A line of questioning on a recent call between the International Olympic Committee, the World Health Organization and various sports’ federations chiefs has led some to wonder if holding this summer’s Tokyo Olympics behind closed doors is being considered as the coronavirus crisis worsens.
Sports Agenda understands that the WHO were asked if shutting big global sports events to fans would lower risk of the disease spreading. The answer was said to be non-committal.
In theory, hosting the Games behind closed doors but allowing camera crews in would satisfy the multi-million pound TV deals already signed and be viewed as an alternative to cancelling the event or shifting it elsewhere.
The worsening coronavirus crisis could cause the Tokyo 2020 Olympics to be a TV-only event
It emerged on Sunday that Japanese sumo wrestling is the latest competition to be affected by the outbreak, with national broadcaster NHK reporting that officials have decided to exclude fans from spring’s grand sumo tournament in Osaka.
A minor improvement
It is traditional at the annual meeting of football’s lawmakers, the International Football Association Board, that the predominantly male participants bring along their wives and partners.
The Scottish FA failed to cover themselves in glory last year by sending the group to a flower-arranging class while the men got down to business in Aberdeen.
At least this year the Irish FA packed off the women to somewhere decent — Belfast’s Titanic museum.
Leeds’ meticulous planning
Leeds are famed for their meticulous planning under Marcelo Bielsa, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that the club rang ahead of their latest FA disciplinary hearing to request the normal Wembley spread of sandwiches and crisps was supplemented with a healthy option.
Following the hearing, Kiko Casilla was given an eight-match ban for racially abusing Charlton striker Jonathan Leko. Written reasons behind the suspension are due on Monday and insiders say they will not make pleasant reading for Leeds.
Leeds requested a healthy option from the catering at their FA disciplinary hearing at Wembley
Still shaking hands?
FIFA president Gianni Infantino arrived at Belfast’s Culloden Hotel for the IFAB meeting and headed straight to a huddle of reporters in the lobby. Wary of the coronavirus storm, Infantino jokingly asked the pack if they were ‘still shaking hands’ before proceeding to do so. Tubs of hand sanitiser gel were left outside meeting rooms at the Holywood venue.
Meanwhile, legendary singer-songwriter Van Morrison was spotted enjoying breakfast at the plush hotel and spa, which led some to wonder if IFAB had pushed the boat out for the entertainment at their evening dinner. It turned out Belfast-born Morrison is a regular at the five-star complex — and an artist offering caricatures was the entertainment at the meal.
Gianni Infantino wondered whether they were still shaking hands amid coronavirus fears
Hands off the Gold Cup!
Ever since Cheltenham brought back the original Gold Cup and presented it to the team behind last year’s winner, Al Boum Photo, they have operated a policy that anyone who is not a Gold Cup winner cannot touch the trophy. That will be no problem for Sir AP McCoy and Ruby Walsh when they are expert panellists at the track’s preview evening on Sunday.
However, panel chairman Cornelius Lysaght, the outgoing BBC racing correspondent, will be issued with a pair of white gloves to ensure his fingerprints aren’t left on the prize.
Anyone who is not a Gold Cup winner cannot touch the trophy, so Ruby Walsh will be fine
Cheltenham’s observation wheel
The jockeys on Cheltenham’s draining hill will not be the only ones wanting to time their runs to perfection at next week’s Festival.
The track have drafted in a 35-metre observation wheel for their new Park Enclosure and being in one of the top pods on the mini-London Eye as a race finishes will give inhabitants one of the best views of the action.
Refunds for Notts County fans
Notts County supporters have had plenty to moan about in recent times and two postponed fixtures at AFC Fylde only added to their grief, given many fans had set out for the National League fixtures when they were called off. However, the generous Lancashire side have now offered full refunds to those who bought tickets, handed over free replacements and paid for two coaches to transport Magpies fans from Meadow Lane to Fylde’s Mill Farm ground for the third attempt on Tuesday night.
Cup finalists treated to an ode to Liverpool
Bemused Aston Villa and Manchester City officials at Wembley could have been forgiven for thinking they were at the wrong game when EFL chairman Rick Parry made his welcome address at Sunday’s Carabao Cup final.
First, the former Liverpool chief executive (wearing a red tie), introduced a video narrated by a Liverpudlian with clips of Jurgen Klopp’s men, who were knocked out by Villa. And there were further puzzled looks when, with Brian Little and Mike Summerbee present, Parry introduced his special guest — none other than ex-Reds boss Gerard Houllier.
Aston Villa and Manchester City fans were treated to a seemingly Liverpool-biased video
Getting his hands dirty
Premier League head of news Gareth Mills, who starts in the role on Monday, will have no issues with getting his hands dirty if his last day as communications chief at the Rugby Football Union is anything to go by.
The former Chelsea staffer was spotted with pitchfork in hand replacing divots on the Twickenham pitch during half-time of England’s Six Nations victory over Ireland last month. It is unlikely he will be asked to do similar at Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and Anfield.
Media day at St George’s Park
The FA are planning a media day at St George’s Park ahead of Euro 2020 after a similar event before Russia 2018 was deemed a huge success. Daily activities with the press during the tournament are also being drawn up.
The ice-breaker last year was a darts tournament which saw legendary former Sports Agenda columnist Charles Sale defeated by England defender Gary Cahill in Repino.