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Thursday May 28th, 2020 3:51AM

The Latest: French 2nd division to have 22 teams next season

By The Associated Press
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The Latest on the effects of the coronavirus outbreak on sports around the world:

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The French soccer league has agreed on a 22-team second division for next season, meaning no team will be relegated after play was stopped because of the pandemic.

The French league’s board of directors reached the decision by an electronic vote, allowing Le Mans and Orléans to stay in the second tier while Pau and Dunkerque are promoted from the third tier. The top French leagues normally have 20 teams.

The French government decided in April that the domestic soccer and rugby leagues were to be canceled because of the coronavirus.

Paris Saint-Germain was declared the first-division champion while Amiens and Toulouse were relegated to the second tier.

Amiens has taken legal action against that decision and is also pushing for a 22-team top flight next season.

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The Minnesota Timberwolves are poised to reopen their practice facility. They will schedule voluntary sessions for players starting Thursday.

About half of NBA teams have begun arranging workouts, since Commissioner Adam Silver gave the go-ahead two weeks ago, subject to state and local guidelines.

Only one coach and one player will be allowed on the court at Mayo Clinic Square, across the street from Target Center in downtown Minneapolis. They’ll be required to stay 12 feet apart. Workouts will be limited to 45 minutes, and areas beyond the court will remain closed. Staff members in the building must wear gloves and masks at all times. Players must wear masks, too, except when on the court. Symptom and temperature checks and contact tracing will also be conducted by team medical staff upon entry into the facility.

“Being able to come in and do something basketball-related is, frankly, a release for a lot of players, especially at a time where they’ve been cooped up for a while. I think they want to do something,” Timberwolves vice president for basketball performance and technology Robby Sikka said. “But our first priority is their safety and their welfare.”

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Former England soccer player Alex Scott will join a government task force that will examine ways for sports to resume in the country during the coronavirus pandemic.

While the Women’s Super League season looks as if it's being curtailed, the men’s Premier League still hopes to resume next month.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden says Scott “will help us think through how we can get sport back safely in a way that helps both clubs, players and supporters alike.”

Scott has been working as a television presenter and soccer pundit since retiring from playing in 2017.

At a Downing Street news conference, Dowden also said he hopes some Premier League games will be available for free on television if the season can resume because fans won’t be allowed to attend.

All 380 Premier League games are aired globally apart from in Britain, where only 200 a season are broadcast live on pay TV to ensure fans still attend games.

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Mike Conley of the Utah Jazz has donated a total of $200,000 to five communities to assist with the coronavirus response.

Conley’s donation will go toward addressing food insecurity, homelessness and remote learning needs.

He is giving to the Utah Food Bank in Salt Lake City; CodeCrew in Memphis, Tennessee; Community Shelter Board and the Columbus Urban League in Columbus, Ohio; the Indianapolis Public Schools Foundation in Indianapolis; and the New Haven Missionary Baptist Church in West Helena, Arkansas.

Conley says the pandemic “has reminded me that I am in this position because of the support and sacrifices of others I’ve encountered all along the way. I wanted to be there for the communities that have been fundamental to my personal growth.”

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If Major League Soccer resumes its season, it surely will be without fans in the stands.

Goalkeeper Brad Guzan says that would be a huge blow to Atlanta United.

The franchise has set numerous attendance records since joining MLS in 2017, averaging more than 50,000 per league game each of the last two seasons. Atlanta drew an announced crowd of 69,301 for this year’s opener at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but the season was shut down a few days later because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re lucky with the support and atmosphere and energy that’s created in our stadium,” Guzan said on a video conference call with Atlanta media. “We’re all eager to get back, but we have to get back in a safe and responsible way. If that means fans can’t take part, that’s a massive blow to us. That’s certainly something we feed off of on game day.”

Guzan expressed some skepticism about the idea of resuming the season with all teams based in Orlando, a proposal that has been floated as the best way to get the season going again after a two-month layoff.

“A lot of questions have to be answered from a league perspective before something like that can take place,” Guzan said. “I don’t think it would be for every game left in the season. I don’t think you can ask the players to relocate to another city for the rest of the season.”

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The Italian soccer federation has given the country’s top three leagues until Aug. 20 to complete their seasons.

The federation has also come up with alternative plans if the leagues have to be halted again because of the coronavirus pandemic. They could resort to playoffs or decide positions by applying coeffecients.

The following season is now scheduled to start on Sept. 1.

Serie A has been suspended since March 9. There are 12 rounds remaining in the league and the Italian Cup is in the semifinal stage.

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Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp says being back in group training with some of his players “felt like the first day in school.”

The Premier League leaders were among the English clubs undertaking staggered workouts in small groups following a relaxation of national lockdown regulations amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Those at the practice session at Liverpool’s training complex were still required to maintain social distancing. Video footage showed Mohamed Salah giving the thumbs-up before swerving to avoid Klopp as the forward ran onto the field to join teammates.

Klopp compared the current period to a pre-season and is keeping things simple to start off with despite saying his players are “in good shape.”

The German coach says the players are “getting used to the pitch, boots and ball, turns, passes, half-passes, softer passes, running, little accelerations and stuff like that.”

Liverpool leads the Premier League by 25 points and needs to win two more games to clinch its first league title since 1990.

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The Kentucky-Michigan college basketball matchup scheduled for Dec. 6 in London has been postponed until 2022 because of the coronavirus pandemic. And the three-game series has been restructured.

The schools were scheduled to highlight the inaugural Basketball Hall of Fame London Showcase doubleheader at the O2 Arena. The series also included Marist against UMBC. Michigan will now host the Wildcats on Dec. 4 in Ann Arbor before the schools meet in London one year later. Kentucky will host the Wolverines in Lexington on Dec. 2, 2023.

Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame President & CEO John L. Doleva says in a statement that the “unknown combination” of health, safety, international travel regulations and the economic viabilities for all parties required postponing the event.

Kentucky coach John Calipari says he is disappointed to not go to London and looked forward to meeting Queen Elizabeth II.

“But I’m glad we were all able to come together, figure this out and preserve this series for the future,” Calipari says.

Michigan coach Juwan Howard says: “The Hall of Fame took the time to review what is happening around the world and explore all options — all the safe options for the teams and most importantly the fans. The best thing is this tremendous event isn’t canceled, it’s just delayed.”

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The presidents of the University of Miami and Notre Dame say in separate interviews that they expect the football season to be played, though both raised the very real possibility of crowds being much smaller than usual or eliminated entirely.

Appearing on CNN, Miami's Dr. Julio Frenk says he hopes the Hurricanes can play this fall and that safety would be the top priority.

“They will probably play in empty stadiums, like so many other sports,” Frenk said. “But we hope to have a season and we hope to have a winning season.”

Speaking on MSNBC, Notre Dame's the Rev. John Jenkins says he expects to have clarity on how — or if — football season can happen in the next few weeks.

“The team itself, I feel we can manage that one,” Jenkins said. “Then the question is people in the stands. We have an 85,000-person stadium. Can we get 85,000 people in there? That will be a big challenge to do that. But could we get a smaller number — 10,000, 15,000, 20,000? I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that question. That’s something we’ll have to think through.”

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The head of the organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup says a global recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic could affect the ability of fans to afford to travel to Qatar.

The World Bank is forecasting a deep recession caused by the shutdown of economic activity around the world.

Organizing committee secretary general Hassan Al Thawadi says he is hopeful the tournament will be an opportunity for the world to come together again in November 2022. But he says there are “concerns about the global economy and the ability of fans to be able to afford traveling and afford coming and participating and celebrating the World Cup.”

Al Thawadi says organizers want a “a price range that is affordable for fans and a price range that is workable, functionable for the industry, for service providers, for the supply chain that is responsible for delivering the World Cup.”

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Watford defender Adrian Mariappa says he is one of the six people to test positive from the first round of coronavirus checks in the Premier League and is surprised that he contracted the disease.

Mariappa says on the websites of British newspapers The Daily Telegraph and The Daily Mail he has been “scratching my head to try to work out how I might have got coronavirus” because he hasn’t “really left the house apart from some exercise and the odd walk with the kids.”

The 33-year-old Mariappa says he hasn’t had any symptoms and has felt “as fit as ever.” He says he has spent lockdown dividing his time between homeschooling and following Watford’s fitness program.

Two members of Watford’s staff also tested positive for COVID-19. Burnley said assistant manager Ian Woan has also contracted the virus.

Tests on 748 people were conducted from 19 of the 20 Premier League clubs on Sunday and Monday. The 20th club started testing on Tuesday.

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The Portuguese soccer federation says six of the 15 stadiums seeking to host matches when the league resumes next month amid the coronavirus pandemic have failed health inspections.

All stadiums must comply with a series health measures established by local authorities to be able to host matches.

The federation says the stadiums for league leader Porto and second-place Benfica were among the nine stadiums that passed the inspections conducted by local health authorities.

The stadiums that failed belong to smaller clubs. They will be allowed to make changes to their venues before another inspection is conducted.

The Portuguese league was set to resume at the end of May but its start was delayed until June 4 so there was time to rigorously inspect stadiums and conduct medical tests on all professionals involved in the matches.

The league was stopped with Porto leading Benfica by one point with 10 rounds to go.

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Soccer players in Africa and the Americas are receiving food packages from their union while the sport is shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Players in Botswana, Egypt, Colombia, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay and Uruguay were identified as getting food aid by world players’ union FIFPro.

FIFPro general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann says some players “are being stranded in terms of income.”

FIFPro represents players in 65 countries. The union says most players have contracts paying them salaries comparable to national averages.

Baer-Hoffmann says the vast majority of soccer players are “under the same financial pressures as the rest of society.”

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Tottenham is looking into whether defender Serge Aurier has broken social-distancing rules for the third time.

Aurier posted a picture on Instagram on Tuesday appearing to show off a new haircut and sitting next to a stylist who was tagged in the post.

The Premier League club says it is “investigating the circumstances and will deal with the incident appropriately.”

The 27-year-old right back has been forced to apologize twice for breaking lockdown rules during the suspension of the Premier League because of the coronavirus pandemic. He posted a video of himself running with a friend and also training with Tottenham teammate Moussa Sissoko.

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