Coronavirus wrap: Arsenal stars take pay cut as Twickenham turns into test site

Arsenal and Sheffield United have announced measures designed to minimise the financial impact of coronavirus while the Rugby Football Union has turned Twickenham into a COVID-19 drive-through testing programme.

After fellow Premier League clubs Southampton and West Ham announced wage deferral agreements with their players, the Gunners said their first-team squad, plus manager Mikel Arteta and key coaching staff have agreed a 12.5 per cent pay cut.

Arsenal say they have reached a “voluntary agreement with our first-team players, head coach and core coaching staff to help support the club at this critical time” following “positive and constructive discussions”.

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder and chief executive officer Stephen Bettis have also agreed a deferral in wages and relevant bonus payments.

The pair have been joined by senior coaching staff, who have also agreed to the deferrals for the next six months to assist United “with retaining staff and continuing to pay 100 per cent of their salaries during this difficult period”.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has warned that even action behind closed doors might be too risky during long-term social distancing as she told Scottish sports fans not to expect mass gatherings to resume any time soon.

Sturgeon admitted some form of social distancing could be required until a vaccine is ready, meaning the prospect of thousands of fans gathering at sporting events in Scotland could be ruled out for an estimated 18 months.

When asked about the prospect of crowds or closed-door events before a vaccine, Sturgeon said at the Scottish government’s daily briefing: “I’m not yet in a position to give you dates on when things will start again and in what order things start to go back to normal.

“But I would absolutely say that people should not be under the expectation that large-scale mass gatherings will be starting any time soon.”

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, also defended the Government for not having introduced a ban on large sporting events sooner.

The second leg of Liverpool’s Champions League last-16 clash against Atletico Madrid took place on March 11 while the Cheltenham Festival was held between March 10-13.

“At every stage in this crisis we’ve been guided by the scientific advice and have been making the right decision at the right time,” Mr Sunak said.

HEALTH Coronavirus
HEALTH Coronavirus

“This is an unprecedented situation we’re all dealing with, I’m sure there are all things that we will learn from this.”

NHS staff and other key workers will be able to get tested at Twickenham via an appointment system, following the likes of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and the Amex Stadium in setting up testing facilities.

RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said: “The RFU is pleased to be able to support the COVID-19 drive-through testing programme at Twickenham Stadium for NHS and other key workers.

“We receive tremendous support from frontline services during match days at Twickenham and we are grateful for the opportunity to be able to support key workers during this severe national crisis with the use of our site and staff to support operationally.”

“The scale of this task should not be underestimated and will encompass a myriad of factors until the public health situation has improved to a point that it is safe for our players, our employees, our fans and in a way that will not impact the public health situation adversely.”

Rugby union players in Australia have agreed to take an average salary cut of 60 per cent until September 30.

The Super Rugby season was suspended after the seventh round due to the coronavirus pandemic and Rugby Australia, the four Australian Super Rugby teams and the Rugby Union Players Association (RUPA) have been in discussions of a pay cut for the last three weeks.

A deal has finally been struck with the 192 professional players agreeing to a substantial cut, which will be reversed if the season resumes before the end of September.

CSA and Sri Lanka Cricket today jointly announced the postponement of the Proteas tour to Sri Lanka that was scheduled to be played in the first half of June and consist of three ODIs and three T20 International matches.

— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) April 20, 2020

A meeting of the International Cricket Council’s chief executives’ committee will be held via conference call on Thursday to discuss the likely impact of coronavirus on the global game.

The meeting, comprising each of the 12 full members nations as well as three representatives from associate cricket, will discuss a series of matters which could determine the shape of sport’s biggest events in the coming years.

ICC chief executive Manu Sawhney said: “This meeting is the first step of a collective process as we assess the impact of this ongoing global pandemic and work together so the sport can emerge from it in a strong position. We need to share knowledge and start to build a deep understanding of what it will take to resume international cricket.

Meanwhile, South Africa’s limited-overs tour of Sri Lanka in June has been postponed due to the ongoing spread of coronavirus.

Novak Djokovic does not think players should need a vaccination before tennis resumes
Novak Djokovic does not think players should need a vaccination before tennis resumes

The Proteas were due to visit the island for three Twenty20s and three one-day internationals, the latter series forming part of the International Cricket Council’s new one-day league.

World number one Novak Djokovic’s opposition to vaccines could stand in the way of his return to tennis once it resumes from the coronavirus pandemic.

A push is growing for all players to be vaccinated when tennis starts again, provided a vaccination is produced by then.

“Personally I am opposed to vaccination and I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel,” Djokovic said in a live Facebook chat with several fellow Serbian athletes on Sunday.

“But if it becomes compulsory, what will happen? I will have to make a decision.”