After more than two months of a virtual worldwide sporting blackout due to the coronavirus pandemic, the end of fans’ and punters’ torture is in sight.
The NRL is the first cab off the rank in Australia, while various sporting leagues are already underway overseas. Uncertainty still surrounds some of the highest profile competitions – but most now have a scheduled restart date, or at least a rough plan in place.
Restart: 28 May
The NRL played out the first two rounds of its 2020 premiership before reluctantly suspending the campaign. Determinedly – and many would say impatiently – seeking out avenues to return to the field as soon as possible, the NRL’s bullishness has paid off with rugby league getting the jump on its rivals and returning to the field on 28 May.
The regular season was reduced to 20 rounds (including the two that have already been played), with the NRL Grand Final locked in for 25 October in Sydney.
The State of Origin series has been moved from its traditional mid-season position until after the NRL finishes, with the three matches between New South Wales and Queensland to be played on three consecutive weekends in November.
Restart: 11 June
The AFL 2020 premiership’s opening round went ahead before the competition was put on hold. More cautious and conservative than its NRL counterparts, the AFL is on course for an 11 June resumption of a truncated 17-round season.
Arch rivals Collingwood and Richmond will get the AFL back underway with a Thursday-night blockbuster. The AFL Grand Final has a tentative 24 October date pencilled in – and it could be the first night-time decider in the code’s history.
Restart: 13 June (New Zealand only)
Super Rugby 2020 was seven rounds deep when COVID-19 effectively skittled the season. With teams from New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Argentina and Japan competing, travel restrictions ensured the competition would not resume.
Instead, an Aotearoa Super Rugby competition featuring the five New Zealand–based franchises will get underway on 13 June, running for 10 weekends. A similar league involving the four Australian franchises, plus ex–Super Rugby side Western Force, is apparently in the works.
Expected restart: August
The Australian A-League had just five regular-season rounds left when it became the last major sporting competition in the country to pull the pin. Despite rival codes’ imminent return, the A-League is not expected to be back until August – which complicates matters for a competition that begins in October each year. Defending champs Sydney FC took an eight-point lead into the shutdown.
Expected restart: July (at the earliest)
The NBA teams were at least 63 games into their 82-game regular-season schedule when the league became one of the first big sporting dominoes to fall due to COVID-19. Myriad options for the season’s resumption have been floated, including heading straight into an expanded play-offs series – and doing away with the conference system to do so. Further directives are expected in early June, but expect courts to remain empty until July at the absolute earliest.
Expected restart: Unknown
The NHL was even more advanced in its season than the NBA, with its 31 teams having played at least 69 of their 82 regular-season games. The league announced the competition would move straight into the play-offs upon resumption, with the top 12 teams from the Eastern and Western Conferences included. The return date, however, remains undecided – and the split of US and Canadian teams clouds that issue further.
Expected restart: July (at the earliest)
The coronavirus sports shutdown hit just weeks out from Major League Baseball’s scheduled 26 March start. Negotiations between the MLB and its Players Association over salary cuts are ongoing and a start to a likely-shortened 2020 campaign will not happen before early July.
Expected restart: Late June (at the earliest)
The 2020 Major League Soccer season was just two rounds in when it ground to a halt due to the pandemic. MLS has adjusted its plans to stage a 26-team tournament in Orlando, Florida, and a proposal for a revised format requiring players to be away from their home markets for 10 weeks was met with resistance from the Players Association. No action is expected before late June.
Expected restart: September
The NFL’s early-September start date has put it in a far less vulnerable position than the other major US sports leagues, but it’s still not a given the 2020 season will get underway as scheduled given the nation’s coronavirus situation.
Restart: 17 June
Each of the 20 clubs in the English Premier League was left with 10 or 11 matches of the 38-week season still to play when the season was suspended – and Liverpool boasted a virtually unassailable 25-point lead in their quest for a long-awaited maiden EPL title.
The EPL announced in late-May that the season would resume on 17 June with a showdown between Manchester City and Arsenal. The 92 remaining matches will be played in crowdless stadiums. The FA Cup, which is at the quarter-final stage, has been earmarked for an August resumption.
Restart: Varies by league
Germany’s Bundesliga was the first major European football league to resume, ending a two-month hiatus on 16 May. The season will extend to 27 June – fewer than six weeks after the original end date.
The Spanish La Liga had just 11 matches remaining when the pandemic forced a halt. The season is scheduled to return on 11 June. Italy’s Serie A has been on hold since 9 March and a return date is yet to be confirmed, though it is expected the competition will not be far behind La Liga.
Meanwhile, the future of the 2019–20 UEFA Champions League remains uncertain. The competition was in the midst of the round of 16 when the coronavirus forced it into a holding pattern. The fact clubs from five countries are still involved complicates the resumption – which is expected to be at least a couple of months away.
Restart: 5 July
The 2020 Formula One World Championship was set to get underway with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on 15 March, but the race was cancelled at the eleventh hour amid high farce. The subsequent nine races on the Formula One calendar were either cancelled or postponed (with new dates TBA), but the season is scheduled to resume on 5 July with the Austrian Grand Prix.
Restart: 27 June
The 2020 Supercars Championship kicked off in Adelaide, but the second round in Melbourne was cancelled as the coronavirus situation evolved rapidly in mid-March. The drivers occupied their time on the sidelines by competing in the Esupercars Series, but the Supercars Championship is scheduled to resume on 27 June courtesy of the event at Sydney Motorsport Park. The hallowed Bathurst 1000 remains in its usual October slot, but the season will extend until mid-February.
Restart: 17 May
The NASCAR season paused after four rounds but was the first major motorsport competition to recommence, getting back on the track on 17 May via The Real Heroes 400 in Darlington, South Carolina. NASCAR 2020 is schedule to run through to 8 November.
Restart: 9 May
The Ultimate Fighting Championship was one of the world’s first major sporting organisations to restart, largely due to the pugnacious efforts of UFC president Dana White. UFC 249 was staged behind closed doors on 9 May – just three weeks after its originally scheduled date – in Jacksonville, Florida. Justin Gaethje upset Tony Ferguson for the interim UFC Lightweight Championship via a fifth-round TKO in the main event.
UFC Fight Night events are regularly being rolled out now, while UFC 250 is set down for 7 June and UFC 251 is scheduled for 11 July.
Restart: 20 July (WTA), 3 August (ATP)
The men’s ATP and women’s WTA tennis tours halted competition in March. Wimbledon 2020 was eventually cancelled, but the French Open – where Aussie world number one Ashleigh Barty will aim to defend her title – was rescheduled to a 28 September start, just two weeks after the US Open finishes.
The WTA tour is set to recommence with the Palermo Open in Italy on 20 July, while the ATP tour gets back underway with the Washington Open on 3 August.
Restart: 14 June
The pre-eminent men’s golf tour on the planet came to a grinding halt in mid-March with The Players Championship cancelled after one round. A further nine tournaments have been cancelled, but the tour resumes on 14 June courtesy of the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas.
The British Open was the only golf major to be cancelled. The PGA Championship – scheduled for 17 May – was postponed until 9 August, while the US Open (20 September) and Masters Tournament (15 November) have been postponed into the early stages of the 2020–21 PGA Tour season.
The women’s LPGA tour returns on 23 July at the Marathon Classic in Ohio.
TOUR DE FRANCE
Restart: 29 August
The world’s greatest cycling race was scheduled to commence on 27 June but has been pushed back to 29 August due to COVID-19. Tour de France 2020 outright betting is now open.
WORLD SURF LEAGUE
Restart: 7 July
Somewhat ironically, the Corona Open Gold Coast was the first Men’s and Women’s Championship Tour event to be cancelled back in March. Four subsequent WSL events were postponed, but in a potentially fitting instance of symmetry the iconic Corona Open J-Bay in South Africa is still scheduled to go ahead from 7–19 July.
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