Here's How the Coronavirus Has Affected Sports Leagues Across the World

The coronavirus outbreak has led to massive global disruption, including in some of the world's most prominent sports leagues and institutions.

General view of the ball used in a NBA game between the Charlotte Hornets and the Utah Jazz

Image via Getty/Gene Sweeney Jr.

General view of the ball used in a NBA game between the Charlotte Hornets and the Utah Jazz

The coronavirus outbreak has led to massive global disruption, something we're seeing play out in real time in the sports world. With the public's health a top priority, leagues across the globe have been forced to take drastic measures that include playing games without fans, to canceling major events altogether. Below, a roundup of how some of the world's most prominent sports leagues and institutions are adjusting to our new reality.


On Wednesday, it was confirmed that the rest of the NBA season would be suspended. The news came shortly after it was reported that Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert had tested positive for COVID-19, speeding up the decision to cancel the remaining games. Additionally, his teammate Donovan Mitchell also tested positive.

NBA To Suspend Season Following Tonight's Games

— NBA (@NBA) March 12, 2020

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver appeared on TNT Thursday and said the NBA hiatus will be "at least 30 days."

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver joins TNT to discuss the league’s decision to suspend game play.

— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) March 13, 2020

Prior to this, the NBA released a joint announcement with the NHL, MLB, and MLS announcing that team locker rooms will be closed to media and any non-essential personnel as of Tuesday.

The NBA, NHL, MLS and MLB will close locker rooms and clubhouses to the news media and any non-essential personnel until further notice due to concerns over coronavirus.

— Ron Mintz (@MintzGolf) March 9, 2020

The league and Board of Governors/owners held a meeting on Wednesday to discuss ways to play games and finish out the season without increasing the threat of infection. 

The NBA's exploring ways to allow the league to continue playing and televising games during the coronavirus crisis, even with it increasingly likely that'll be done in empty arenas. The Board of Governors/owners with NBA was set for 4:30 PM ET.

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 11, 2020

Wojnarowski, along with Zach Lowe, later reported that the consensus of the meeting was to "either continue season with no fans in arenas -- or have NBA take a hiatus for a period time." 

Reporting with @ZachLowe_NBA: Consensus among owners on Board of Governors call with league office was either continue season with no fans in arenas -- or have NBA take a hiatus for a period time. NBA is expected to have a decision as soon as Thursday on next steps.
The greater consensus among the teams is continuing to play games without fans in arenas, and the league is expected to move toward a resolution on Thursday, sources tell ESPN.

The Athletic's Sam Amick reports that NBA has asked teams to "provide its arena schedule through July," which he says is the clearest indication that the NBA was considering postponing the season altogether.

via @sam_amick - The NBA has been asking teams to provide its arena schedule through July, which is as clear a sign as any that the notion of putting everything on hold for a while so the authorities can attempt to contain the virus remains in play -

— David Goins (@dgoins) March 11, 2020

Meanwhile, the Governor of Ohio, Mike DeWine, closed all-indoor athletic events in the state to fans. Only players, coaches, parents, and employees are allowed to attend these events, which means the Cavs will begin playing games without fans in attendance.

ATHLETICS: For indoor events, we are asking for no events with spectators other than the athletes, parents, and others essential to the game.

Right now, outdoor events can continue. #COVID19

— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) March 10, 2020

At a minimum, what we said yesterday about mass gatherings will become an order. #COVID19

— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) March 11, 2020


On Wednesday, the NCAA announced that both men's and women's tournaments will be held without fans.

NCAA President Mark Emmert statement on limiting attendance at NCAA events:

— NCAA (@NCAA) March 11, 2020

The Mid-American and Big West conferences have also limited the number of fans they will allow at their tournaments.

The Ivy League took more drastic measures, canceling their conference tournament altogether. The conference will instead be sending the regular-season champions to the NCAA tournament. The conference also canceled all spring sporting events.

The Ivy League has decided to cancel the League's upcoming Basketball Tournaments and implement highly-restrictive, in-venue spectator limitations for all other upcoming campus athletics events.

📰 »

— The Ivy League (@IvyLeague) March 10, 2020


On Wednesday, the Governor of Washington banned large gatherings of people throughout the month of March, which forced the Seattle Mariners to move their upcoming games to other stadiums outside of Seattle.

Statement from the Seattle Mariners on Governor Jay Inslee’s community strategies to combat the spread of COVID19:


— Mariners PR (@MarinersPR) March 11, 2020

On Thursday, multiple reports suggested that the MLB is shutting down spring training, and delaying the start of the regular season. 

After a conference call among owners this afternoon, Major League Baseball is expected to suspend spring training. The league likely will delay the beginning of the regular season as well. At this point, it's a formality that ownership-level sources expect to happen.

— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 12, 2020


After closing its locker rooms to non-essential personnel, MLS insiders revealed that the league is still toying with the idea of postponing games rather than canceling any contests outright. However, it has since been confirmed the season has been suspended immediately and will not go ahead until further notice.

MLS is suspending its season immediately until further notice due to coronavirus, a source with knowledge of the situation tells Sports Illustrated.

— Subscribe to (@GrantWahl) March 12, 2020

Before the announcement of the suspension, the San Jose Earthquakes released a statement on Tuesday, announcing that the franchise plans to comply with the Santa Clara Public Health Department's legal order barring all gatherings of 1,000 people or more. 

Earthquakes Statement on Recent County of Santa Clara Public Health Department Mandate.

— San Jose Earthquakes (@SJEarthquakes) March 10, 2020

The Seattle Sounders are postponing games due to the state's regulations regarding the coronavirus.

Following Governor Inslee’s news conference this morning, Sounders FC's match on March 21 versus FC Dallas at CenturyLink Field has been postponed.


— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) March 11, 2020


While the WNBA is currently not in season, commissioner Cathy Engelbert released a statement to confirm the league is monitoring the situation closing. "The health and safety of players and employees—with our teams and at the league level—is of the utomost importance," said Engelbert. "With regard to COVID-19, we are in touch with the teams, consulting with infectious disease specialists and monitoring guidance from the CDC and WHO. The WNBA is currently not in season, but together with the WNBPA and teams, we have been in close communication and will continue to connect with and offer resources to players in the U.S. and those playing overseas."

WNBA Statement Regarding COVID-19

— WNBA (@WNBA) March 12, 2020

Further details regarding the status of the 2020 WNBA Draft on April 17, the start of training camp on April 26, and the start of the season May 15 "will be shared later this month."


The Masters has been postponed due to growing concerns about the coronavirus.

"Ultimately, the health and well-being of everyone associated with these events and the citizens of the Augusta community led us to this decision," Fred Ridley, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, wrote in a statement Friday morning. "We hope this postponement puts us in the best position to safely host the Masters Tournament and our amateur events at some later date."

Statement from Chairman Ridley:

"Considering the latest information and expert analysis, we have decided at this time to postpone @TheMasters, @anwagolf and @DriveChipPutt National Finals."

Full details at

— The Masters (@TheMasters) March 13, 2020

The 2020 Players Championship has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the PGA Tour announced on Thursday evening.

It is with regret that we are announcing the cancellation of THE PLAYERS Championship and all events through the Valero Texas Open.

— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 13, 2020

"It is with regret that we are announcing the cancellation of The Players Championship. We have also decided to cancel all PGA Tour events – across all of our Tours – in the coming weeks, through the Valero Texas Open," the organization said in a statement.


League commissioner Gary Bettman released a statement on Saturday, addressing coronavirus concerns. 

You know what, I don't want to create any speculation or hysteria. There are obviously a variety of consequences that we may have to focus on, and we'll do that at the appropriate time. But let's not get ahead of ourselves here, OK? We're staying on top of it and we're in constant communication with our clubs and the [NHL] Players' Association, and we're going to deal with this in as thorough, professional, on-top-of-it manner as possible. But let's everybody take a deep breath.

On Thursday, the league officially announced that it's suspending the season. 

The NHL pauses the 2019-20 season.

— NHL (@NHL) March 12, 2020


The XFL is the latest professional sports league to suspend its season over growing concerns about the coronavirus. The league announced that it will refund fans, however. It will also pay all XFL players their base pay and benefits.


WrestleMania 36 will now be livestreamed and will move forward without audiences, the WWEannounced on Monday, March 16. 

WrestleMania Update:

"In coordination with local partners and government officials, WrestleMania and all related events in Tampa Bay will not take place," the WWE said in a statement. "However, WrestleMania will still stream live on Sunday, April 5 at 7 pm ET on WWE Network and be available on pay-per-view. Only essential personnel will be on the closed set at WWE’s training facility in Orlando, Florida to produce WrestleMania."

Shortly after the news was announced, CM Punk took to Twitter to say this:

Well that’s one way to make sure Roman finally gets not booed and nobody chants for meeeeeeee.


The UFC has decided to postpone three events. President Dana White said that UFC Fight Night events scheduled for March 21, March 28, and April 11 were postponed after the White House advised that gatherings of more than 10 people should be avoided. The April 18 fight between Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov is still set to proceed. 

“We have no choice now but to postpone these fights. So we’re postponing the next three events, but Tony Ferguson versus Khabib, April 18, is still on and that will still happen.”@danawhite joined @SportsCenter to address the postponement of upcoming UFC events.

Foreign Sports/Soccer Leagues

Italy has been hit hard by the coronavirus, and in addition to locking down the entire country, has also halted all sporting events, including the country's beloved Serie A soccer league.

Germany, Spain, and France's soccer leagues are continuing competition but in empty stadiums

The Chinese Basketball Association has postponed the season.

The Six Nations 2020 Rugby event has been postponed.

The Indian Wells tennis tournament was canceled. 

On Thursday, Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta tested positive for coronavirus. 

Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta has tested positive for coronavirus.

— Sky Sports (@SkySports) March 12, 2020

As a result, the Premier League announced that it will hold an emergency meeting on Friday regarding next steps. 

And perhaps most severe of all, the Summer Olympics in Tokyo are in danger of being postponed or canceled altogether, despite pushback from organizers.

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