Major events still set to go ahead despite coronavirus ban elsewhere

Coronavirus crowd chaos: Morrissey’s 12,000-seater Wembley show and the London Boat Race are among events still set to go ahead this month despite ban on mass-gatherings across world

  • Government is expected to shift its response to coronavirus outbreak to ‘delay’ 
  • Move could mean sporting events are called off or played behind closed doors
  • Music gigs may be postponed, theme parks closed and conferences cancelled
  • Eight people have died from Covid-19 in UK with 460 positive cases recorded
  • Crisis-hit Italy has shut shops while France bans gatherings of 1,000+ people

Mass gatherings across Britain could be cancelled over the coming weeks with the Government expected to shift its response to the coronavirus outbreak to ‘delay’.

The move could mean sporting events will be called off or played behind closed doors, music gigs postponed, theme parks closed and conferences cancelled.

There is currently no ban on gatherings in the UK despite eight people having died from Covid-19 in Britain, with the total number of positive cases now at 460.

This is in contrast to the response across Europe, including in crisis-hit Italy which has closed shops, schools, gyms, museums, nightclubs and cancelled all sport.

Elsewhere, France has banned all gatherings of more than 1,000 people, while the NBA basketball season in the US has been suspended ‘until further notice’. 

But it is still unclear if the Government will call for the closure of public spaces and the cancellation of major sporting events – as has happened in other countries.

Morrissey is due to play a gig at Wembley Arena in London on Saturday. He is pictured in concert at the same venue in North West London in December 2006

Upcoming UK concerts potentially now under threat at The O2 in London include Pussycat Dolls on April 17, Harry Styles on April 22 and Craig David on April 26.

Other artists due to perform at the 20,000-capacity venue soon include David Gray on March 26, Evanescence on April 7 and Snoop Dogg on April 15.

Upcoming gigs at the 12,500-capacity Wembley Arena could also be affected, including Morrissey on March 14, The Who on April 8 and Andre Rieu on April 24.

Theme parks such as Alton Towers, due to open on March 21, and Thorpe Park, on March 27, could have to close if a ban on mass public gatherings comes in.

And West End theatres could face having to suspend performances, with current hit shows including The Lion King, The Phantom of the Opera and Wicked.

The Boat Race is due to take place on the River Thames in London on March 29. Pictured above, the Oxford boat trails the Cambridge boat towards Hammersmith Bridge in April 2019

Other shows facing cancellation in London include Mamma Mia, Mary Poppins, The Book of Mormon, Matilda, Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen and Les Miserables.

Major conferences also face cancellation, including London Bridal Fashion Week from March 22 and the London Bike Show from March 27 at ExCel London.

Others which could be cancelled at the 70,000-capacity venue including the Property Investor Show on April 5 and The National Wedding Show from April 4.

High-profile sporting events over the next two months which could be under threat include the Boat Race on March 29 and the Grand National at Aintree on April 3.

London Bridal Fashion Week is due to take place from March 27 at the ExCel in London. Last year’s event is pictured

Also coming up is England v Italy in the football at Wembley on March 27, and the London Marathon on April 26 which is due to be attended by Prince Harry.

UK’s upcoming major sporting events

All of these major sporting events in the UK are still planned to take place over the next three months:

  • March 29: Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race
  • April 3: Grand National at Aintree
  • April 26: London Marathon
  • May 9: Women’s FA Cup Final at Wembley
  • May 17: Final round of Premier League season
  • May 23: Men’s FA Cup Final at Wembley
  • June 12 to July 12: Euro 2020 football (Wembley final)
  • June 20 : Anthony Joshua v Kubrat Pulev (at Spurs) 
  • June 29: The Wimbledon Championships begin

Looking further ahead, the Euro 2020 football tournament, scheduled to be held in 12 cities across the continent, is due to begin in Rome on June 12.

There is also the FA Cup final at Wembley on May 23, the Anthony Joshua v Kubrat Pulev fight in London on June 20 and Wimbledon, due to start on June 29.

Manchester City’s clash against Arsenal in the Premier League last night became the first top flight fixture to fall victim due to fears surrounding coronavirus.

All other fixtures are still due to go ahead as it stands, although they could soon be played behind closed doors under new plans to combat the spread of the virus.

Boris Johnson is expected to accept today that the coronavirus outbreak can no longer be contained in the UK, signalling the start of the next phase in the battle.

The Prime Minister will chair a Cobra meeting at lunchtime this afternoon where ministers are expected to agree to move into the ‘delay’ stage of the process.

Moving to delay would mean social distancing measures could be brought in, such as restricting public gatherings and issuing more widespread advice to stay at home.

Theme parks such as Alton Towers in Staffordshire, which is due to open on March 21, could have to close if a ban on mass public gatherings comes in. The site is pictured in July 2017

The expected shift in UK policy came as Donald Trump dramatically escalated the US response to the coronavirus pandemic, slapping a travel ban on continental Europe.

What will happen if football is ordered to be played with no fans? 

All matches are expected to be played behind closed doors under new plans to combat the spread of the virus.

According to The Times, the current season will not be postponed but games will be contested with no supporters present. All Premier League ticket holders for individual clashes will be able to stream coverage of matches in their homes instead.

With the response to the pandemic moving imminently, no games will be shown in pubs to avoid congestion of people, and Premier League fixtures will not be shown live in the Saturday 3pm slot.

Broadcasters are believed to be permitted to screen more than one top flight game during the lunchtime and tea-time slots – and this would apply across the weekend and on Mondays.

Supporters of clubs in the Football League would be able to watch action from the lower tiers using iFollow streams. 

The guidelines are viewed as a potential way to ensure that the current campaign is completed on schedule, with several other domestic leagues across the continent affected by coronavirus.

Officials from the Premier League, the Football League and the Football Association have remained in regular contact with the government to deal with the escalating situation.

The suspension of travel between the United States and Europe – excluding the UK and Ireland – will last for 30 days starting tomorrow.

Mr Trump made the announcement in an Oval Office address to the nation, blaming the EU for not acting quickly enough to address the outbreak of the virus and saying US clusters were ‘seeded’ by European travellers.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak played down the prospect of the UK imposing similar travel restrictions, saying ‘the evidence here doesn’t support that’.

Today’s Cobra meeting comes after eight people with Covid-19 were confirmed to have died in the UK, while the total number of positive cases rose to 460.

A Cabinet minister, who has not been named, was self-isolating while awaiting a test result after coming into contact with health minister Nadine Dorries.

Ms Dorries is self-isolating at home after being diagnosed with the illness.

A source confirmed fellow health minister Edward Argar is also self-isolating at home ‘as a precaution’ after having lunch with Ms Dorries on Thursday, the day she started to feel unwell.

Mr Sunak told the BBC: ‘This has obviously now impacted Parliament and government, and we are dealing with it, like all other businesses are going to have to start dealing with it.’

Public Health England was carrying out a ‘very thorough and rigorous process’ to trace people who had been in close contact with Ms Dorries, he said.

Meanwhile the NBA season has been suspended ‘until further notice’ after an unnamed player from the Utah Jazz tested positive for coronavirus.

The NBA’s decision came as F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton said it was ‘shocking’ that his sport was pressing on with starting its season this weekend.

Major music concerts now under threat

These upcoming major music concerts over the next six weeks could now be potentially under threat if the Government bans mass gatherings:

  • March 14: Morrissey (Wembley)
  • March 26: David Gray (The O2)
  • April 7: Evanescence (The O2)
  • April 8: The Who (Wembley) 
  • April 15: Snoop Dogg (The O2) 
  • April 17: Pussycat Dolls (The O2)
  • April 22: Harry Styles (The O2)
  • April 24: Andre Rieu (Wembley) 
  • April 26: Craig David (The O2) 

US basketball was suspended after the league was advised of the positive test shortly before last night’s game between the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Premier League and Football League have continued to indicate that they will follow government advice when it comes to postponements or playing matches behind closed doors.

Sheffield Wednesday are understood to be in dialogue with the authorities over Saturday’s match against Nottingham Forest, whose owner Evangelos Marinkis’ positive diagnosis.

However, Forest confirmed that all players, staff and officers have been tested for the coronavirus and come back negative.

Wolves’ Europa League match against Olymiapcos, whom Marinkis also owns, is set to take place behind closed doors in Greece tonight despite the Premier League club expressing their opposition.

England’s friendly against Italy at Wembley on March 27 is still scheduled to go ahead, and UEFA has confirmed it has received no requests from national associations to postpone the Euro 2020 finals, which are due to start in Rome on June 12.

Sport-by-sport look at the impact of the coronavirus outbreak

The coronavirus outbreak continues to have an impact on the sporting schedule as some of 2020’s biggest events come into view.

A range of sports have had to take action to prevent the spread of the virus, with postponements hitting the Premier League, Guinness Six Nations and Formula One, while all domestic sporting action in Italy has been suspended until April 3 at the earliest.

Sports governing bodies in the United Kingdom attended a meeting with broadcasters and Government officials on Monday to discuss contingency plans and, with spectacles such as Euro 2020, the Olympics and golf’s majors on the horizon, the PA news agency takes a sport-by-sport look at the impact of the coronavirus.


Juventus announced defender Daniele Rugani had tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday night. The Premier League clash between Manchester City and Arsenal on Wednesday was postponed as a ‘precautionary measure’ after Olympiacos owner Evangelos Marinakis tested positive for coronavirus. Marinakis, who is also the majority owner of Nottingham Forest, met Arsenal staff and players after the Europa League tie at the Emirates Stadium on February 27. Arsenal said none of their personnel who had met Marinakis had reported symptoms, with ‘a number of players’ understood to be in self-isolation for 14 days. They will return to training on Friday if they remain symptom-free, with the league trip to Brighton on Saturday scheduled to go ahead. All Forest’s players and staff were given the all-clear after being tested and the English Football League has no immediate plans to postpone any of its fixtures. On the continent, all domestic sporting action in Italy – including Serie A matches – has been suspended until April 3, although that does not cover Italian clubs involved in the Champions and Europa Leagues. However, Thursday’s Europa League ties between Sevilla and Roma in Spain and Inter Milan and Getafe in Italy have been called off due to travel restrictions between the two countries imposed by the Spanish authorities. French Ligue 1 games will be held behind closed doors or in front of no more than 1,000 spectators, while the top two divisions in Spanish football will be played without spectators until at least March 22. All matches in the German Bundesliga this weekend will be played behind closed doors, except RB Leipzig’s home clash with Freiburg which does not have any restrictions. Other matches being played behind closed doors include Barcelona’s game at home to Napoli and Chelsea’s trip to Bayern Munich in the Champions League next week, as well as the Europa League games between Olympiacos and Wolves and LASK and Manchester United on Thursday and Rangers’ match at Bayer Leverkusen the following week. Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2020 play-off semi-final in Slovakia on March 26 will also take place in an empty stadium, while the Bosnia and Herzegovina Football Federation has suspended ticket sales for their play-off match with Northern Ireland. UEFA, however, says it has received no requests to postpone this summer’s Euro 2020, which is scheduled to be held in 12 cities across the continent, beginning in Rome.

Olympics and Paralympics

The International Olympic Committee remains fully committed to staging the Tokyo 2020 Games as scheduled this summer, despite Japan’s Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto suggesting it could be postponed until later in the year. The British Olympic Association still plans to send a delegation of around 55 people to Tokyo this month for a ‘detailed operational recce’.

Rugby Union

The France v Ireland and Italy v England games in the final round of the Guinness Six Nations have been postponed, with Wales v Scotland the only game due to go ahead as scheduled. PRO 14 matches involving Italian sides Benetton and Zebre have been postponed, but the organisers of rugby union’s European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup competitions have said the quarter-final ties scheduled for April 3-5 are still set to go ahead.

Formula One

A member of McLaren’s Formula One team is in self-isolation after being tested for coronavirus at the Australian Grand Prix. It is understood the team member reported symptoms associated with the virus in the Albert Park paddock on Wednesday morning. They were tested at the circuit’s medical centre before returning to the team’s hotel in downtown Melbourne. Two personnel from American outfit Haas were tested and are also in self-isolation. Organisers insist the opening round of the season in Australia on March 13-15 will go ahead as planned, but this month’s Bahrain Grand Prix – from March 20-22 – will take place behind closed doors. F1 personnel who have visited high-risk countries within 14 days of their arrival in the Gulf Kingdom will be subjected to an extensive screening process. Italian team Ferrari remain in close contact with the authorities in light of the increasing restrictions on movement in the country. The FIA is monitoring the situation, having already called off the Chinese Grand Prix.

Formula E

The Formula E calendar suffered a third postponement after the Jakarta E-Prix, set for June 6, was called off. Formula E had already postponed the Sanya E-Prix – scheduled for March 21 – on February 2, with the view of rescheduling both races later in the calendar, while the Rome E-Prix on April 4 was shelved last week due to Italy’s ban on domestic sporting action.


The opening four races of the MotoGP season in Qatar, Thailand, the United States and now Argentina were called off. The Qatar race was cancelled, while the other three have been moved to later in the season, which is now due to get under way in Spain on May 3.


Two more European Tour tournaments, taking the total to five, have been postponed. Next week’s Hero Indian Open and August’s Czech Masters have joined this week’s Kenya Open and April’s Maybank Championship and China Open in being called off.


England cricketers have been instructed not to sign autographs or pose for selfies with fans during their Test tour of Sri Lanka. Surrey have cancelled their pre-season training camp at the ICC Academy in Dubai amid concern over the safety of their players.


The Golden State Warriors’ NBA game with Brooklyn Nets in San Francisco on Friday will be played without fans.


Fears of two cases of coronavirus at the UAE Tour saw the race cancelled with two stages left. Team INEOS are among a host of teams who have decided to withdraw from all racing until the Volta a Catalunya on March 23. The Strade Bianchi, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo and the Giro di Sicilia races in Italy have been postponed.


The high-profile BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, where the likes of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic were due to compete, was called off. Organisers of the Miami Open, due to start on March 23, are monitoring the situation closely but preparations are continuing. Next month’s Fed Cup finals in Budapest and Fed Cup play-offs, due to be held in eight different locations, have been postponed, while China’s Xi’an Open (April 13-19) and Kunming Open (April 27-May 3) have been cancelled.


Racegoers planning to attend this week’s Cheltenham Festival have been told not to if they have any of the symptoms of coronavirus or they have been to or transited through the high-risk countries, or been in contact with anyone that has, in the last 14 days.


The World Indoor Championships, which had been due to take place in Nanjing in China this month, have been called off. Organisers of the London Marathon are monitoring the situation but the April 26 event is scheduled to go ahead. The Paris Marathon, which was due to take place on April 5, has been postponed until October 18 and the Rome Marathon, scheduled for March 29, has been cancelled. The International Triathlon Union has moved the 2020 ITU Paratriathlon World Championships, planned for May 2, from Milan to Montreal.

Rugby league

The Betfred Super League match between Catalans Dragons and Leeds in Perpignan on Saturday will go ahead behind closed doors.


All events scheduled for March in Japan have been cancelled.


The £1million China Open, scheduled to start in Beijing at the end of March, has been cancelled. The attendance in the arena for this week’s Gibraltar Open has been limited to 100 people.

Ice skating

The World Short Track Speed Skating Championships, scheduled for March 13-15, were called off. The World Figure Skating Championships in Quebec, planned for March 16-22, were also cancelled.


The International Judo Federation has cancelled all Olympic qualification events on the calendar until April 30.


The Professional Darts Corporation has cancelled the European Darts Grand Prix in Sindelfingen, the European Darts Open in Leverkusen, which were both scheduled for later this month, and next month’s German Darts Grand Prix in Munich.

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