Brugge had a runaway 15-point lead with one match left in the regular season and will take up an automatic spot in next season’s Champions League group phase. Belgium was the first country in Europe to end its soccer season just weeks after its suspension in mid-March but that decision made by the Pro League board still had to be ratified by the clubs, who did so at Friday’s general assembly.
* Ten-pin bowling will join PGA golf, NASCAR and UFC in bringing competition back to a sports-starved nation this weekend when the professional league holds its virtual draft. Over 50 elite, draft-eligible professional bowlers will vie for 26 spots on 10 teams across the country, including two new Professional Bowlers Association teams in Las Vegas and Milwaukee. Bowling fans will be able to watch a livestream of the draft on Sunday.
* A short-term extension of player contracts in Denmark has been agreed to ensure the season which has been interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic can be completed by July 31, the Danish Soccer Players’ Association announced. Denmark’s two top divisions are expected to resume at the end of May and the agreement between the players’ union and the Danish Division Clubs Employers’ Association covers the vast majority of Denmark’s elite players. Any exceptions will be negotiated at a local level, the agreement said.
* Spanish soccer clubs Villarreal and Getafe have denied any wrongdoing after national media reported on Friday that police are investigating possible match-fixing in a 2-2 draw between the two clubs in La Liga last year. Five former Osasuna directors and two former Real Betis players were given jail sentences last month following an investigation into match-fixing in 2013 and 2014, the first ever convictions for sporting corruption in Spanish football.
* The hosts for the 2023 women’s World Cup will be chosen at an online meeting of the FIFA Council on June 25, the global soccer body said on Friday. FIFA will choose between Brazil, Colombia, Japan and a joint bid from Australia and New Zealand in what it said was the “most competitive bidding process” in the event’s 29-year history. None of the bidding nations have staged the event before.
* Fans preparing to follow the action in the first top-flight professional soccer league to resume after the COVID-19 lockdown should be prepared to keep their distance or risk seeing future matches cancelled, the mayor of Dortmund said. The German Bundesliga will resume on Saturday with Borussia Dortmund facing rivals Schalke 04, a local derby that will be played in an empty stadium in order to minimise the risk of infection.
* Horse racing will be allowed to resume in Ireland without spectators on June 8, the government said on Friday, with face coverings mandatory for jockeys and temperature tests for all key personnel on entry.
* Montpellier captain Vitorino Hilton has signed a one-year contract extension at the age of 42 that will keep him at the club until 2021, the French Ligue 1 side said on Friday. Hilton, who signed for Montpellier in 2011, has made 321 appearances for the club, winning the league title in 2011-12. The Brazilian centre back’s contract was set to expire on June 30.
* Daniel Ricciardo was McLaren’s first choice to replace Ferrari-bound Spaniard Carlos Sainz and Sebastian Vettel was never in the frame, the Formula One team’s chief executive Zak Brown said on Friday. He expected Vettel, who is leaving Ferrari at the end of 2020, to retire.
* Bulgaria has cancelled the rest of its second division season and declared leaders CSKA 1948, who secured their maiden top flight promotion, as champions, the Balkan country’s football union said on Friday. CSKA 1948 were leading city rivals Septemvri by three points, and had also played one match more, when the championship was suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak in mid-March. There were 12 rounds of matches left to play.
* League Two (fourth-tier) clubs in England have unanimously voted to end their season early due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the English Football League (EFL) said on Friday. The decision will need to be ratified by the EFL’s board.
* The ATP Tour and International Tennis Federation have extended their suspensions of professional tennis until July 31 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they said on Friday. The ATP and WTA announced in April that they were suspending all tournaments until July 13, with the WTA saying on Friday it had further suspended four events due to be held in July. The WTA added that it will provide an update in June on the tournaments scheduled for the latter half of July.
* Formula One and Silverstone have agreed terms for two races without spectators at the circuit this season, subject to government approval, the track’s managing director Stuart Pringle said on Friday. The British Grand Prix, a home race for Mercedes’ six times world champion Lewis Hamilton as well as seven of the 10 teams, is scheduled for July 19 but that could change as the sport redraws a calendar ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.
* The governing body of South African Rugby (SA Rugby) has reached an agreement with related stakeholders to cut R1.2-billion (US$64.69 million) from its expenditure for the remainder of 2020 as it battles to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. SA Rugby announced the plan on Friday, which has been agreed by provincial unions, players and other rugby industry employees.
* The Belgian Formula One Grand Prix, scheduled for the end of August but threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic, can go ahead without spectators, regional authorities said on Friday. The Formula One season has yet to start, with three races cancelled and seven postponed, but series organisers are planning to get going in July with two races behind closed doors in Austria. The government has said no sports or cultural events can take place before June 30 but sports clubs can resume training in the presence of a coach and with no more than 20 people present from May 18.
* Russia’s top professional soccer league will resume matches on June 21 after having suspended the season in mid-March because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Russian Football Union said on Friday. The decision comes after several other European professional leagues, including Germany’s Bundesliga, announced their return to the pitch.
* Former MotoGP world champion Jorge Lorenzo will not have a chance to race this season after series organisers ruled out wild card entries due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The season has yet to start for motorcycling’s top category but there are hopes of opening with two races on successive weekends in July without spectators at the Jerez circuit in southern Spain.
* Olympic-bound professional athletes must have clean anti-doping records to be eligible for a one-off grant aimed at assisting them financially during the COVID-19 crisis, World Athletics said on Friday. The sport’s governing body said athletes will have until May 31 to register for the grant from a US$500,000 fund jointly set up by World Athletics and the International Athletics Foundation to support competitors whose incomes have been hit.