For about $20 each, fans could send in photographs of themselves that would be turned into cardboard cutouts to fill the seats at the games. It would almost be as if they were there. What could possibly go wrong?
Never underestimate the ability of pranksters to throw a wrench into the most innocent of plans. Viewers on TV could not help but notice some odd faces in the crowd.
Most notoriously, enjoying the Penrith Panthers-Newcastle Knights game on Sunday was a cutout of Harold Shipman, a British doctor who killed more than 200 of his patients over two decades. (The real Shipman killed himself in prison in 2004.)
At an earlier game involving Sydney Roosters and South Sydney Rabbitohs, a cutout was seen of Dominic Cummings, an adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain who has drawn fire for traveling in defiance of lockdown restrictions. Again, pranksters were suspected, since it seemed unlikely that Cummings is a Rabbitohs fan.
Shipman and Cummings apparently weren’t controversial enough for Matty Johns, a former player who hosts a program on Fox Sports. He presented a photoshopped picture of the cardboard cutouts, adding Hitler to the mix. After heavy criticism, Johns and Fox apologized.
Still, despite the hiccups, rugby league’s return was widely hailed as a success, with praise for tweaks to the rules that sped up the game.
One Team, 16 Players Testing Positive
As players returning to action are tested for the coronavirus, it has not been surprising that a few positive tests have turned up here and there.
Vasco da Gama, a top-division team in Rio de Janeiro, may have a bigger problem. It announced that 16 players of 43 who had been initially tested had tested positive for the virus. They will be isolated, and there will be further testing of the people who live with them.
Training was scheduled to start Monday.
Leagues expect to see some positive tests, and they believe isolation of the affected players will be a workable solution. But when a good chunk of a team has the virus, the problem becomes more severe.
Brazil had hoped to start playing state championship games as soon as two weeks from now. Will Vasco really be able to participate?
British Sports Return
Britain chose Monday as the day that sports could return, and several did. Among them was pigeon racing: A 4,000-bird race started at 10 a.m., British time. Horse racing, dog racing and snooker also started up.
Jockeys wore masks at the racetracks. “In this heat today, riding in the mask, it is very warm, and after pulling up I pulled it down a little just to get a few breaths in,” a rider, Jimmy Sullivan, told the BBC. “It wasn’t too bad, though. It’s manageable and it’s the sort of thing that in a week you won’t even notice it.”
You might think sports organizers and owners would be delighted by the restart and the revenue it is expected to generate. But at least one soccer club chairman forcefully declared that his sport’s comeback was happening too quickly.
Lee Hoos, the chief executive of the second-tier soccer team Queens Park Rangers, reacted with passion to the announcement that the league would aim for a restart on June 20.
“We are vehemently opposed to this schedule,” he said Monday. “The players haven’t even returned to full-contact training at this moment and yet they are now expected to be in a position to play at a competitive level in just three weeks’ time.
“I am not a lone voice on this matter; we are absolutely appalled.”