Formula 1, NBA and Premier League: Here’s how sports leagues are coming back after COVID-19
June 14, 2020
After more than three months of standstill, live sports are just about set to return. Some leagues, like Germany’s Bundesliga, have already resumed play in May while others are kicking off with shortened and/or massively rescheduled seasons (while some evens like the Tokyo Olympics have been indefinitely postponed.)
Missing your live sports fix? Here’s a quick guide to the sports leagues and storylines you need to watch. Mark your calendars – these dates are final as of writing, but due to the fluidity of the COVID-19 situation, they’re always subject to change.
What’s the deal: From what was supposed to be a record 22 races in 2020, Formula 1 has only just confirmed eight races, kicking off with the Red Bull Ring hosting back-to-back races: the Austrian Grand Prix (July 5) and the Styrian Grand Prix (July 12). It’s a very Euro-centric calendar so far, with races scheduled in Hungary, England, Spain, Belgium and Italy, but F1 management hopes to eventually schedule 15 to 18 races by December.
What to look out for: The “Drive for Seven” should be on the minds of both Lewis Hamilton and the Mercedes-AMG Petronas team. While the German team are looking for their seventh straight constructor’s title, the number holds greater significance for the British champion. Should Hamilton win his seventh driver’s title, it will be his fourth straight and, more importantly, puts him into a tie with Michael Schumacher, solidifying his argument as one of the sport’s GOATs.
La Liga/Premier League
What’s the deal: While the Bundesliga heralded the return of football, albeit under very strict sanitisation rules and empty stadiums, fans around the world will most certainly welcome the return of the two most popular leagues: Spain’s La Liga and the English Premier League. La Liga restarted on June 12 and with 11 match days left, will complete its season by mid-July, while in England, the Premier League returns on June 17 with a total of 92 games remaining.
What to look out for: Defending La Liga champions FC Barcelona are just two points ahead of bitter rival Real Madrid, so the race for the crown will be an exciting one. The fight for the final Champions League places is also a subplot, with the next five teams separated by just five points. Over in the Premier League, Liverpool’s coronation is just a matter of when, as they only need two wins to secure their first club title in 30 years. The bigger story now is Champions League qualification; with Manchester City appealing a two-year ban in European competitions, it just might open up a slot for Wolves or Sheffield United to sneak in.
What’s the deal: It hasn’t been officially announced yet, but the return of the league is tentatively set for July 31. The NBA halted play in mid-March when Utah Jazz centre Rudy Gobert and shooting guard Donovan Mitchell tested positive for COVID-19, setting off the shutdown of sports in North America. But professional basketball is set to be back – with a twist: 22 teams (nine from the Eastern Conference and 13 from the Western Conference) will play all their games in the bubble environment that is ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Disney World to determine the playoff seeding and matchups.
What to look out for: Before the season got suspended, the Milwaukee Bucks, led by league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, looked all but certain to punch their way to the Finals (and back-to-back MVPs for the Greek Freak). Over in the West, the “Battle of Los Angeles” will still be fresh in everyone’s mind as LeBron James and the Lakers look to halt the ascent of their crosstown rivals, the Clippers. The big question on everyone’s minds, though: will the four-month halting of play mess up momentum and spring surprises from the other teams?
What’s the deal: The PGA Tour restarted it its abbreviated season with the Charles Schwab Challenge in Texas on June 11 and has plans to hold around 30 events through December. The Majors will still be held, with the PGA Championship (August 6 to 9), the US Open (September 17 to 20) and the Masters (November 12 to 15) already calendared. Sadly, the Open Championship and golf’s fifth major – The Players Championship – have been cancelled this year.
What to look out for: When play halted, Im Sung-jae was leading the FedEx Cup standings and was second on the money list. His presence at the Charles Schwab Challenge, along with the rest of the top five players from the FedEx Cup standings, will give everyone a sneak peek on how he handles the pressure from the big guns and will set the tone for the remainder of the season.
Lega Serie A: After an aborted return, Italy’s top football finally gets the green light to kick off on June 20, as Lazio tries to stop Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus in winning their 37th club title.
Tour de France: The world’s premier cycling race is scheduled to be held from August 29 to September 20, without any changes to the routes or stages, from Nice to Paris.
NHL: The NHL has approved the plan for 24 of its teams to compete for the 2020 Stanley Cup in two hub cities. All that’s missing are the dates and locations, which still need to be ironed out depending on COVID-19 conditions and government regulations.