Coronavirus wrap: Racing returns as QPR voice anger over Championship resumption

June 1, 2020 8:00:16 PM

Zodiakos wrote his name into the record books with victory in the first race in Britain following the coronavirus shutdown, but the pandemic is still affecting other sports.

After Government approval was granted on Saturday, racing was the first major professional sport to resume in Britain with its first meeting since March 17.

And Zodiakos claimed a piece of history by finishing first in the Betway Welcome Back British Racing Handicap at Newcastle.

At the head of affairs right from the off, the Roger Fell-trained gelding bowled along in the mile contest under his jockey James Sullivan, who like all riders was wearing a face mask as part of the strict hygiene protocols in place.

His better-fancied stablemate Al Ozzdi came strongly two furlongs out in the hands of Ben Curtis, but while he took a definite advantage at one stage, the 22/1 winner fought back gallantly and was a neck to the good at the line.

Sullivan said: “It’s very nice to get the first winner. I’m blowing a bit as obviously it’s the first time I’ve ridden in a race for a while and it was hard work from three and a half furlongs out, but in fairness to Roger he had him very fit, he was spot on for today.”

James Sullivan in a protective face mask at the meeting in Newcastle.
James Sullivan in a protective face mask at the meeting in Newcastle (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Im Sophie took victory at Perry Barr as greyhound racing was the first sport to return following lockdown.

Racing got under way with at 10.21am with the wordy but fittingly named Arena Racing Company Thanks to NHS and Key Workers Race, with Im Sophie the 6/1 winner from Peachstreet Jack and Dungarvan Hobo.

The Rugby Football League and the Australian Rugby League Commission jointly announced the cancellation of the three-Test England-Australia Ashes series as both bodies focus on completing their domestic club competitions.

The Tests had been due to take place in England in October and November, with the competition being revived after a 17-year absence. Talks have already begun about a series in 2022, with the World Cup taking place next year.

RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer said: “We make this announcement with great reluctance and disappointment, as we had been looking forward so much to welcoming the Kangaroos for the revival of the Ashes in 2020 – and the prospect of the series had captured the imagination of our players, broadcast and commercial partners, supporters and media alike.

“However the current circumstances have had a seismic impact on rugby league, as on all other sports, and we all now need to give, in order to find solutions for the greater and longer term good of the game.”

In the other code, Rugby Australia has announced it is cutting about a third of its full-time jobs. Cuts will herald the exit of 47 full-time staff as well as 30 contractors and casual workers.

Mark Warburton is “staggered” by the decision to restart the Championship on June 20 (Bradley Collyer/PA)

QPR chief executive Lee Hoos says the west London club are “vehemently opposed” to the proposed resumption of the Sky Bet Championship on June 20.

The Premier League announced last Thursday play is due to return on June 17 following the coronavirus suspension that began in mid-March.

“I am absolutely stunned by this announcement, as is our director of football Les Ferdinand and our manager Mark Warburton,” chief executive Hoos said.

“Incredibly, there has been absolutely no consultation with individual clubs nor with the Championship doctors’ working group by the divisional representatives – or anyone else in the Football League – regarding this matter.

“Having spoken with Les and Mark, they share my views. We are vehemently opposed to this schedule.

“The players haven’t even returned to full-contact training at this moment and yet they are now expected to be in a position to play at a competitive level in just three weeks’ time. I have made our feelings known to the EFL and, having spoken with a number of CEOs at other Championship clubs, I am not a lone voice on this matter. We are absolutely appalled.”

Serie A will return two days after the Championship and leaders Juventus will top the bill.

Milan’s visit to Lecce and Fiorentina’s home clash with Brescia kick off proceedings and Juve’s visit to Bologna will take place later on the Monday evening.

The newly-rearranged fixtures will see matches on six of the seven days in the first week back with Juve also in action on the Friday night, at home to Lecce.

With no prospect of seeing county cricket until August at the earliest, players up and down the country have agreed to extend pay cuts through to the end of July.

An existing agreement between the Professional Cricketers’ Association and the 18 first-class counties covered April and May and has been extended for two more months, with salary reductions now capped at 20 per cent and domestic prize money foregone.

Players in the final year of their contracts have been offered granted dispensations and any who fail to earn a new contract for 2021 will receive refunds on their reduction.

“This has not been an easy decision and causes a great deal of disruption to many of our members, however, the PCA Players’ Committee ultimately agreed this is the right thing to do,” said PCA chairman Daryl Mitchell.

Meanwhile, the British Basketball League has announced that the remainder of the 2019-20 season has been cancelled.

BBL chairman Sir Rodney Walker said: “We looked at every option, including playing behind closed doors or restarting the season in the summer, in order that we could get to a League and play-off winners, but with the continued uncertainty, we just ran out of time and options.”

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