It’s now 2021 and it’s a great year to be a sport’s fan – if it all goes ahead, of course. Last year, thanks to the Coronavirus, the sports world felt a bit lacking with postponed events and empty arenas. On the bright side, this means that 2021 is now jam packed with sporting events so you will be spoilt for choice, no matter your interest. Want to watch live sports while having a pint? Check out The Cornershop Bar.
Take a look at what, fingers-crossed, we have to look forward to this year:
The Six Nations is tantalizingly close, starting on the 6th February and fans are hopeful that this year the competition will go uninterrupted. Tensions amongst the nations are high as England return to defend their title. The final is expected to air on 20th March but until then there are plenty of nail-biting lineups to watch, all available on either the BBC, ITV or S4C.
Meanwhile, club rugby teams are currently completing the 2020/2021 season with the final set for June 26th, days before the British and Irish lions begin their South African tour.
As for football, there is one thing in common across all of the biggest tournaments; the uncertainty. Officials are battling hard to plan for all sorts of scenarios in which football can continue to be played but there is pressure in the form of Covid outbreaks among players, navigating international travel and the most noticeable problem; the lack of fans. So it might not be time yet to dust off your season ticket but there are plenty of fixtures planned that you can enjoy from the comfort of your armchair.
In the Premier League, it has been a year since Liverpool’s comfortable 25-point lead at the top of the table and now, that gap is considerably smaller, putting pressure on teams and making this year’s competition considerably more thrilling. You won’t have long to wait as the last matches are scheduled for 23rd May.
Additionally, the final match of the Champions League 2020/2021 season is due to be played on the 29th May in Istanbul’s Atatürk Olympic Stadium after being postponed last year due to the pandemic. Three UK teams – Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool – are in the running and will be hoping to win the title from last year’s champions, Bayern Munich.
Also, don’t forget that the postponed Euros 2020 are scheduled to begin on 11th June and will be held across twelve cities in Europe. The Stadio Olimpico, Rome will host the opening game of Turkey v Italy and is scheduled to finish on 11th July.
The first of the Big Slams, the Australian Open, begins very soon on the 8th February in Melbourne and it will certainly set a precedent in how tennis plans to proceed in the face of Covid. The Australian Open was lucky not to be affected at the start of last year but already problems are rising as there are a small growing number of positive cases in the state of Victoria. This, along with countries, such as the United Kingdom, battling their own high infection rates, has led to speculation that Australia could ban players from high risk countries from entering the country.
As for Wimbledon, organisers are still to announce the details on how the Grand Slam event will take place but have stated they are ready for three scenarios; either a full capacity or reduced capacity championship, or a behind closed doors championship. Tennis officials have stressed that everything will depend on government and public health advice but for now, the tournament is planned to run from 28th June to 11th July as normal.
Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics
Last year, one of the world’s most anticipated sporting events was postponed until this 2021 for the first time in its history. Previously, the summer Olympics have only ever been cancelled three times, in 1916, 1940 and 1944, all due to the world wars. Although daily coronavirus cases in Tokyo have surged past the 1,000-mark, Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga has reassured the world that the games will go ahead while being “safe and secure” on the 23rd July to the 8th August. Tokyo organisers have been working alongside the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to plan for a variety of different scenarios and have been testing out safety measures. The Paralympics are due to follow shortly after, running from the 24th August to the 5th September.
For golf, things look set to be relatively normal this year and planners are cautiously optimistic that audiences will be allowed, albeit at a slightly reduced capacity. The golfing calendar kicks off in April with The Masters and will conclude in September with the eagerly anticipated Ryder Cup. An added bonus is the addition of last year’s postponed The Open which you can watch in July at Royal S. George’s, Kent. You can expect the return of your favourites such as Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and returning champion Shane Lowry who will want to defend his win at The Royal, Portrush in 2019.
The Grand National was cancelled last year due to the height of the pandemic but this year is set to run as normal at Aintree with event organisers promising to do whatever they can to ensure the Grand National takes place on 10th April.
Sports fans will be eagerly waiting with bated breath as this year will be very telling in how the world of sport will continue to operate and adapt in the face of the coronavirus. The big question on everyone’s minds of course is the promise of a vaccine but the government have advised that the speed of the rollout depends on how quickly the vaccine can be manufactured. A lot of plans are dependent on it, but this does leave the question of whether athletes should even be a priority. If there is one thing, we can agree on it is that the organisers of these events have a mammoth task ahead of them, but they will always have the enthusiasm and backing of their fans behind them.