Coronavirus fear empties sports venues around the world


Coronavirus and Sporting venues Image: Getty Images/

With coronavirus disease (COVID-19) baring its fangs all over the globe, it has also had a rippling effect on the sports venue sector. It has impacted the staging of sporting events around the world and the virus has almost brought the world to a standstill.

Empty stadiums

Covid-19 has made everything topsy-turvy in the sporting world – cancelled sporting events, empty stadiums worldwide. Around the world, more and more countries are cancelling sporting events or holding them without spectators.

The game between Strasbourg and Paris Saint-Germain in the French soccer league has been postponed, while players from Liverpool and Bournemouth were the first in the English Premier League to go without pre-game handshakes.

The Barcelona marathon has been postponed from March 15 to October 25. Organizers offered the estimated 17,000 runners, about half of them from abroad, the choice of running the rescheduled race or reserving a place for March 2021.

British sporting events could soon be held without spectators. A full slate of Serie A soccer games in Italy, which has Europe’s largest number of virus cases, will be played in empty stadiums.

Masks and hand sanitizers are flying off the shelves, and cricket players in England are being offered “immunity packs” including hand sanitisers, sterilizing wipes and nasal sprays.

And the very few events which are being held with fans in attendance, they can be seen wearing protective masks and benches are being disinfected by cleaners at regular intervals. So huge is the fear for the virus, then even if a fellow spectator coughs lightly, a request is made for changing seats. The situation is indeed grim.

A look at the sporting events calendar – major sporting events are either being held behind closed doors or stands cancelled.

Ripple effect

  • France cap on sporting events
    France’s Sports Minister, Roxana Maracineanu, has declared that there will be a 1,000-attendance cap for all sporting events in the country until April 15 as coronavirus continues to wreak havoc all over the globe.

    Till date, France has reported 1,606 coronavirus cases and 30 deaths.

    France’s Six Nations rugby match against Ireland, which was all set to take place on March 14, has been postponed.

    A statement issued by Six Nations stated that it will continue to work with its constituent unions and federations to identify dates on which all postponed matches will take place, with Ireland vs Italy and Italy vs England having already been aborted.

    France has also put a halt on all indoor gatherings of more than 5,000 people following an emergency Cabinet meeting that also included measures such as the cancellation of the Paris half-marathon.

  • Bahrain Grand Prix
    The Bahrain Grand Prix – the second race of the new Formula One calendar – will be staged sans spectators as coronavirus continues to wreak havoc all over the globe.

    A statement released by the race organizers stated that the race will be held between March 20-22 but it would be a “participants-only event”

    The statement further read, “Given the continued spread of Covid-19 globally, convening a major sporting event, which is open to the public and allows thousands of international travelers and local fans to interact in close proximity, would not be the right thing to do at the present time. But to ensure that neither the sport, nor its global supporter base, is unduly impacted, the race weekend itself will still go ahead as a televised event.”

    There are 95 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Bahrain till date with no casualty reported so far.

  • Switzerland suspends league games
    The Swiss Super League and Challenge League fixtures have been cancelled amid as Covid-19 continues its ravage and trail of deaths all over the globe. The ruling comes from the Swiss Federal Council after announcing a temporary halt to events with more than 1,000 people expected to attend and this regulation is in place through to March 15, 2020.

    The spread of the coronavirus throughout Europe is also having severe impact on football, with several games in Italy being suspended last weekend after other sporting events the world over were postponed or cancelled as authorities struggle to contain daily spikes in reported cases of Covid-19.


Closed door football

  • The Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2020 play-off against Slovakia on March 26 will be played behind closed doors;
  • Matches in Spain’s top two divisions to be played behind closed doors for at least the next two weeks;
  • Barcelona’s Champions League game against Napoli on March 18 will be played behind closed doors at the Nou Camp;
  • Borussia Monchengladbach’s Bundesliga game against Cologne (in Germany on Wednesday also to be played behind closed doors;
  • Poland’s top-flight the Ekstraklasa to be played behind closed doors until further notice; and
  • The Romanian Football Federation announces that all league matches will be played behind closed doors until further notice and ticket sales for the 2021 European Under-21 Championship qualifier between Romania and Denmark on March 31 stands suspended.


Ice hockey league

With Germany witnessing an upsurge in Covid-19 cases (1,458 cases and 2 deaths till date), the German ice hockey league ended the current running season on March 10 because of the virus fast tightening its Octopus-like grip. There will be no German Ice Hockey Championship this season.


  • Two World Rowing Cups, the European Olympic and Paralympic Qualification Regatta and the final Paralympic Qualification Regatta, all due to be held in Italy between April 10-May 10, have been cancelled.


Table Tennis

International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) says April’s ITTF World Tour Japan Open is postponed. It hopes to hold the event in the latter part of 2020.

Rugby Union

The Six Nations match between France and Ireland, scheduled for 14 March, is postponed – Italy v England, initially set for the same day, was postponed recently.


  • Indian Wells, a combined ATP and WTA event which is one of the most prestigious tournaments outside of the Grand Slams, has been cancelled two days before the main draw matches were due to start.


Qatar World Cup 2022

  • The Asian qualifiers for the Qatar World Cup in 2022, due to be played from March 23-31 and June 1-9, stands postponed.


Italy hard hit

In Europe’s worst outbreak, Italy is in the tight grip of coronavirus – a country which is most hard hit by Covid-19 after China. Italy has announced that all sport at all levels in the country will be suspended until at least April 3. Italy’s Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte has announced a lockdown of the entire country. The virus has so far claimed the lives of 463 people in Italy.

Serie A – Italy’s top flight – has already announced that all games would be played behind closed doors until April 3.

The Italian Winters Sports Federation has suspended all sporting activity across its disciplines, including skiing, snowboarding and biathlon due to the coronavirus outbreak.


  • The Barcelona Marathon, which was scheduled for March 15, has been postponed until October 25.


Ice hockey

  • The 2020 IIHF Women’s World Championship, due to be held in Canada between March 31 and April 10, stands cancelled.



  • The World Athletics Half Marathon Championships in Gdynia, Poland, which was to be held on March 29, has now been rescheduled to October 17.



  • The Alpine Skiing World Cup finals scheduled for March 18-22 in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, is cancelled.



The Gymnastics World Cup event in Doha, Qatar, to be held from March 18-21, will now be hosted behind closed doors.

Force majeure

Covid-19 has caught humanity off guard and the events industry is no exception. A ban on events with more than 1,000 visitors will have a huge impact on big venues.

People associated with the event industry and venue operators are almost caught between the devil and the deep blue sea – an empty arena can spell doom but they are also aware that their venue can become a hotspot for the deadly virus to spread – person-to-person through respiratory droplets.

Spectators are the raison d’être of a venue. An empty venue will leave the sports venue sector bleeding white. The event industry people are nervously looking at the situation – for in this industry ticket sales are critical to financial survival – and are just keeping their fingers crossed as coronavirus cases continue to tick upwards globally. For now, they can only hope that it does not get worse than this.

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