The Daily Telegraph

Football isolated while other major sports carry on

Test match at Oval, golf at Wentworth, Premiershi­p rugby and horse racing to take place, as governing bodies make own decisions

- By Tom Morgan, John Percy, Ben Rumsby and Nick Hoult

Football was isolated in cancelling the entire weekend’s fixtures last night as other major sports resumed amid commemorat­ions for Queen Elizabeth II.

Test cricket, golf at Wentworth and Premiershi­p rugby all play today after getting the Government green light to return. But, during cross-sport talks, Mark Bullingham, the Football Associatio­n’s chief executive, outlined a firm position to call off the national game following the death of its long-standing patron and grandmothe­r of its current president, the new Prince of Wales. After much deliberati­on, the Premier League and Football League agreed on a complete shutdown that includes the grass-roots game. The decision prompted some dismay last night, with the Football Supporters Associatio­n and grass-roots organisati­ons lamenting an “opportunit­y missed” to let fans and players pay immediate tribute.

With other sports also divided in adopting what they saw as appropriat­e responses to the national period of mourning, it was also decided:

► England’s series-deciding third Test against South Africa will begin today, but will take place over three days after South Africa refused to play on until Tuesday.

► The Kia Oval crowd will be the first sport to sing “God Save the King”, with fancy dress banned and limits on alcohol consumptio­n to ensure spectators act appropriat­ely.

► In rugby, clubs were left furious as the Premiershi­p dithered before rescheduli­ng fixtures at Bristol Bears and Sale Sharks with just hours to spare.

► The Great North Run takes place as planned, the PGA BMW Championsh­ip resumes as a 54-hole competitio­n, while racing returns tomorrow.

► However, cycling’s Tour of Britain is off and the women’s world middleweig­ht title fight between Savannah Marshall and Claressa Shields is also postponed until Oct 15.

Millions of football fans and amateur players will stay at home today while cricket and rugby, including the recreation­al games, go ahead.

As sports met to discuss their positions yesterday morning, England captain Ben Stokes posted online he would “be honoured to play” in the late Queen’s memory at an Oval ground owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, inherited on Thursday by Prince William from his father, the King.

Premiershi­p Rugby then confirmed all games this weekend would be played as planned. Bristol and Bath, who had been scheduled to play yesterday are now due to play at 5.30pm, while Sale and Northampto­n goes ahead tomorrow at 3pm. In rugby league, today’s Super League play-off between Huddersfie­ld and Salford is also set to go ahead.

Official advice from the Department of Digital, Media and Sport left the decision at the discretion of sporting bodies, with “no obligation” to make changes but football eventually decided the best course of action was a full cancellati­on. The FA chairwoman, Debbie Hewitt, said: “This is a great example of football working in unity. We all absolutely 100 per cent agree this was the right thing to do to pay our respects.”

The decision puts pressure on an already tight schedule with the World Cup finals in November having necessitat­ed a compressed early part of the season. Fixtures from Tuesday are now all but certain to return although there is some concern about the logistics of staging some fixtures next Sunday on the eve of the Queen’s funeral.

Gary Neville and Peter Crouch were among former players critical of this weekend’s cancellati­on, but the FSA recognised the game had faced a tough decision. “Not everyone will agree, so there was no perfect decision for the football authoritie­s, but many supporters will feel this was an opportunit­y missed for football to pay its own special tributes,” the FSA said.

There will be no racing today but the season’s last Classic, the Cazoo St Leger which was due to take place at Doncaster, will be centrepiec­e of a nine-race card at the Yorkshire course tomorrow.

To mark what the British Horseracin­g Authority described as the “special bond” between the sport and the Queen, all meetings were cancelled yesterday and the cards at Doncaster, Chester, Lingfield, Chelmsford, Musselburg­h and Ffos Las will not go ahead today.

Under the new official guidance from government, sports are told “there is no obligation to cancel or postpone events and sporting fixtures, or close entertainm­ent venues during the national mourning period”.

A full sporting wipeout is suggested for the day of the funeral, however.

“As a mark of respect, organisati­ons might wish to consider cancelling or postponing events or closing venues on the day of the state funeral,” the guidance adds.

“They are under no obligation to do so and this is entirely at the discretion of individual organisati­ons. If sporting fixtures or events are planned for the day of the state funeral, organisati­ons may want to adjust the event timings so they do not clash with the timings of the funeral service and associated procession­s.”

Fixtures that do take place in the intervenin­g period are advised to pay appropriat­e respects, however. The Premier League’s postponeme­nt includes Monday evening’s game although Manchester United’s Europa League match at Sheriff Tiraspol on Thursday in Moldova will still go ahead.

The top tier’s chief executive, Richard Masters, said: “We and our clubs would like to pay tribute to Her Majesty’s long and unwavering service to our country. As our longest-serving monarch, she has been an inspiratio­n and leaves behind an incredible legacy following a life of dedication. This is a tremendous­ly sad time for not just the nation but also for the millions of people around the world who admired her, and we join together with all those in mourning her passing.”

In tennis, next week’s Davis Cup Finals tennis tournament in Glasgow will go ahead, the Lawn Tennis Associatio­n has confirmed.

‘This is a great example of football working in unity and right thing to do to pay our respects’

 ?? ?? FA president: Prince William with Chloe Kelly after England’s victory in the Women’s Euros
FA president: Prince William with Chloe Kelly after England’s victory in the Women’s Euros

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