26 May 2020

Today's sports news: What you need to know

11:14 am on 26 May 2020

Latest - An overseas pay-per-view option of all 56 New Zealand National Basketball League games will split the profits equally with the seven teams and players in the revamped competition.

Hawks El Singler (Center L) has a shot intercepted by Saints Sunday Dench (L) and Leon Henry (Centre R) and drops into the hands of team mate Nick Kay during the NBL basketball match between the Wellington Saints and Hawkes Bay Hawks at the TSB Arena on Friday the 12th April 2019.

Photo: Photosport Ltd 2019

Launched today as www.LeaguePass.co.nz, fans from across the world can purchase a subscription to watch the six-week tournament. The new platform is geo-blocked in New Zealand, with all games broadcast locally by Sky Sport.

NBL general manager Justin Nelson says the NBL, which tips off on June 23, has seized the opportunity to be one of the few professional basketball leagues operating in the world.

"We all know Covid-19 has brought the sporting world to a grinding halt, so that means our league could be the best available basketball option for overseas fans. We are stepping into new territory by offering our games globally," Nelson said.

"The teams' revenue sources are challenged this year too, so we needed to help them and the players. We think LeaguePass.co.nz is an enticing option for the basketball hungry audience and could potentially be a great financial boost for the players, as well as the teams and their profiles.

"We think this might be a first. I don't know of another sport in New Zealand where players have been given a share of the pay-per-view revenue like this."

Player registrations opened on Monday with more than 250 registrations received in the first 24 hours, including 11 Tall Blacks.

The "Real Deal" open to fighting "Iron Mike"

Former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield has said he is open to facing one-time rival Mike Tyson in a trilogy fight for charity on the condition that Tyson asks for the bout to be set up.

Former professional boxer, Evander Holyfield.


Tyson, 53, fought two epic bouts with Holyfield, 57, during their professional careers, including their controversial 1997 encounter in which Tyson bit off a chunk of Holyfield's ear.

'Iron Mike' had released several training videos in recent weeks fuelling speculation he could be returning to the ring, while Holyfield announced his return for a charity bout on Instagram earlier this month.

"If I ask him it's almost like me being a bully saying I want to go against somebody I've beaten twice," Holyfield told the BBC. "I don't want pressure on me that 'you just want to fight Mike because you know you can beat him'.

"If he hits me I'm going to hit back. I'm going to be 58, he'll be 54, you talk about being in good health and doing things the proper way that respects it. I don't have no problem with it."

Tyson, the first heavyweight to hold the WBA, WBC and IBF titles, retired after a loss to Kevin McBride in 2005, while Holyfield called time on his career nine years later.

If they do return, they will be following in the footsteps of Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao in coming out of retirement for an exhibition fight.


England womens football called off

England's womens football competitions, stalled by the Covid-19 crisis, have been ended with immediate effect.

2019 Womens FA Cup Final - Manchester City Women v West Ham United Ladies - Steph Houghton of Man City celebrates.

Manchester City women Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The FA says the decision was taken to end the Women's Super League and Women's Championship following "overwhelming feedback from the clubs" and to give them the chance to "prepare and focus on next season."

Manchester City were leading the Super League by a point from Chelsea, who had a game in hand.

The FA said no decision had yet been made on how the league winner or relegation to the Women's Championship would be decided, or how entries for the 2020-21 UEFA Women's Champions League would be determined.

Aston Villa were six points clear at the top of the Women's Championship.

Top-flight English football's men's teams were given permission to resume training in small groups last week.


Remembering Jesse Owens

It was 85 years ago today that American sprint legend Jesse Owens set four world records.

Described by Sports Illustrated as the "Greatest 45 minutes ever in sports" history, Owens set records in the 100 yard, 220 yard, 220 yard hurdles and long jump.

He achieved the feat running for Ohio State at a College meeting in Michigan.

His tally was in fact six world records as he also achieved metric milestones in two of the races.

A year later Owens went on to win four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

-World Athletics

Baseball returning to Japan

Pro baseball is set to return in Japan with the Nippon Professional Baseball league to begin its 2020 season on June 19, as the government lifts restrictions aimed at stopping the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Kyocera Dome Osaka.


Games will initially be played without spectators, NPB Commissioner Atsushi Saito announced, without saying when fans may be able to return.

The NPB season was supposed to start on March 20 but has been delayed because of the coronavirus.

New cases in Japan have decreased significantly recently and a state of emergency imposed in April to help stop the virus is gradually being lifted and professional sport is being allowed to resume.

Two Japanese teams held intra-squad practice games in empty ballparks yesterday as they gear up for a return to action.

Several of Japan's top football clubs, including Andres Iniesta's Vissel Kobe, also began training on Monday.


Indian hockey legend dies

India's three-times Olympic hockey gold medallist Balbir Singh has died at the age of 95 after a prolonged pulmonary illness.

Singh helped India win its first Olympic gold as an independent country at the 1948 London Games when they beat Britain 4-0 in the final. India then went on to defend the title at the next two Games in Helsinki and Melbourne.

Singh scored five goals in India's 6-1 victory over the Netherlands in the 1952 final -- a record that still stands. He also captained the country at the 1956 Games when they scored 38 goals in five matches and conceded none.

Following his retirement, Singh coached the Indian team which won the World Cup in 1975.


Reds okay with departing team-mates

Queensland Reds players harbour no ill will towards Wallabies lock Izack Rodda and two other team mates for rebelling against pay-cuts, the Super Rugby team's captain Liam Wright said.

Rodda, flyhalf Isaac Lucas and lock Harry Hockings were released from their contracts last week after refusing to take pay-cuts signed off by the players union and governing body amid a financial crisis brought on by the coronavirus shutdown.

The three have been criticised heavily by former players and pundits for their stance, which has effectively ended their career in Australian rugby for the foreseeable future.

Wright, however, said the trio's departure could bring the rest of the Reds playing group closer.

"It'll definitely be a positive for us," Wright said.

"We've lost some good mates but they'll still be our mates and they've made their decision. This group can only get stronger through it.

"It just makes sure that everyone who wants to be here is really willing to put in."

Rodda missed out of the Reds captaincy to South Africa-born flanker Wright and there were reports of friction between the lock and the team's hard-nosed coach Brad Thorn.

The three players, who are all managed by the same agent, are expected to look overseas for playing opportunities.


Kvitova happy to be back

Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova is happy to finally play tennis again for fans around the world - even if they can only watch on television.

Czech tennis star Petra Kvitova.

Czech tennis star Petra Kvitova. Photo: Photosport/Icon Sportswire

The world number 12 will headline an all-Czech tournament in Prague starting today without spectators, handshakes or the usual towel service.

The return to action is one of the first after pro tennis tours were suspended in early March as countries went into lockdown to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.

Some exhibition events without fans have been held in countries like Germany and the United States while more are planned elsewhere in the coming weeks.

Kvitova last played at the Qatar Open in February where she lost in the final to Belarus's Aryna Sabalenka. She said finding rhythm and playing without support would be the hardest part returning.

"That it will be without people is something I still can't imagine at all," she told a news conference on Monday.

"We will play some nice tennis... I think we are mainly here to bring tennis back not only to the Czech Republic, but to the world, too."

The tournament, with eight players in both the men's and women's draw, will resemble regular tennis as much as possible.


Ban on cricket spit only temporary

A recommendation banning the use of saliva to shine a cricket ball when the sport resumes after the novel coronavirus shutdown is only a temporary measure, Anil Kumble, the chairman of the International Cricket Council's Cricket Committee, said.

Cricketers have used the age-old method of shining one side of the ball with a combination of saliva and sweat to help bowlers generate more movement in the air as it travels towards the batsman.

However, as part of efforts aimed at minimizing the risk of spreading the virus, the governing body's cricket committee has recommended the ban on using spit.

"We have been very critical and we have been very focused on eliminating any external substances coming into the game," former India leg-spinner Kumble said on Star Sports' Cricket Connected.

"This is only an interim measure and as long as we have hopefully control over COVID in a few months or a year's time then I think things will go back to as normal as it can be."

Australia quick Pat Cummins has said cricket's lawmakers should approve the use of an artificial substance to shine the ball if the ban on saliva was enacted, while compatriot Josh Hazlewood has said it would difficult to police such a ban.


New Zealand to host tennis tournament

The prize-money is paltry, the field lacks star power and the tournament director is busy hammering out the draw while locked down in quarantine.

But New Zealand will be proud to revive elite tennis next week when it stages the "Premier League" in Auckland, marking the southern hemisphere's first pro competition since the Covid-19 pandemic brought global sport to a halt.

The men's team-based tournament will run for three weeks from June 3, giving tennis-starved fans something to watch in the absence of the pinnacle ATP and WTA tours, which have been suspended since early March.

It will also have the sporting spotlight exclusively in New Zealand for its opening 10 days, having left professional rugby's June 13 restart in the dust.

All 112 matches will be staged without the general public in the terraces but the games will be broadcast live on Sky Sport's Youtube channel, Sky Sport Next.

"Yeah, it's a big thing," Tennis New Zealand's commercial manager Gareth Archer told Reuters.

"As soon as rugby starts there's probably no more talk about (anything else) in New Zealand so to get a week or two on them is a good thing."