The NBA became the first major U.S. sports league to suspend games “until further notice” on Wednesday after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. Other sports soon followed.
Events and games overseas had already been canceled, postponed or played in venues without fans.
Here is a look at the coronavirus impact 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 Wednesday night. “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 NHL put its season on “pause” Thursday. 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.”
Previously, the San Jose Sharks said they would play their next three home games (March 19 against Montreal, March 21 against Boston and March 29 against Arizona) without fans. All games are now off.
Major League Baseball was the final in-season major U.S. sports league to postpone games. It will suspend the rest of spring training and delay the start of the regular season by at least two weeks. “MLB and the Clubs have been preparing a variety of contingency plans regarding the 2020 regular season schedule,” the league said Thursday. “MLB will announce the effects on the schedule at the appropriate time and will remain flexible as events warrant, with the hopes of resuming normal operations as soon as possible.”
On Wednesday, the Mariners had announced plans to move their series with the Texas Rangers out of T-Mobile Park in Seattle. Washington governor Jay Inslee banned all public gatherings of 250 or more in King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties at least through March.
The cities of San Francisco and Oakland had both banned events of more than 1,000 people. The Oakland-Alameda Coliseum Authority canceled all events at the RingCentral Coliseum through the end of March, and the Oakland A’s had said they are working on alternative plans for the six home games scheduled for this month. The San Francisco Giants’ home opener was not scheduled to be played until April 3, but the team had already canceled its March 24 exhibition game against the A’s at Oracle Park before the league’s announcement.
The NFL draft is still set to take place April 23-25 in Las Vegas. The event 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, scheduled to be held in Las Vegas, has 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 did cancel 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.
It took the NCAA 24 hours to reverse course on March Madness after president Mark Emmert announced Wednesday 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 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 on Thursday to cancel the events. They join the Ivy League, which canceled its postseason tournament on Tuesday, giving Yale and Princeton—winners of the men’s and women’s regular-season crowns—the league’s automatic bids to the NCAA tournaments.
Major League Soccer announced on Thursday that games will 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.
MLS started its season on February. Previously, the Seattle Sounders postponed their March 21 home match against FC Dallas. The San Jose Earthquakes said they would postpone their March 21 match. 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 on Thursday kicked off The Players Championship, the richest tourney of the year with $15 million in prize money. The event’s economic impact is estimated at $150 million. The first round of the TPC was played before fans, but the Tour said the rest of the tournament and events for the next four weeks would be played without fans.
The Tour issued an update Thursday night: “We have also decided to cancel all PGA Tour events – across all of our Tours – in the coming weeks, through the Valero Texas Open. We have pledged from the start to be responsible, thoughtful and transparent with our decision process. We did everything possible to create a safe environment for our players in order to continue the event throughout the weekend, and we were endeavoring to give our fans a much-needed respite from the current climate. But at this point – and as the situation continues to rapidly change – the right thing to do for our players and our fans is to pause.”
LPGA events in Thailand, Singapore and China scheduled to take place over the past three weeks were all canceled. The LPGA joined other leagues Thursday to suspend events. The next three tournaments on the schedule were postponed, including its first major championship of the year, the ANA Inspiration, on April 2.
The ATP Tour suspended all men’s professional tennis events on Thursday for six weeks, through April 20, because of the coronavirus outbreak. The decision impacts 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 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells was canceled earlier this month. 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 Thursday morning behind closed doors. The world’s biggest sporting event is 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 global travel restrictions may pose a threat to the multibillion-dollar event.
NBCUniversal said it 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.
Saturday’s event in Brasilia, Brazil, will take place but without any fans in the building for UFC Fight Night 170 (the broadcast is on the ESPN+ streaming service). The UFC promotion then heads to London before returning to the U.S. for a series of events. The big one is the UFC 249 pay-per-view on April 18 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, featuring lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov versus Tony Ferguson. Nurmagomedov’s 2018 fight against Connor McGregor set records for most PPV buys (2.4 million) and gate revenue in Nevada ($17.2 million).
UEFA officially suspended Champions League play on Friday, and all major European soccer leagues are now on hold. UEFA previously had postponed the Manchester City-Real Madrid and Juventus-Lyon Champions League games on Thursday over the coronavirus.
The Premier League was expected to play its league games behind closed doors, but announced Friday morning that games will 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,” according to the organization.
The game between Manchester City and Arsenal scheduled for March 11 had previously been postponed after Olympiakos owner Evangelos Marinakis contracted the virus and attended his team’s Europa League game at Arsenal.
The next two weeks of La Liga games had been expected to be played fan-less, but Spain’s top soccer league later suspended all games because of the outbreak as Real Madrid players were in quarantine. Lower levels of professional soccer games in Spain were also called off.
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 Friday decided to suspend all games until further notice.
Italy’s Serie A games have been suspended until April 3.
The race series said Wednesday that it was moving forward with its race at Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend with limited modifications, like driver interviews conducted with six-foot buffers around them. But Nascar altered its plans Thursday and announced that races at Atlanta and Homestead would take place without fans. “These events will be restricted to competitors, crews, officials and other necessary personnel to conduct the race,” Nascar said in a statement. “We will work with public health officials as we determine future scheduling beyond these events.”
Formula One is one of the most global sports, with events around the world. The Bahrain Grand Prix is scheduled to take place on March 22 without spectators—F1’s first race without fan attendance in its 70-year history. Attendance averaged nearly 200,000 fans per race in 2019.
The Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai on April 19 had already been postponed. The hosting fee for the Shanghai race is an estimated $33 million.
Vince McMahon’s new football league is off to a rocky start with dwindling TV ratings over five games. Thursday night’s announcement that the season is cancelled is not going to help the long-time survival of the league. The statement reads:
“Currently, the XFL will not be playing its regular-season games. 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 Monday.