‘The season is only complete when all 38 games have been played to a finish’: Rangers vow to oppose any attempt to end Scottish Premiership season early and hand title to Celtic
- The SPFL is to ballot all 42 clubs on ending the lower league season
- But a decision on the Scottish Premiership is on hold amid the coronavirus crisis
- Celtic would be handed the title on a points per game basis if season ended early
Rangers are railing against the SPFL’s plans to curtail the Championship, League One and League Two seasons, warning of ‘severe consequences for the Scottish game’ and labelling plans to relegate clubs ‘abhorrent’.
With play halted in Scotland, the league announced proposals to immediately end the three divisions below the top flight and determine final placings by points per game in league matches played to date by each club.
Wednesday’s resolution also recommends that the Ladbrokes Premiership remains postponed for the time being, although final season placings would be determined by the same system if the SPFL’s board determines matches cannot be played.
League leaders Celtic are 13 points ahead of Rangers at the top having played a game more
That could see Celtic crowned champions for the ninth successive season and Hearts relegated, but the immediate impact of the plans would be relegation for Partick Thistle and Stranraer.
SPFL chairman Murdoch MacLennan believes the measures enable ‘the best possible outcome for Scottish football in these very demanding and unique circumstances’ – something Rangers robustly contest.
Steven Gerrard’s second-placed side are 13 points behind Celtic and ‘firmly believe that the 2019/20 season is only complete when all 38 games have been played to a finish’, while they say this SPFL resolution cannot be accepted.
Rangers said in a statement: ‘It is important to recognise that these clubs across all the leagues are now in a financially precarious situation.
Celtic are top of the Scottish Premiership amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis
‘As a club, Rangers will immediately propose a member’s resolution which would release prize money to be distributed to all clubs throughout Scotland urgently.
‘We believe that this is the priority in the present circumstances.
‘It is vital to show respect for all clubs across the Scottish game, regardless of league position or financial standing. We must work together with a unity of purpose for the betterment of the Scottish game.
‘We are also acutely aware of other issues which are less pressing but are forming key parts of the football narrative in Scotland.
‘Nothing is more important than protecting the future of every club in Scotland as we are cognisant that this has a direct impact upon people’s livelihoods.
Partick Thistle are one of the clubs that would be relegated if the season ended early
‘It is abhorrent that certain clubs could be unfairly relegated if the current SPFL proposals were implemented. We must future proof the Scottish game.
‘Any restructure of the SPFL or other solutions to the current impasse must be afforded time to scrutinise in detail and consider all options.
‘The consequences of forcing through change without due care and attention will have severe consequences for the Scottish game.
‘Scottish football must work together for the common good of every club, their staff and supporters.
‘Any attempts to railroad changes to existing rules or run roughshod over corporate governance will be opposed in the strongest possible terms. We must allow decisions to be made in a rational, fair and balanced manner.
‘In the meantime, we expect clubs to support our member’s resolution which will provide financial support to those who need it most.’
That strongly-worded statement was swiftly followed by Partick saying they ‘will simply not accept this proposal as it stands’.
‘We believe that the proposal requires significantly more discussion, scrutiny and debate before any vote can be taken,’ the bottom-placed Championship side said.
‘We are now engaging with others to amend the proposal to identify a fairer and more equitable solution to address a number of inequalities it throws up.’
Partick Thistle’s Firhill Stadium in Glasgow (Jane Barlow/PA)Stevie Farrell, manager of rock-bottom League One side Stranraer, told Clyde 1: ‘Sporting integrity is about being equitable, it’s about being fair and making sure nobody’s at a detriment at these unprecedented times.
‘There are only two teams that are going to be at a detriment, and that’s Stranraer and Partick Thistle. And with a quarter of the season left, that’s just not acceptable.’
Dundee United would be promoted to the Premiership if the resolution passes, while Raith Rovers would move up to the Championship and Cove Rangers would join League One.
The SPFL circulated the resolution to its 42 members clubs recommending the immediate termination of the 2019/20 season for those divisions, the cancellation of all play-off competitions and that final places are decided on a points per game basis.
SPFL chairman MacLennan said coronavirus has left them ‘wrestling with the enormous challenges’, with chief executive Neil Doncaster admitting the situation regarding the Premiership ‘remains particularly complicated’.
‘Everyone is aware of UEFA’s desire for the family of European football to work together to resolve the issues that confront us all,’ he said.
‘We are keen to work with UEFA and remain in discussion with them over the situation in Scotland.
‘The quicker we reach a final position the better, but there is no doubt this is the most complicated and challenging situation our game has faced in living memory.’
Meanwhile, Kilmarnock are placing their first-team squad, coaching staff, academy employees and the majority of administration staff on furlough through May.
St Johnstone are furloughing most of their playing squad, coaching staff and non-playing staff.
‘At an unprecedented time for football, we believe that it doesn’t meet the basic principle that no club should be left worse off by this important decision.
‘It also seems to link acceptance of the proposal before payments can be made to hard-pressed clubs but, in our opinion, the two things do not need to be linked.
‘Money to clubs is a priority, the proposal could be debated in slower time.
HOW CORONAVIRUS HAS HIT THE WORLD OF SPORT SO FAR
2020 OLYMPIC GAMES
The 2020 Olympic Games has been postponed until 2021 on March 24 – becoming one of the last major sporting events this summer to fall victim to the coronavirus.
Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe held a crucial conference call with Olympics chief Thomas Bach on Tuesday to formally decide a plan and they have chosen to postpone for 12 months.
The decision also means the Tokyo Paralympic Games will be subject to a one-year delay.
Despite the delay, the name of the delayed Games will still be Tokyo 2020, the city’s governor Yuriko Koike revealed.
A joint statement from the IOC and Tokyo 2020 organising committee read: ‘In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the WHO today, the IOC President and the Prime Minister of Japan have concluded that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.
‘The leaders agreed that the Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present.
‘Therefore, it was agreed that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan. It was also agreed that the Games will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.’
There was plenty of scepticism whether the Olympics would pull through and continue as scheduled while events linked to the games were called off. The Olympic torch relay in Greece was cancelled on Friday March 13 – just a day after the flame was lit in Olympia.
Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games have been postponed by one year due to the coronavirus
Large crowds mobbed Hollywood actor Gerard Butler as he lit the cauldron in the Greek city of Sparta despite repeated warnings for spectators not to attend because of coronavirus.
That forced the decision by the Greek Olympic Committee to halt the torch relay on Greek soil on just the second day of its scheduled eight-day journey. It is the only the third time that a relay to Athens for the summer Games has not been completed.
The Olympic flame will still be handed over to the Tokyo 2020 organising committee at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens on Thursday March 19, but without fans present.
Athletes were told to keep training but many struggled considering the government lock-down measures put in place.
On Friday March 13 US president Donald Trump’s suggestion to postpone the Tokyo Olympics for a year because of the coronavirus was immediately shot down by Japan’s Olympic minister.
‘The IOC and the organising committee are not considering cancellation or a postponement – absolutely not at all,’ Seiko Hashimoto, an Olympic bronze medalist, told a news conference in Tokyo.
On Tuesday March 17, Kozo Tashima, one of the Japanese Olympic Committee’s vice presidents and president of the Japanese Football Association, tested positive for coronavirus.
The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo organisers have stayed on message since the viral outbreak in China three months ago spread across Asia and then the globe: The games will open as scheduled on July 24.
Tokyo 2020 organisers received the Olympic flame in a scaled-down handover ceremony in the Greek capital on March 19.
The World Athletics Indoor Championships, which was due to be held from March 13-15 in Nanjing, is postponed until March 2021.
The World Athletics Indoor Championships in Nanjing, China, has been postponed due to concerns over the danger of the coronavirus and its ability to spread
North Korea cancelled the Pyongyang Marathon scheduled for April after imposing a border lockdown due to the level of outbreak in South Korea, where the Seoul Marathon is cancelled in a bid to protect runners.
The Paris half-marathon is cancelled and the French government also decided to ban all public gatherings of more than 100 people, before ordering people to stay at home from March 15 for at least 15 days. The race involving some 44,000 competitors was scheduled for Sunday March 1. Organisers said the race will be postponed to a date yet to be determined.
The London Marathon, which had been scheduled to take place on April 26, has been postponed until October 4. Over 40,000 runners were due to take part.
The Barcelona marathon scheduled for March 15 has been postponed until October.
Olympic boxing qualifiers to be staged in Wuhan were cancelled by the International Olympic Committee, but went ahead in Amman from March 3-11.
The IBF title fight between Daniele Scardina and Andrew Francillette in Milan on February 28 was postponed by Matchroom due to restrictions in Italy following the outbreak.
The Japanese boxing commission cancelled all fight cards scheduled for March on government advice to suspend all pending sporting fixtures. They will not be rescheduled.
Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce’s Battle of Britain has been pushed back from April to July
The British Boxing Board of Control announced on Tuesday March 17 that all boxing events under their jurisdiction for March will be postponed due to the coronavirus.
That decision has lead to the heavyweight clash between Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce being postponed. That fight, which had been penciled in for April 11, has been rescheduled for July 11 at the O2 Arena.
Anthony Yarde, who was due to fight Lyndon Arthur on the undercard of the all-British clash, announced on March 29 that his father had died as a result of contracting the coronavirus.
He revealed in an Instagram post that he had no underlying health issues and urged everyone to stay at home.
Matchroom Boxing has also postponed all events scheduled for March and April, including Josh Kelly’s European title fight against Russia’s David Avanesyan (scheduled for March 28).
The European Olympic boxing qualification tournament in London has been suspended. It was due to secure qualification for Tokyo 2020 for 77 male and female boxers, with 322 taking part.
Matchroom Boxing chief Eddie Hearn has said Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight title defence against Kubrat Pulev, which is scheduled for June 20, could be rearranged for July. All Matchroom promoted fights in March and April have been postponed.
Canelo Alvarez vs Billy Joe Saunders, earmarked for May in Las Vegas, was postponed before even being announced, however the Mexican is reportedly still planning to make the bout happen in June.
England’s tour of Sri Lanka was postponed on March 13, with the England and Wales Cricket Board citing ‘completely unprecedented times’.
The decision was confirmed while Joe Root’s side were in the field at Colombo’s P Sara Oval, contesting a warm-up game for a two-Test series.
On March 18, the West Indies offered to host England’s upcoming home Tests against them in the Caribbean instead of in the UK – should the coronavirus outbreak not have improved by then. England are due to face the Windies in a a three-Test series, which is due to start at the Oval on June 4 but could be delayed until September. If playing the series in England proves unworkable, CWI have offered to step in for this series, and also for England’s three Tests against Pakistan, due to start on July 30. Although there are Covid-19 cases in the Caribbean, its impact there has been limited so far.
The start of the Indian Premier League season has also been delayed until April 15. The 2020 campaign had been set to start on March 29. The IPL franchises are also ready to quarantine their foreign players for a period of 14 days, if travel restrictions are lifted to allow them to arrive.
On March 13, India’s ongoing one-day international series against South Africa was postponed, while Australia’s one-day internationals against New Zealand will be played behind closed doors.
Scotland’s one-day series against the United States and UAE have been postponed. The games were scheduled to be played in Florida in April.
England’s cricketers would not play any rescheduled Test series against West Indies in the Caribbean until December at the earliest, it emerged on March 19.
Cycling’s Giro d’Italia has been called off, with the race scheduled to start in Hungary in May.
The final two stages of the UAE Tour were cancelled after two members of staff on the race were suspected of having the disease.
Danish cyclist Michael Morkov was tested for coronavirus after being put in isolation
The Tour de France is under threat of cancellation, with the scheduled start in Nice taking place in just over three months, on June 27. With British and French governments anticipating that the pandemic will last until the summer, race organizers are studying alternative scheduling.
The Paris-Roubaix cycling race, another major event on the French sports calendar, was postponed due to the pandemic, while the April 5 Tour of Flanders, only previously cancelled during World War I, was also postponed in a further sign that Le Tour is under grave threat.
This summer’s Euro 2020 tournament has been moved to next summer (2021) following a UEFA conference held on March 17. The postponement provides a chance for European club competitions to be completed.
All football in England is suspended until at least April 30 – but the 2019-20 season should eventually be completed after the FA bend their own rules to extend the campaign INDEFINITELY after holding crisis talks on March 19.
The decisions to suspend follows players and staff becoming affected by the virus, or individuals self-isolating as a precaution after reporting symptoms consistent with Covid-19.
The Premier League has moved to cancel games following the global outbreak of coronavius
The Premier League clash between Manchester City and Arsenal, scheduled for March 11, had already been postponed as a ‘precautionary measure’ after Olympiacos and Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis tested positive for coronavirus weeks after watching his Greek team play at the Emirates Stadium.
On March 13, UEFA announced all Champions League and Europa League fixtures scheduled are postponed, as well as the quarter-final draws for both competitions. UEFA hope to conclude the competitions in the summer but no dates are yet set.
Birmingham City become the first Championship side to see players take temporary 50 per cent wage cuts to ease financial pressure. Leeds United soon followed in a bid to keep paying all of their non-football staff.
All Chinese domestic fixtures at all levels were postponed and the season pushed back, the first football to be affected by the outbreak in the country of its origin. However, reports suggest that the league could resume on April 18 as China gets to grip with the virus.
Asian Champions League matches involving Guangzhou Evergrande, Shanghai Shenhua and Shanghai SIPG are postponed until April.
The start of the Korean K-League season is postponed. The four teams in the AFC Champions League are playing their matches behind closed doors.
Japan’s J-League postponed all domestic games until the middle of March, but further delays are inevitable.
Ludogorets players were taking no chances after the coronavirus outbreak in Italy
Italy, the country worst hit by the virus outside China, suffered a spate of cancellations before the government put the population on lockdown. All sport, including Serie A games, were suspended until at least April 3 to contain the virus.
In France, it was announced on Friday 13 March that there will be no top-flight football in France for the immediate future after their governing body postponed all matches.
In Spain, April 18’s Copa del Rey final between between Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad has been postponed. LaLiga is also postponed until the end of March at least.
Germany’s Bundesliga, the other major European league, is also suspended until April 3 at least.
The Dutch Eredivisie and Portugal’s Primeira Liga are also suspended.
The Football Association of Ireland announced that all football under its jurisdiction will cease until March 29.
Major League Soccer has been suspended for 30 days until mid-April with David Beckham’s first Inter Miami home game delayed.
The South American Football Confederation postponed this year’s Copa America, due to take place from 12 June to 12 July, until 2021.
FIFA said that the newly-expanded Club World Cup, originally scheduled to take place in China in June 2021, will be postponed and a new date announced when ‘there is more clarity on the situation’.
On March 13, the FA announced that all of England’s games scheduled for the month would be postponed, including those of development teams. It means that England’s friendlies with Italy and Denmark have been called off.
Euro 2020 play-off matches due to be held on March 26, including Scotland v Israel have been put off until June.
Olympiakos’ owner Evangelos Marinakis has tested positive for the coronavirus
Manchester United clash at Austrian side Lask was behind closed doors, with United handing out £350 to each fan to help with travel and accommodation after they sold 900 tickets for the Europa League game.
Newcastle United banned their players from shaking hands with each other amid coronavirus fears.
Cristiano Ronaldo went into isolation in Madeira after it emerged that his Juventus team-mate, Daniele Rugani, has coronavirus. Squad members Blaise Matuidi and Paolo Dybala also tested positive.
Elsewhere in Italy, Fiorentina striker Patrick Cutrone, who is on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers, tested positive for coronavirus.
In Spain, 35% of Valencia’s squad staff tested positive for coronavirus, with all cases being asymptomatic.
Real Madrid’s first-team squad were in quarantine after a member of the basketball team tested positive for Covid-19. The two teams share the same training facility.
Liverpool have announced a charity match between a Reds Legends side and Barcelona Legends, due to be played at Anfield on March 28, has been postponed.
FIFA says it will postpone South American World Cup qualifying matches due to take place in March.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta tested positive for coronavirus on March 12 with the entire first-team squad being put into isolation. The Gunners’ game against Brighton, scheduled for Saturday March 14, has been postponed.
In the early hours of Friday, March 13, Chelsea announced that winger Callum Hudson-Odoi had been diagnosed with the illness.
The club’s first team went into self-isolation, while two buildings at their training ground in Cobham were closed.
Premier League clubs, including Manchester United and Manchester City, have sent players home to train alone following the British government’s increasing crackdown on mass gatherings and unnecessary social contact.
West Ham chief Karren Brady called for the season to be null and void while Aston Villa believe no team should be relegated. In this situation Liverpool, the runaway league leaders, could face the horror of being denied the title despite being on the brink of securing their first league trophy in nearly 30 years.
Reports suggest football bodies across England and the rest of Europe are bracing themselves for a reported total shutdown of every league until September.
Top-level English and Scottish football was initially suspended until April 3 at the earliest. The Football Association, the Premier League, the English Football League, FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship all agreed to call a halt to competitive action with immediate effect.
All levels of English football below the National League North and South have been called off and voided with no promotion and relegation due to the calendar being decimated by the coronavirus outbreak.
The season-opening Australian Grand Prix was called off after a McLaren team member came down with Covid-19, leading to the British team pulling out prior to a decision being made on whether the race would still go ahead.
The announcement came hours after Lewis Hamilton said it was ‘shocking’ that the race was going ahead.
The Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai on April 19 was the first race to be postponed, with no decision over whether it will be reinserted into the 2020 calendar for later in the season.
The Bahrain Grand Prix, scheduled for March 20-22, is also called off, as is the inaugural Vietnam Grand Prix, which was scheduled to take place in Hanoi on April 5.
It was hoped that the Dutch Grand Prix on May 3 would be the first race of the new season but that has also been postponed due to Covid-19.
The iconic Monaco Grand Prix on May 24 was cancelled for the first time in 66 years before Formula One announced their race in Azerbaijan had been postponed.
The Chinese GP was first to be cancelled and other races could yet follow that lead
On March 13, the Masters was postponed. In a statement released online, Fred Ridley, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, emphasised that the decision makers hope to hold the championship ‘at some later date’. The first men’s major of the year was due to begin on April 9.
The US PGA Championship, the second major of the year, has now joined the Masters in being postponed. It had been due to take place at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco from May 11-17, but has been rescheduled for later this summer.
After deciding to play with no spectators from the second round of the Players Championship onwards, the PGA Tour cancelled the event entirely after the first round on March 12.
They also scrapped the following three events leading up to the Masters, but after that was cancelled four further events in April and May – the RBC Heritage, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, the Wells Fargo Championship and the AT&T Byron Nelson – also bit the dust. It is hoped that the season can be resumed in late May.
The European Tour have cancelled all tournaments until the popular Made in Denmark event on May 21. Many of them were due to be held in China or east Asia in countries badly hit by the outbreak.
The women’s game has also been hit by postponements and cancellations, with the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration, the highest profile casualty.
The Masters has been postponed for the first time since the Second World War
Lorenzo Gagli and Edoardo Molinari were withdrawn from the Oman Open on medical grounds after Gagli showed symptoms of the virus. He shared a hotel room with Molinari and he was told to self-isolate. They were later reinstated to the tournament after testing negative for the virus.
The Grand National was called off following new British government restrictions to fight the spread of coronavirus made it impossible to stage the Aintree showpiece on April 4. The Cheltenham Festival went ahead amid some criticism before the social distancing measures were tightened.
The Japan Racing Association revealed that ‘government-sanctioned races’ will go ahead behind closed doors.
Racing in Ireland attempted to take place behind closed doors starting on March 29 – but that decision was changed after government cancelled all sporting events.
The Dubai World Cup meeting will go ahead on March 28 ‘without paid hospitality spectators’.
Racing Post forced to temporarily suspend publication of the flagship daily racing newspaper for the first time since their inception in 1986 due to all action in UK and Ireland being suspended.
The Cheltenham Festival went ahead despite travel disruption caused by the virus
This year’s Six Nations will have to wait for its conclusion with all remaining games postponed.
England’s game with Italy and Ireland’s trip to France had already been called off with Wales and Scotland leaving it until the day before before calling off their game.
Saturday, 31 October is a possible date for the final weekend of matches.
The Women’s Six Nations has also been hit by postponements.
Ireland’s Six Nations encounter with Italy on March 7 has been postponed
The RFU has suspended all levels of rugby in England until April 14, with the announcement coming shortly after the Premiership was halted for five weeks.
The quarter-finals of the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup have also been postponed. Those games were scheduled for April 3, 4 and 5.
The RFL and rugby league’s Super League have now followed suit and postponed all fixtures for at least three weeks. Eight Leeds Rhinos players had been confirmed to be self-isolating.
Wimbledon has been cancelled for the first time since World War II as All England Club chiefs called the tournament off at an emergency meeting.
It was considered impossible for the tournament to be moved back to later in the year, or to be played without fans, and so chiefs have pulled the plug entirely.
This is the first time that Wimbledon will not be staged since 1945. Only one Grand Slam has missed a year since the war, the 1986 Australian Open, and that was for the technical reason of the date shifting forward from December into January.
The French Open, one of the four Grand Slam tournaments, is postponed until September amid a wide lockdown in France.
The clay-court major was scheduled for May 24 to June 7, but that has shifted to September 20 to October 4, after the US Open, which was due to be the final major of the year.
Players have been quick to criticise the move, which has created a conflict with the Laver Cup men’s team event spearheaded by Roger Federer, and a women’s tournament in China.
All events on the ATP Tour have been suspended for six weeks.
The BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells in California, set to start on March 9, was postponed at the eleventh hour. It came after a confirmed case of the coronavirus in the nearby Coachella Valley.
The final of an ATP Challenger event in Bergamo, Italy, between Enzo Couacaud and Illya Marchenko of Ukraine was cancelled. Both players received ranking points and prize money for getting to the final. They were denied the opportunity to play behind closed doors.
China forfeited a Davis Cup tie because the men’s team were unable to travel to Romania for the March 6-7 play-off.
WTA events have also been cancelled. The WTA announced they are assessing their schedule with a number of events set for China in the second half of the season.
The International Tennis Federation has announced that the Fed Cup finals have been postponed. The event was due to be held in Budapest in April and the competition’s play-offs, which were set to take place in eight different locations, have also been placed on hold.
The WTA also announced no tournaments will be staged for at least five weeks.
Wimbledon has been cancelled for the first time since World War II
The NBA has been suspended indefinitely after two Utah Jazz players contracted the virus. On March 17 Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant confirmed he had tested positive for the virus alongside three unnamed team-mates.
In an aid to decrease risks of exposure to the virus, the NBA had told players to avoid taking items such as pens, markers, balls and jerseys from autograph seekers.
The NHL has announced it has paused the 2019-20 season with no date confirmed for when it will resume.
The UFC has cancelled its next three events, although president Dana White is still pushing ahead for the highly-anticipated lightweight title fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson.
MotoGP have cancelled their first two races of the season in Qatar and Thailand.
South Korea’s baseball league cancelled all 50 pre-season game which were slated to take place from March 14-24. It is the first time since the leagues inception in 1982 that an entire set of exhibition matches are off.
The first-stage draw for the Table Tennis World Championships, scheduled for South Korea from March 22-29, is postponed.
A beach volleyball tournament, due to be held in Yangzhou from April 22-26, is postponed until after the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
World Short track speed skating championship in Seoul is cancelled.
The World Triathlon Series event in Abu Dhabi was postponed as a precautionary measure.
The Women’s World Ice Hockey Championships in Canada have been cancelled.
All 72 pre-season baseball games in Japan are to take place behind closed doors
In badminton, the German Open (March 3-8), Vietnam Open (March 24-29) and Polish Open (March 26-29), all Olympic qualifying events, are cancelled due to ‘strict health protection’.
The Japanese professional baseball league made the decision to play their 72 pre-season games behind closed doors until March 15. Baseball is among the most popular sports in Japan.
Doubts remain as the Asian weightlifting championships, scheduled for March, are relocated from Kazakhstan to neighbouring Uzbekistan. They could still be postponed.
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