19 May 2020

Today's sports news: What you need to know

6:31 am on 19 May 2020

Latest - Celtic have been declared Scottish football champions for a record-equalling ninth successive season while Hearts were relegated after the clubs voted to end the Premiership season early because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Celtic win the William Hill Scottish Cup Final match between Celtic and Motherwell at Hampden Park, Glasgow, Scotland on May 19, 2018.

Photo: AFP

When the season was stopped in March because of the pandemic, Celtic were 13 points clear of Old Firm rivals Rangers, who had a game in hand, while Hearts were four points adrift at the bottom of the standings.

Places were decided on a points-per-game average.

Celtic also won nine consecutive league titles from 1965-1974, a feat matched by Rangers from 1989-1997.

While there was joy for Celtic, whose tally of titles stands at 51 compared to the 54 of Rangers, relegated Hearts said they were still considering legal action, saying they had been "unfairly penalised" because of the pandemic.

Last week Scottish clubs failed to support a request by Rangers for an independent investigation into the SPFL's handling of the season in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Scotland's three lowest tiers were ended immediately in April, with positions also decided on a points-per-game average.


Saliva won't be allowed to shine a cricket ball

The age-old trick of using saliva to shine a cricket ball could be a thing of the past when cricket resumes, with the International Cricket Council recommending a change to the sport's laws in the wake of the novel coronavirus.

Cricket balls.


The committee, chaired by former Indian spinner Anil Kumble, unanimously agreed to recommend a ban on saliva although players will still be allowed to use their own sweat to try and achieve the fabled 'reverse swing'.

Cricketers have long used saliva and sweat to shine one side of the ball while allowing the other to become increasingly scuffed over the course of an innings.

The technique alters the aerodynamics of the ball, allowing pace bowlers to generate movement in the air.

The committee saw no need to prohibit the use of sweat as it is unlikely the virus can be transmitted that way, the ICC said, adding that the recommendations would be presented to its Chief Executives' Committee for approval in early June.

Shane Warne previously suggested using weighted balls to help pace bowlers generate swing without risking health, while Australian cricket-ball manufacturer Kookaburra says it is developing a wax applicator to enhance shine and aid swing.


Hawks should be wound up

Creditors have voted to liquidate the Illawarra Hawks' remaining assets after the Australian NBL basketball team was put into administration for the second time in five years.

A report from administrator Michael Jones revealed the Hawks were unable to meet outstanding debts of more than $2 million and recommended the company be wound up.

It also revealed staff and players who had been stood down since April were owed about $750,000.

The NBL currently owns the franchise licence after taking it back from former owner Simon Stratford, and it has committed to paying outstanding player salaries.

However, there has been no word on whether the league will honour the contracts of other Hawks staff, including coach Matt Flinn, who was one year into a three-year deal.

The Hawks made history last season when their game against the Sydney Kings attracted the biggest ever NBL crowd of 17,514 fans.

One of main drawcards was new Hawks recruit 18-year-old LaMelo Ball - the face of the NBL's inaugural NextStars program.


Alonso ready for an F1 return

Two-times world champion Fernando Alonso is ready for a Formula One comeback, according to his long-time adviser and former Renault team boss Flavio Briatore.

IndyCar driver Fernando Alonso of the McLaren Racing Chevrolet drives at  Indianapolis Motor Speedway.


The 38-year-old Spaniard left F1 at the end of 2018 but is seen as a possible replacement for Australian star Daniel Ricciardo, who is moving to McLaren in 2021.

"Fernando is motivated. A year away from Formula One has done him good. He has detoxed himself and I see him calmer and ready to return," Briatore, who left Renault in 2009 after a race-fixing scandal, told Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport.

Renault are expected to take their time before making any driver announcement, with the 2020 season yet to start due to COVID-19.

Four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel is also available after Ferrari announced the German would be leaving at the end of the year.

Alonso won his titles with Renault in 2005 and 2006 to end seven-times champion Michael Schumacher's long reign.

He moved to McLaren for a tumultuous 2007 season alongside a rookie Lewis Hamilton but returned to Renault for 2008 and 2009 before moving to Ferrari and then back to McLaren in 2015.

The two-times Le Mans 24 Hours winner has made the Indianapolis 500 his main target this year in a bid to become only the second man after the late Graham Hill to complete the 'Triple Crown of Motorsport'.


Japan veteran retires from rugby

Lock Hitoshi Ono, the most capped Japan international of all time with 98 caps, will retire from rugby at the age of 42.

Ono, who was part of Eddie Jones' Japan side that historically beat South Africa at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, made his final appearance for the Brave Blossoms against Scotland in June 2016, falling just two caps short of reaching a century.

His cub Toshiba Brave Lupus announced his retirement following 19 years with the Top League club, during which he won four titles. He also made 12 appearances in Super Rugby for the Sunwolves.

This year's season of Top League, Japan's main domestic competition, has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ono, who was nicknamed the 'Iron Man', made his debut in 2004 against South Korea before featuring at three World Cups for Japan.

Some of Japan's 2019 World Cup squad are trying to chase Ono's record, including Toshiba team mate Michael Leitch who has 68 caps and scrumhalf Fumiaka Tanaka who has 75.


Federer is the best

Roger Federer is the best tennis player of the current generation but reigning world No.1 Novak Djokovic remains the most difficult opponent in Rafa Nadal's career, the Spaniard's uncle and former coach Toni Nadal has said.

Rafa and Toni Nadal.

Rafa and Toni Nadal. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The "GOAT" (Greatest of all Time) debate in men's tennis has divided opinion for a decade and remains a hot topic as the trio continue to dominate, having won the last 13 majors.

Federer, who will be 39 in August, is nearing the end of a glittering career and leads the race on 20 Grand Slam singles titles, with Spaniard Nadal close on his heels with 19.

Djokovic is three behind the Swiss with 17 majors and is a year younger than Nadal, who turns 34 next month.

"For me, he (Federer) is a wonderful player. I like to watch Roger Federer a lot," Toni told Eurosport's Players' Cut programme, which features Nadal this week.

"I know Federer is the best ever with I don't know who; maybe Rod Laver or maybe Rafael, he's not too far (behind). But at the moment Federer is the best."

Nadal currently trains under former world No.1 and fellow Mallorcan Carlos Moya after uncle Toni stepped down as his long-time coach at the end of the 2017 season.


Clough steps down from Albion

Burton Albion manager Nigel Clough and two members of his backroom staff will step down as part of cost-cutting measures brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the League One (third-tier) club said in a statement.

Clough, 54, will be replaced by skipper Jake Buxton, who will serve as player-manager, the club added.

Clough returned to Burton Albion for his second spell as manager in 2015 and helped guide them into the Championship (second-tier) for the first time.

He first joined the club in 1998 when they were in the second tier of non-league football and led them to the brink of the Football League before leaving to join Derby County in 2009.

His assistant Gary Crosby and his brother and chief scout Simon Clough will also leave the club in the coming weeks.