Timeline of sport’s response to coronavirus on Friday, March 20

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By PA Sport Staff
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The coronavirus pandemic continued to affect the world of sport on Friday.

Here, the PA news agency recaps the day’s main developments.

7.40am – The New Zealand Rugby League announced that the Oceania Cup matches scheduled for June 20 between the Kiwis and the Tonga Invitational XIII, as well as Samoa’s clash with the Cook Islands, were postponed.

7.50am – The Royal Windsor Horse Show, which was due to run from May 13-17, was cancelled. The event, which is one of British equestrian sport’s most prestigious shows, incorporates showjumping, dressage, endurance, showing and driving, in addition to an Edwardian pageant.

9.20am – International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach says the Olympic flame can be “a light at the end of the tunnel” in the current crisis as the flame reached the host city. This summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games are still planned to begin on July 24 in Tokyo. 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.”

10.20am – The Rugby Football Union announced the end of the season for all league, cup and county rugby in England, with the exception of the Gallagher Premiership.

10.50am – This year’s Betfred World Snooker Championship was postponed, with the World Snooker Tour saying in a statement it intends to host the tournament at the Crucible in July or August.

11.00am – Formula One has replaced races postponed or cancelled due to coronavirus with an Esports Virtual Grand Prix series that will see current drivers battle it out online. The start of the 2020 F1 season has been hit by the coronavirus outbreak, with the opening race in Australia cancelled before Grands Prix in Bahrain, Vietnam, China, Holland and Spain were postponed. Monaco has also been cancelled.

12.25pm – 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.

1.00pm – Wasps, Worcester and Gloucester announced they are imposing reductions of 25 per cent to player wages to offset the slump in revenue caused by the suspension of the Gallagher Premiership.

1.15pm – The Ladies Professional Golf Association announced that three more of its events have been postponed: the LOTTE Championship in Ko Olina, Hawaii (April 15-18), the HUGEL-AIR PREMIA LA Open in Los Angeles (April 23-26) and the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship in Daly City, California (April 30-May 3). The LPGA Tour also announced that its first major of the season, the ANA Inspiration, has been rescheduled for September 10-13 at Mission Hills Country Club in California.

2.05pm – World Rugby has provisionally postponed the men’s World Series sevens tournaments in London and Paris until September. It also delayed a string of other sevens competitions and placed the Olympic Games repechage qualification tournament under review, while the World Rugby Under-20 Championship that was to be held in northern Italy in late June and July has been cancelled.

2.10pm – It was decided football could resume in Ireland on June 19 after the SSE Airtricity League’s clubs agreed a target date. All 19 clubs were represented during a conference call with the Football Association of Ireland and the national league executive committee, during which they agreed to set Friday, June 19 as a target date for both the Premier League and First Division.

3.21pm – UEFA confirmed that despite being provisionally put back by 12 months, next year’s postponed European Championship would still be known as ‘Euro 2020’.

3.55pm – Organisers of the Badminton Horse Trials in Gloucestershire have cancelled this year’s event. The competition, due to run from May 7-10, would have been a major one for British eventers hoping to challenge for places at the Tokyo Olympics.

4.09pm – The Welsh Rugby Union cancelled all league and cup competitions for the 2019-20 season. This decision, taken at a WRU board meeting on Friday, applies to all competitions currently under way, as well as matches between Welsh and Scottish clubs due to kick off in April.

4.55pm – The Football Association of Wales extended the current suspension of all domestic football until at least April 30.

5pm – The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) and Ireland’s four provinces – Connacht, Leinster, Munster and Ulster – agreed a payment deferral model for all employees due to the coronavirus pandemic. Domestic rugby in Ireland was suspended on March 12 in response to government advice on the spread of Covid-19, while the national team were unable to complete their Guinness Six Nations campaign.

5.29pm – The Scottish Rugby Union scrapped the remainder of the 2019-20 domestic season. Murrayfield chiefs had initially suspended action north of the border until March 29 but decided it is “not a reasonable prospect in a safe and practical time frame” to resume the current campaign. The SRU’s Championship and Competitions Committees and the Scottish Rugby Council were tasked with drawing up proposals on how to decide which teams should be promoted and relegated as well as the issue of awarding league titles.

6.34pm – The ECB announced there would be no professional cricket played in England and Wales until May 28. The governing body approved a seven-week delay to the start of the 2020 season following discussions with the first-class Counties, the MCC and the Professional Cricketers’ Association.

6.42pm – UEFA apologised after stating next year’s postponed European Championship would still be known as ‘Euro 2020’. It said: “To be clear, no decision has yet been made on the name of the rearranged EURO to be held in 2021. The earlier tweet was sent by mistake.”

7.38pm – GB Rowing became one of the last sports bodies in the country to close down due to the escalating coronavirus crisis. Olympic trials and team placements had been taking place through Friday in Caversham with further training sessions scheduled for next week. However following the prime minister’s announcement, GB Rowing said: “GB Rowing is now in the process of closing the National Training Centre at Caversham and transitioning our athletes to home-based training programmes.”