Last updated April 17, 2:30 p.m. Eastern
It has been a dizzying month in the sports world. The NBA became the first major U.S. sports league to suspend games "until further notice" on March 11 after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus, but other leagues quickly followed suit with postponements and cancellations. On March 15, the CDC issued new recommendations that events with 50 or more people should be canceled for the next eight weeks .
The virus had already made its mark on the global sports stage as events and games overseas had been canceled, postponed or played in venues without fans. The final economic impact from lost sporting events will be in the billions of dollars .
The biggest sporting event on the 2020 sports calendar was the Summer Olympics, and pressure built on the IOC to postpone the Games after Canada and Australia announced they would not send delegations to Tokyo this summer. Longtime IOC member Dick Pound said on March 23 that the Games would need to be postponed . The IOC announced the Olympics were officially postponed until 2021 t he following day.
The coronavirus has impacted concerts, parades and other events . Companies are already laying off employees because of the pandemic. Here is a look at the effect on the major sports properties around the world.
"The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of tonight's schedule of games until further notice," the league said in a statement on March 11 . "The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic." Commissioner Adam Silver later said the league would reassess in 30 days.
The NBA has completed roughly 80% of its regular season. Wiping out one-fifth of the season would mean a loss of $500 million from tickets, suites, parking and concessions. The tab could top $1 billion when you factor in make-goods on sponsorship packages and TV rights deals. A cancellation of the playoffs would push the losses higher because ticket prices soar in the postseason and much more of the NBA's $24 billion TV deal is tied to the playoffs, where viewership and ad rates go up. Kantar estimates that 62% of last season's $1.7 billion in ad spending occurred in the playoffs.
The latest has the NBA resuming play in mid-June under a best-case scenario .
The WNBA officially postponed the May 15 start of the 2020 season on April 3. No new start date was announced. The WNBA Draft will take place on April 17 in a virtual format.
The NHL put its season on "pause" on March 12 with about a dozen games left for each team in the regular season. Commissioner Gary Bettman issued a statement, saying: "The NHL has been attempting to follow the mandates of health experts and local authorities, while preparing for any possible developments without taking premature or unnecessary measures. However, following last night’s news that an NBA player has tested positive for coronavirus—and given that our leagues share so many facilities and locker rooms and it now seems likely that some member of the NHL community would test positive at some point—it is no longer appropriate to try to continue to play games at this time.
"We will continue to monitor all the appropriate medical advice, and we will encourage our players and other members of the NHL community to take all reasonable precautions—including by self-quarantine, where appropriate. Our goal is to resume play as soon as it is appropriate and prudent, so that we will be able to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup. Until then, we thank NHL fans for your patience and hope you stay healthy."
Major League Baseball was the final in-season major U.S. sports league to postpone games. It originally suspended the rest of spring training and delayed the start of the regular season by at least two weeks. The CDC's recommendation to cancel or postpone events with 50 or more people over the next eight weeks caused MLB to issue a statement that it would follow those guidelines. It did not announce a new targeted opening day.
The NFL draft is still set to take place April 23-25 in Las Vegas, but the league finally acknowledged on March 16 that fans would not be part of the event. The draft regularly attracts massive crowds to the host site, which has rotated since 2015 after 50 years in New York City. Last year's event drew a record 600,000 in Nashville, creating a reported economic impact of $224 million for the area. This year's draft had been highly anticipated, with a stage constructed atop the fountains of the Bellagio Hotel. Some teams have limited their pre-draft travel plans .
The league canceled its four-day annual meeting that was scheduled to start March 29. Any votes around playing rules, bylaws or other business matters will be addressed at the spring meeting in May. The NFL's official league year begins March 18.
It took the NCAA 24 hours to reverse course on March Madness after president Mark Emmert announced on March 11 that games would be played in front of only essential staff and limited family members . The Division I men's and women's 2020 basketball tournaments were canceled .
The NCAA also axed all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships, covering 20 sports, including baseball, hockey, lacrosse and wrestling.
The NCAA extended its TV rights contract for the Division I men's basketball tournament in 2016 with CBS and Turner Sports, with the latest agreement worth $8.8 billion over eight years. March Madness generated $933 million in total for the NCAA last year, with $590 million distributed to the conferences of the 68 teams that made the tournament.
The Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, ACC, Pac-12, American and Atlantic 10 originally announced plans to conduct their men's basketball conference tournaments in empty arenas, but the leagues pivoted a day later and canceled the events .
The College World Series, among the spring events the NCAA canceled, had attracted at least 300,000 fans every year since 2006, and it typically fills ESPN programming with solid ratings. The economic impact to Omaha, Nebraska, where the event is held each year, is estimated to be $70 million .
The latest reports have Major League Soccer postponing matches through at least June 8.
MLS originally announced on March 12 that games would be suspended for 30 days . "Our clubs were united today in the decision to temporarily suspend our season—based on the advice and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), and other public health authorities, and in the best interest of our fans, players, officials and employees," MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. The updated CDC guidelines mean no soccer until mid-May at the earliest.
On March 19, the league extended its suspension of all matches to May 10, following the CDC guidance. "MLS remains focused on playing the entire 2020 season and is evaluating all options, including pushing back the end of the season and playing MLS Cup in December, as the league did prior to the 2019 season. The league is also identifying other available dates," the league said in a statement.
MLS started its season in February, and each team played two games before the shutdown. MLS teams are highly dependent on stadium revenues since the league's $90 million-a-year national TV deal with ESPN and Univision is a fraction of other sports leagues' broadcast agreements.
The PGA Tour released an update to its 2020 plans on April 16, including plans to resume its season on June 11 with the Charles Schwab Challenge. The RBC Canadian Open, originally scheduled for the week of June 8-14, has been canceled. The first four events will be closed to the general public.
On April 6, golf's major governing bodies announced sweeping changes to the 2020 calendar, spurred by the coronavirus. The Masters is tentatively moving from its usual April spot on the calendar to November 12. June's U.S Open at Winged Foot Golf Club in New York, has been rescheduled for Sept. 17-20 at the same venue. The PGA Championship is moving from May 14-17 to Aug. 6-9 and remains at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.
Golf's fourth major, the British Open, scheduled for July 16-19, was cancelled . The next Open Championship will be held at the same location, Royal St. George’s in Sandwich, England, in 2021. The 150th British Open celebration, set for the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland next year, will be pushed off a year to 2022.
The LPGA rescheduled its first two majors of the year. The ANA Inspiration moves to the week of Sept. 7 in Rancho Mirage, California, while the U.S. Women's Open has been rescheduled for the week of Dec. 7 at Champions Golf Club in Houston.
The PGA Tour played the first round of The Players Championship, the richest tourney of the year with $15 million in prize money, in front of fans. The tour issued an update after Round 1 , canceling the rest of The Players Championship and all upcoming tournaments in the coming weeks, through the Valero Texas Open. The next morning brought the biggest blow to the golf calendar as the Masters Tournament, scheduled to begin April 9, was postponed .
The Masters is the most watched golf event of the year and attracts 250,000 fans to the Augusta, Georgia, area annually, generating an economic impact of more than $120 million. The golf club typically closes from late May until October.
LPGA Tour events in Thailand, Singapore and China, scheduled to take place in February and early March, were all canceled, and the LPGA joined other leagues on March 12 in suspending all events.
All ATP and WTA events are suspended until at least July 13.
The ATP Tour originally suspended all men's professional tennis events on March 12 for six weeks, through April 20, because of the coronavirus outbreak. The decision impacted the Miami Open; the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships in Houston; the Grand Prix Hassan II in Marrakech, Morocco; the Monte-Carlo Masters; the Barcelona Open; and the Hungarian Open in Budapest.
The WTA followed suit later in the day. "Due to safety and health concerns surrounding the coronavirus, as well as the travel restrictions imposed on entering the United States from Europe, the Miami Open and the Volvo Car Open in Charleston will not be held at this time," WTA CEO Steve Simon said in a statement. The WTA later extended the postponements to include Stuttgart, Istanbul and Prague.
On March 17, the French Tennis Federation announced that the French Open, the season's second tennis major, would be moved to September , from the end of May. The new date clashes with several events already on the tennis schedule. On April 1, the All England Lawn and Tennis Club cancelled Wimbledon for this year. The 134th Championships will now be held from June 28 through July 11 in 2021.
The BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells was canceled earlier in March . It is often called tennis' "fifth Grand Slam" because of the high-profile field of male and female stars and draws 450,000 fans annually, with prize money of $17 million for players. The event generated an estimated economic impact on the Coachella Valley of more than $400 million in 2017, according to a George Washington University study.
The Olympic flame lighting ceremony in Greece was held March 12 behind closed doors. The rest of the torch relay was suspended the following day because large crowds had gathered to watch, despite pleas by organizers to stay away.
The world's biggest sporting event was set to kick off on July 24 in Tokyo and run for two-plus weeks. Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto called cancellation or postponement "impossible," but on March 24, the global logistical challenges of the coronavirus forced the IOC to officially postpone the Games until 2021.
NBCUniversal had already sold a record $1.25 billion worth of ads and 90% of inventory to the Summer Olympics broadcasts. The Games are highly anticipated in Japan, pushing domestic sponsorship revenue to a record $3 billion, according to the IOC . It is more than three times the amount for any other Summer Olympics.
Dana White was one of the most brazen holdouts to the sports world shutdown, vowing to hold UFC events on private islands and even an Indian reservation to avoid regulators. On April 9, White finally called off UFC 249, scheduled for April 18. "Today, we got a call from the highest level you can go at Disney, and the highest level at ESPN … and the powers that be there asked me to stand down and not do this event on Saturday,” White told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto . White says all events are postponed indefinitely.
The March 14 UFC event in Brasilia, Brazil, took place but without any fans in the building for UFC Fight Night 170. The UFC promotion was scheduled to head to London on March 21 before returning to the U.S. for a series of events. White appeared on ESPN and said: "Unless there's a total shutdown of the country where people can't leave their houses and things like that, these fights will happen. We're gonna move on. These guys will compete. We will find venues, and we will figure this thing out. I mean, the only thing that's gonna stop us is a complete government shutdown where everyone is confined to their homes."
White finally caved on March 16 and canceled the three UFC events through April 11 and shuttered the company's executive offices in Las Vegas.
On April 1, UEFA suspended the Champions League, Europa League and Euro 2020 qualifying playoffs indefinitely and all major European soccer leagues are now on hold. UEFA originally suspended all Champions League play on March 12, although it had already postponed the Manchester City-Real Madrid and Juventus-Lyon Champions League matchups because of the coronavirus.
The Premier League was expected to play its league games behind closed doors but later announced that games would be suspended until April 4 . "Following a meeting of Shareholders today, it was unanimously decided to suspend the Premier League with the intention of returning on 4 April, subject to medical advice and conditions at the time," the organization said.
The latest update has the Premier League on the shelf until April 30. The Football Association also agreed to waive the June 1 limit to finish a season. The limit was extended indefinitely. T he game between Manchester City and Arsenal scheduled for March 11 had previously been postponed after Olympiakos owner Evangelos Marinakis, who attended his team's Europa League game at Arsenal on February 27, contracted the virus. Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta tested positive for COVID-19 on March 12.
La Liga suspended all games on March 12 because of the outbreak as Real Madrid players were in quarantine . Lower levels of professional soccer games in Spain were also called off. An update from La Liga on March 23 said games were s uspended indefinitely .
France's Ligue 1 originally was to play its games without fans through April 15, after the French government banned all gatherings of 1,000 or more, but on March 13 decided to suspend all games until further notice.
Germany's Bundesliga abandoned its plan to play games in empty stadiums and suspended the season on March 13.
Serie A games were suspended until April 3, but there is no timetable for restarting the league with Italy the world's hardest hit country by the coronavirus.
The race series planned to move forward with its March 15 Atlanta Motor Speedway race with limited modifications, like driver interviews conducted with six-foot buffers around them. But Nascar altered its plans on March 12 and announced that races at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway would take place without fans , before finally deciding to cancel both events.
The new CDC recommendations required another adjustment. "Nascar is currently postponing all race events through May 3rd, with plans to return racing in Martinsville," the stock car organization said in a statement on March 16. " We appreciate the patience of our fans and we look forward to returning to the racetrack. We intend to hold all 36 races this season, with future rescheduling soon to be determined as we continue to monitor this situation closely with public health officials and medical experts."
Nascar postponed the Martinsville race on April 17 and still plans to run all 36 races.
The latest update from Formula One is a 2020 that might include between 15 and 18 races. "We recognize there is significant potential for additional postponements in currently scheduled events, nonetheless we and our partners fully expect the season to start at some point this summer, with a revised calendar of between 15-18 races," said F1 chief executive Chase Carey in a statement on March 23.
Formula One is one of the most global sports, with events around the world. The Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai, set for April 19, was one of the first major sporting events to be postponed over coronavirus concerns, with organizers pulling the plug February 12. The hosting fee for the Shanghai race is an estimated $33 million .
The season-opening Australian Grand Prix, set to be held March 15, was called off . F1 planned to hold the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 22 without spectators—which would have been F1's first race without fan attendance in its 70-year history—but the race was postponed, along with the Vietnam Grand Prix. F1 attendance averaged nearly 200,000 fans per race in 2019.
F1 postponed all of its May races on March 19, including the Dutch, Spanish and Monaco GPs. Monaco Grand Prix organizers announced the famed race wouldn't take place at all in 2020. It will be the first time since 1954 that the race does not occur. The June 14 Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal was postponed on April 7.
The publicly traded Liberty Media Formula One stock was off 41% through March 13 since the start of 2020.
IndyCar was set to open its season March 15 in St. Petersburg, Florida, but it suspended its season through the end of April and later moved the opening date to May 30. The Indy 500 was moved from May 24 to Aug. 23. Several other races were moved to other dates as well and the current schedule calls for 13 races, down from a planned 17.
Vince McMahon's new football league was already off to a rocky start, with dwindling TV ratings over five games. The March 12 announcement that the season is canceled is not going to help the long-time survival of the league.
"Currently, the XFL will not be playing its regular-season games," the statement read. "However, all players will be paid their base pay and benefits for the 2020 regular season. All XFL ticket holders will be issued refunds or credit toward future games. The XFL is committed to playing a full season in 2021 and future years."
Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball played its preseason games in front of no spectators. The regular season was expected to start March 20, but Japan's top baseball league postponed the start of the season on March 9.
The NPB has resumed preseason games in empty stadiums and is targeting April 24 to begin its regular season.
The Tour de France, set to start June 27, was officially postponed on April 14. No new date was set. The last time the Tour was not held was in 1946, with France still reeling from the impact of World War II.
The London Marathon, scheduled for April 26, was postponed to October 4 while the Boston Marathon, set for April 20, was rescheduled for September 14. The Boston race attracts as many as a million fans along the route and generates more than $200 million for the city's economy. Dozens of other half- and full marathons around the world have also been canceled or postponed.
The world's richest cricket league, the Indian Premier League, was set to start in March but pushed back the Twenty20 tournament to April 15. Competition was pushed off until further notice on April 16.
The Kentucky Derby was postponed from May 2 to September 5.
The World Figure Skating Championships in Montreal were canceled. The event was set to run March 18 to 22.
The Giro d'Italia cycling race was postponed.
On April 9, track and field's world championships in 2021 were rescheduled for July 2022, as not to conflict with the news dates for the Tokyo Olympics. The event attracts 1,800 athletes from more than 200 countries.
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