A view of the empty Juventus stadium, as a measure against coronavirus contagion, prior to the Serie A soccer match between Juventus and Inter, in Turin, Italy, Sunday, March 8, 2020. Serie A played on Sunday despite calls from Italy’s sports minister and players’ association president to suspend the games in Italy’s top soccer division. (Marco Alpozzi/LaPresse via AP)

Spreading virus affects more sports around the world

March 09, 2020 - 12:20 pm

LONDON (AP) — Hours after one of the biggest tennis tournaments in the world was postponed because of the coronavirus, more sporting events in Europe and Asia were affected Monday by the spread of the disease.

The BNP Paribas Open, set to begin this week in the California desert, won't be played as scheduled after a case of the virus was confirmed in the Coachella Valley.

In France, police said that the Champions League match between Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund at Parc des Princes will be played without fans.

It is the second of the four matches in the competition this week to be played in an empty stadium. Spanish authorities previously recommended restrictions on games involving teams from areas in Italy with high numbers of virus cases and said the Valencia-Atalanta match on Tuesday will take place without fans in attendance.

Leipzig's match against Tottenham on Tuesday and Liverpool's home game against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday are expected to be played with fans.

Wednesday's game in Paris will be the first match with no fans at the Parc des Princes in 10 years. The last time it happened, in March 2010, the decision was taken following crowd trouble during a match between PSG and French rival Marseille.

PSG, which lost the first leg 2-1, said it took note of the decision and said the club remains “fully mobilized to organize the match in the best possible conditions."

In the French league, the match between Lyon and visiting Reims on Friday will also be played without fans.

France has banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people. The country reported 1,126 cases of the virus as of Sunday, up 19% from the day before and the second largest number of cases in Europe after Italy. So far, 19 people in France have died.

The virus also forced the postponement of the Six Nations rugby match between France and Ireland. French sports minister Roxana Maracineanu said the decision to postpone was taken after discussions with tournament organizers and the French rugby federation.

The game was due to take place on Saturday at the Stade de France. A new date has yet to be announced.

In Italy, the national Olympic committee, which oversees all sports in the country, is planning to hold an emergency meeting with sports federation heads on Monday afternoon. The Italian soccer federation is expected to meet Tuesday to discuss whether to suspend matches around the country.

Also, the Italian swimming federation said it was withdrawing its teams from international events and canceled an Olympic qualifying meet scheduled for next week in Riccione.

Soccer games in Italy’s top division went ahead Sunday without spectators despite sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora saying he supported an appeal from players’ association president Damiano Tommasi to avoid putting athletes at risk.

Italy announced a sweeping quarantine early Sunday for its northern regions, igniting travel chaos. The extraordinary measures will be in place until April 3.

Italy’s death toll related to the virus increased to 366 on Sunday.

In Germany, it will be up to local authorities to decide if fans can attend matches this weekend in the top two divisions, the league's organizers said.

Last weekend’s Bundesliga matches ahead as planned with fans, though Borussia Mönchengladbach refunded tickets for supporters from an area affected by the virus after asking them not to attend the game.

Local authorities in the Swiss city of Basel refused permission for the city's soccer team to host Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League on March 19. UEFA has not yet confirmed a venue for the match.

Even the flame-lighting ceremony for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is being affected. Spectators will be kept away from the event in Ancient Olympia on Thursday, the Greek Olympic committee. Only 100 accredited guests will be allowed to attend.

Also, World Cup qualifying games in Asia were formally postponed until at least September, FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation said Monday, but matches could still go ahead on schedule if all relevant parties agree.

Japanese officials earlier postponed the start of the 12-team professional baseball league season. The season was to open on March 20. Japan's professional league had been playing its preseason games without fans because of the virus.

“I personally believe that we have no choice but to postpone at this stage," Japanese league commissioner Atsushi Saito said.

The announcement to cancel the tennis tournament in Indian Wells, California, came after many players were already in the desert practicing. Qualifying matches were to begin Monday, with women's main draw matches starting Wednesday and the men's draw beginning Thursday.

“We're here and still deciding what's next,” Rafael Nadal wrote on Twitter. “So sad for all that is happening around the world with this situation. Hopefully soon solutions from the authorities. Stay all well and safe.”

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