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Sports affected by Covid-19: How the virus is causing mayhem in the UK and abroad

| 27.12.2021

How the pandemic is affecting sport

The coronavirus pandemic is causing havoc with the sporting calendar across the globe with football’s Christmas schedule in the UK  hit by the highly-transmissible Omicron variant sweeping through the country.

We are taking a look at the sports affected by Covid-19 in the latest wave both home and abroad.


Tottenham’s Europa Conference League match was called off on December 9 because of an outbreak at the north London club.

But that didn’t wash with UEFA, who awarded the French club a 3-0 victory which resulted in Spurs being eliminated from the competition having finished in third place in the group.

Four days later, Manchester United closed their Carrington training complex because of a number of positive Covid-19 tests among players and staff. Their match against Brentford on Tuesday December 14 was consequently postponed.

Burnley’s clash with Watford on December 15 was called off three hours before kick-off and the match between Leicester and Tottenham was postponed on the same day because of Covid cases at Vicarage Road and the King Power Stadium.

Only Leeds’ clash with Arsenal got the go-ahead on Saturday as the games at Manchester United, Aston Villa, Southampton, Watford and West Ham succumbed to the virus. Leicester’s trip to Everton on Sunday joined the list of postponements.

Premier League clubs decided against suspending the season as a means of bringing the latest coronavirus crisis under control, with 90 confirmed cases among players and staff recorded last week.

All sporting events in Wales are to be held behind closed doors from Boxing Day until at least January 7, with Swansea’s match against Luton on December 29 the first game in the Football League to be played in front of no spectators.

The Scottish Professional Football League voted to partially bring forward the winter break in the wake of the Scottish government’s annuncement that live outdoor events from Boxing Day will be restricted to a maximum 500-strong attendance for a period of up to three weeks, in a bid to slow down the latest Covid-19 wave.

With 10 of the 12 cinch Premiership clubs in favour of postponing festive fixtures in light of crowd restrictions, the SPFL board agreed to reschedule matches on the December 29 and New Year fixture cards, but not Boxing Day games.

Three Boxing Day matches in the Premier League and more than half in the Football League were called off, including Burnley v Everton which was finally postponed on Christmas Eve.

Arsenal v Wolves and Leeds v Aston Villa, scheduled for Tuesday, December 28, bite the dust in addition to 11 Football League games on Wednesday, including the clash between Reading and Championship leaders Fulham.

Rugby Union

Three Leinster players and a member of staff tested positive before their 45-20 Heineken Champions Cup victory against Bath on Saturday December 11.

Four days later, Saracens called off their Challenge Cup match against Pau because of a Covid outbreak at their training ground which resulted in the French club being awarded five points and a 28-0 victory.

Montpellier were handed a 28-0 victory for last Friday’s postponed match against Leinster despite the Irish club having enough Covid-free players to make the trip to France.

New travel rules in France meant seven games due to be played between British and French clubs at the weekend were called off.

Newcastle’s game against Sale on Boxing Day was the first Premiership match of the season to be postponed because o the number of cases in the visitors’ camp. The game is recorded as a 0-0 draw, with Falcons receiving four points and Sale two.

Bath’s Premiership match against Exeter Chiefs on December 29 is also cancelled.

American Football

Three games in the NFL were postponed because of Covid-19, including the clash between Cleveland Browns and Las Vegas Raiders.

The match was due to be played on Saturday but around 20 Cleveland players were placed on reserve/Covid-19 list during the week, so the game has been rescheduled for Monday.

The games between Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams, plus Washington Football Team’s match against Philadelphia Eagles, were also rearranged.


On December 16, the NBA announced the introduction of stricter coronavirus protocols over the festive period to help combat rising cases across the continent.

Five matches scheduled to take place between December 19-21 were postponed, including two matches involving the Brooklyn Nets whose roster has been decimated by a surge in Covid-19 cases.

The NBA has allowed short-handed teams to sign replacements until January 19 when the league will provide further guidance.


Britain’s US Open champion Emma Raducanu, who won the BBC’s coveted Sports Personality of the Year, tested positive for Covid-19 on December 13 and pulled out of the Mubadala World Tennis Championships in Abu Dhabi.

The Battle of the Brits exhibition, scheduled for December 21-22 and involving Andy Murray, was then postponed because of rising Covid cases.

Rafael Nadal was beaten by Murray in Abu Dhabi on Friday and on Monday the 20-time grand slam champion announced he had tested positive for Covid-19.

World No 14 Denis Shapovalov tested positive for Covid-19 after arriving in Sydney for the ATP Cup ahead of the Australian Open.


Australia captain Pat Cummins missed the second Ashes Test against England having come into close contact with a positive case.

Steve Smith took the reins but Cummins’ absence made little difference as England lost by 275 runs.

The one-day series between Pakistan and West Indies, due to start on December 18, has been rescheduled for June 2022.

The first of two ODIs between Ireland and the United States in Florida, which had been schedlued for December 27,  is postponed by 24 hours because of an outbreak in the umpiring group. 

Horse Racing

The Welsh Grand National at Chepstow on December 27 will be held behind closed doors despite advance ticket sales in excess of 6,000.

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Warren Barner