11 Jun 2020

Today's sports news: What you need to know

9:51 am on 11 June 2020

White Ferns captain Sophie Devine believes the use of a smaller lighter ball would help the women's game.

White Fern cricketer Sophie Devine.

Sophie Devine Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Under current regulations, the ball used in women's cricket is fractionally smaller and lighter than that used in the men's game.

However Devine feels reducing it even further would encourage attacking cricket.

Speaking in the ICC's '100% innovation' webinar, Devine suggested that using a slightly smaller, lighter ball than now could help the women's game flourish.

"I'm a bigger fan of looking at a smaller ball but keeping the pitch the same size," she said. "That way, I reckon bowlers are going to be able to bowl the ball quicker, spinners are going to be able to turn the ball more.

"Hopefully, the ball should fly a bit further as well, whereas you're still keeping the traditional length of the pitch. It's a very interesting one.

"If it's going to help the game flourish, I think: why not? Why would we not have a crack at it and see what happens? I think you've always got to have a bit of trial and error and see what works."

The White Ferns are scheduled to play Australia in September.


PGA Tour returns

The top five ranked golfers will take part in the first event back on the US PGA golf tour this week.

New Zealand golfer Danny Lee.

Danny Lee Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The field for the Charles Schwab Challenge in Texas includes world number one Rory McIlroy and 101 PGA Tour winners.

New Zealander Danny Lee is in the field and will play alongside American Brian Gay and Canadian Mackenzie Hughes in the first two rounds.

It is the first tournament since the Players Championship was halted in mid-March by the coronavirus pandemic.

The most jarring change will be the absence of galleries that would normally flock to any tournament featuring the world's best players.

Golf's biggest name and winner of 15 majors, Tiger Woods will be the only noticeable absentee in the elite field as he continues to get his game in shape after recovering from back issues.

Television coverage of the Charles Schwab will include a few new features like augmented reality technology virtual signage while some golfers will wear microphones in an effort to liven up a subdued soundtrack.

All of those involved in the event will have to undergo mandatory testing.

The Tour says it will observe a moment of silence during each round of this week's tournament in Texas to honour George Floyd.


Bad week for Benji

Kiwi rugby league international Benji Marshall's week has gone from bad to worse after he was quarantined from his Wests Tigers team mates for breaching social distancing protocols by kissing a reporter.

Benji Marshall during the Kiwi's Captain run .

Benji Marshall Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The veteran halfback, who was sensationally dropped by Wests on Tuesday for the weekend's match against Canberra, fell foul of the National Rugby League's strict biosecurity rules when he greeted a television reporter with a peck on the cheek at training at St Luke's Park in Sydney.

"Marshall was involved in a social distancing incident with an accredited reporter, which was immediately reported to the NRL as per guidelines," Wests said in a statement.

"Under those guidelines, Marshall will remain at home tomorrow, which is a scheduled day off for Wests Tigers NRL squad, while the reporter undergoes a COVID-19 test.

"Assuming a negative result is returned, no further action will be required by Marshall or Wests Tigers."

Seven Network reporter Michelle Bishop tweeted: "Just goes to show you, we can all get caught up in life and forget what kind of world we are living in at the moment. Off to be tested."

Marshall will not be allowed to return to the club until Bishop's test result is confirmed, the NRL said.


Federer out for the year

Roger Federer will miss the rest of the 2020 tennis season after undergoing a second procedure on his right knee.

Roger Federer.

Roger Federer. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The 20-time Grand Slam singles champion struggled with injury at this year's Australian Open in Melbourne, where he lost in the semi-finals to eventual champion Novak Djokovic, and subsequently underwent surgery on the knee in February.

"A few weeks ago, having experienced a setback during my initial rehabilitation, I had to have an additional quick arthroscopic procedure on my right knee," the 38-year-old said in a Twitter post.

With professional tennis shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic it remains to be seen how many tournaments Federer will actually miss.

The Swiss also had knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus in 2016 and missed the second half of that season.

When he returned to the tour for the 2017 season it looked like he had never been away, winning the Australian Open to end a near five-year Grand Slam title drought and adding the Wimbledon title later that year.

The last of Federer's record 20 Grand Slam singles titles came at the 2018 Australian Open. The closest he has come since was at Wimbledon last year when he lost in the final.

"Now, much like I did leading up to the 2017 season, I plan to take the necessary time to be 100% ready to play at my highest level," he said.


Still no decision on T20 World Cup

The International Cricket Council has deferred its decision on the fate of this year's Twenty20 World Cup to next month, saying it would further explore contingency plans while also preparing to deliver the tournament in Australia.

Cricket Australia boss Kevin Roberts has downplayed the prospect of the tournament going ahead in 2020, saying the October-November schedule was under "very high risk" due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"The situation surrounding the global pandemic is evolving rapidly and we want to give ourselves the best possible opportunity to make the right decision..." ICC chief executive Manu Sawhney said in a statement after the board meeting.

"The health and well-being of everyone involved is our priority and other considerations fall out from that."

Although the ICC is also considering alternative options for next year's women's 50-overs World Cup in New Zealand, the prospect of that tournament going ahead as planned in February-March is significantly brighter.

New Zealanders on Tuesday celebrated their first day without coronavirus restrictions in three months.

"We will only get one chance to make this decision and it needs to be the right one," Sawhney added.


Australia starts up domestic competition

Australia's domestic "Super Rugby AU" schedule has been confirmed for July 3 to Sept. 19 after getting approval from broadcasters.

Queensland Reds coach Brad Thorn

Reds coach Brad Thorn Photo: © Photosport Ltd 2018 www.photosport.nz

The competition, featuring the country's four Super Rugby teams and Perth-based Western Force, will have 10 weeks of round robin play before a two-week playoff series.

Australia will become the second nation to resume professional rugby after the coronavirus shutdown, with New Zealand set to open "Super Rugby Aotearoa" this weekend.

The broader Super Rugby season, which featured teams from New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina and Japan, was suspended in March after seven rounds following the instalment of travel restrictions and border controls to curb the spread of COVID-19.

South Africa's Super Rugby teams are expected to play in a home-based competition but Argentina's Jaguares and the Tokyo-based Sunwolves face an uncertain future.

Super Rugby AU will kick off with the Queensland Reds hosting the New South Wales Waratahs in Brisbane on July 3.

The competition, which will take place at closed venues pending government advice on allowing spectators, will be a welcome boost for RA, which has battled to stave off a financial crisis exacerbated by the coronavirus shutdown.


Windies must make the most of their opportunity

West Indies captain Jason Holder says his team should cherish the opportunity to play test cricket in a series that could easily have been cancelled due to the new coronavirus pandemic.

West Indies captain Jason Holder

Jason Holder Photo: Photosport

The first test is scheduled at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton from July 8, with the last two matches at Old Trafford.

All the tests will be played without spectators with the Caribbean players already set up in their base at Manchester's Old Trafford where they are quarantined in the on-site hotel.

"I see so many leagues in jeopardy and the World T20 as well -- so the mere fact we are getting an opportunity to play cricket I think we should cherish that," Holder said.

There has been no international cricket since March 13 due to the pandemic and the status of the World T20 tournament, scheduled to begin in Australia on Oct. 18, remains uncertain.

West Indies' squad have to spend three weeks at Old Trafford before heading to Southampton and with their movement restricted to the ground and hotel they face a challenge to avoid boredom.


No decision yet on Man City penalty

Manchester City will have to wait until "the first half of July" to find out whether their appeal against a two-year ban from European football has been successful.

A three day hearing of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, held over video-conference, concluded today and the Lausanne-based court said they would now begin deliberations.

"The decision is expected to be issued during the first half of July 2020. The exact date will be communicated in advance," CAS said in a statement.

European football's governing body UEFA ruled in February that City had committed serious breaches of Financial Fair Play regulations and failed to cooperate with its investigation, handing them a two year ban from European competitions and a 30 million euro fine.


O'Sullivan hated latest snooker event

Former world number one Ronnie O'Sullivan has said a night in the cells was a more enjoyable experience than competing at the Championship League Snooker event in Milton Keynes, where he ran out of food while being stuck in his hotel room all day.

Snooker player Ronnie O'Sullivan

Ronnie O'Sullivan Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The event, which began on June 1, was staged without fans as part of strict COVID-19 safety protocols. Players had to arrive a day before their matches and stay at the on-site hotel after undergoing tests for the novel coronavirus.

"Got to be off my head coming here, haven't I? I've been sat in my room for 24 hours," the five-time world champion told Eurosport. "I've done 16 hours in a cell once, and it was better because I got to choose my own food."

O'Sullivan had earlier said that he had run out of supplies at one point and was left "eating cornflakes for the rest of the day".

The 44-year-old won all three of his opening group matches but crashed out of the tournament in the next stage after a 3-0 defeat by Stuart Bingham.


Reds could cinch title at Goodison Park

The Merseyside derby between Everton and Liverpool in the English Premier League this month will be held behind closed-doors at Everton's Goodison Park stadium, despite concerns the venue may attract supporters.

Media reports had suggested that the fixture on Sunday June 21 could be held at a neutral venue if authorities felt there was a risk of lockdown restrictions on public gatherings being broken.

Liverpool could win the title with a victory at Goodison Park if Manchester City lose to Arsenal on Wednesday, June 17th.

"The decision to play the game at the Club's home stadium was made today by the local Ground Safety Advisory Group following positive discussions between the Club, Liverpool City Council, Merseyside Police, The Everton Fans' Forum, The Blue Union, Liverpool Football Club and Spirit of Shankly," Everton said in a statement on their website.


Italian MotoGP canned

The Italian MotoGP, a permanent fixture on the calendar since 1991, has been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Italian MotoGP at Mugello.


The race becomes the eighth casualty of this year's motorcycle scheduled ravaged by the novel coronavirus, following the Qatar, Dutch, German, Finnish, British, Australian and Japanese rounds of the world championship.

Located in a Tuscany valley, the Mugello Circuit is renowned for attracting some of the most passionate crowds of the season, and holds extra significance for home favourites Ducati and seven-time world champion Valentino Rossi.

The organisers are hoping to start the season with a race at the Jerez circuit in southern Spain on July 19.


MLS to return at Disney World

North America's Major League Soccer will restart the season on July 8, after being shut down for almost three months by the Covid-19 outbreak, by staging a tournament without fans at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

All 26 clubs will take part in what is being billed as the "MLS is Back Tournament" that will run until Aug. 11.

The World Cup style event will have group stage matches that count in the MLS regular season standings and the tournament winner will earn a spot in the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League.

Players will also have the opportunity to earn additional bonuses as part of a $2 million prize pool.

Following the tournament, the MLS said it plans to continue its regular season with a revised schedule of home and away games, followed by the playoffs and the 25th MLS Cup.

Each team will play three group matches, and those results will count towards the regular season standings.


Weighlifting in danger of being kicked out of Olympics

Weightlifting could lose its place in future Olympic Games if ongoing investigations into the sports' international federation reveal more corruption, the International Olympic Committee said.

Laurel Hubbard of New Zealand competes in the Women's 90+ kg division of the IWF Weightlifting World Championships in California,2017.

Laurel Hubbard of New Zealand competes in the Women's 90+ kg division of the IWF Weightlifting World Championships in California,2017. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

An independent report last week said the IWF was plagued by decades of corruption orchestrated by autocratic former president Tamas Ajan.

This included vote buying, doping cover-ups and $10.4 million in cash that cannot be accounted for. Ajan has denied any wrongdoing.

The 81-year-old Hungarian Ajan, a former IOC member himself, had been at the IWF since the mid 70s, serving first as secretary general and then as president from 2000 until his resignation in April.

The 121-page report last week was both scathing and meticulous in detailing the massive scale of corruption within the IWF while it was ruled by Ajan, who used "the tyranny of cash" as his main control mechanism.

The investigation found the primary sources of this cash were doping fines paid personally to Ajan and cash withdrawals of large amounts from the IWF's accounts.


Coe up for IOC post

World Athletics President Sebastian Coe has been nominated for membership to the International Olympic Committee pending proof he has stepped down from an active role in a consultancy firm, the IOC President said.

Coe's membership is linked to the two-time Olympic champion's role as president of the federation and ends a five-year wait for one of the Games' most popular sports.

The athletics body has not had any representation within the IOC since the departure of Coe's predecessor Lamine Diack in 2015 amid a corruption scandal and subsequent trial.

The IOC had repeatedly snubbed Coe, a federation vice-president under Diack and British sporting great, saying there was potential conflict of interest with other posts he holds.

Apart from his role at World Athletics, Coe, who won 1,500m gold in 1980 and 1984, is also Group Chairman of consultancy firm CSM which also works with the IOC.

For decades, membership of the IOC for the head athletics was almost automatic.