been postponed, with proposed new dates of August 17-30.
The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo 2020 organisers have faced strong criticism over their insistence that as things stand this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games will go ahead as planned, with the Olympics due to begin on July 24.
As the Olympic flame reached the host city, IOC president Thomas Bach said: “While we do not know how long the tunnel we are all in at this moment will be, we would like the Olympic Flame to be a light at the end of this tunnel.”
GB Rowing became one of the last sports bodies in the country to close down.
Olympic trials and team placements had been taking place through Friday in Caversham with further training sessions scheduled for next week.