Coronavirus wrap: Premier League football and European Tour golf set for returns

Premier League football is set to return on June 17 while British golf fans will only have to wait five weeks longer before a series of events begin.

Sport’s return from the coronavirus lockdown became more immediate after provisional plans for England’s top-flight resumption behind closed doors were unveiled – with all 92 remaining matches to be televised.

Rearranged fixtures between Aston Villa and Sheffield United and Manchester City versus Arsenal are due to kick off proceedings on June 17 with a full weekend card set to follow days later.

Matches will be spread out over the weekend with Sky Sports planning to screen 25 games free to air and the BBC confirming it will show four live fixtures in addition to Match of the Day highlights programmes, while BT Sport and Amazon Prime will also show matches.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said: “The Premier League and our clubs are proud to have incredibly passionate and loyal supporters. It is important to ensure as many people as possible can watch the matches at home.”

Golf’s European Tour will resume with the British Masters at Close House near Newcastle the opening tournament on July 22.

That will be followed by a revived English Open at Forest of Arden, the English Championship at Hanbury Manor, back-to-back tournaments at Celtic Manor – the Celtic Classic and the Wales Open – and the UK Championship at the Belfry.

Four Rolex Series events have also been announced, with the Scottish Open and PGA Championship in back-to-back weeks in October, while the Nedbank Golf Challenge and the World Tour Championship will take place in December.

The season will run through until December, with all tournaments played behind closed doors and subject to strict safety and testing protocols. A lifting of the Government’s two-week quarantine when arriving in the country will also be required.

The start of the county cricket season has been put back another month until August 1, with a variety of models being assessed for what would now be a drastically shortened campaign.

ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said: “We remain hopeful of seeing both domestic and recreational cricket this season.”

The British Grand Prix is expected to be pushed back to August after Formula One decided the Dutch version would not take place in 2020.

The PA news agency understands the proposed eight-race European schedule includes the Hungarian Grand Prix on July 19 before races at Silverstone on August 2 and August 9.

Rugby League returned in Australia with Brodie Croft scoring a try in Brisbane Broncos’ NRL defeat by Parramatta Eels after reportedly only passing a temperature test at the third time of asking.

But no decisions were made on a potential Super League return during a meeting where clubs voted unanimously to retain the salary cap at existing levels for 2021.

World Rugby’s executive committee approved 10 optional law changes to help reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission, including limits to scrum options with no scrum resets, and limits for players joining rucks and mauls.

The governing body says the ruck and maul measures could “reduce contact exposure for tight-five players by more than 30 per cent, reduced exposure at the ruck by up to 25 per cent and reduce maul exposure by 50 per cent”.

However, the changes are not likely to be implemented in full in England.

The Rugby Football Union told BBC Sport: “The RFU has its own review under way looking at the options for return to training and return to play rugby for clubs in England.

“When Government advice on social distancing measures are lifted, specific RFU guidance will be announced and provided to clubs.”

This year’s Boston Marathon has been cancelled, the first time in the event’s 124-year history that it will not take place.

However, the race – originally scheduled for April 20 – will be replaced by a virtual event which runners can participate in any time between September 7 and the race’s intended replacement date of September 14.

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