It was August when we last reported on the road back to spectator sport 2.0 and while the live action for season 2020/2021 is underway fans are going to have to wait before returning to venues.
The recent rise in infections – signalling a second wave of coronavirus in the UK – has been unwelcome if not entirely unexpected and brought some promising pilot action (with crowds allowed at events) to a halt for the time being. That said top tier action (behind closed doors) across a range of sports is starting to gain momentum and it’s not out of the question by spring 2021 fans may be allowed back (most likely in restricted numbers) to see the finale of various seasons.
In rugby union England claimed the 2020 Guinness Six Nations title earlier this month with victory in Rome that saw them take top spot on points difference. The international action continues this month with the Autumn Internationals, an eight-team competition featuring England and Scotland men’s teams (who play matches at Twickenham and Murrayfield) as well as Georgia and Fiji and the other Six Nationals countries.
On a domestic level the new Guinness Pro14 season has seen Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow Warriors in action on home soil with the former scoring a welcome 18-0 win over Cardiff Blues last time out at Murrayfield, after a challenging start to their campaign. Meanwhile a new Gallagher Premiership season starts on 20 November with Exeter Chiefs defending the title they won just last month. It’s the start of a new rugby dawn for London Irish who move back to west London and the recently opened Brentford Community Stadium.
The Women’s Six Nations saw England confirmed as Grand Slam winners following a 54-0 win over Italy while unfortunately the three remaining matches have been cancelled. England’s women face France at Twickenham on the 21 November in the second of two autumn internationals. The top tier of English women’s club rugby – the Allianz Premier 15s – is back for a new season and shaping up nicely with Harlequins and Saracens both unbeaten after four matches and Loughborough Lightning and Wasp Ladies FC in hot pursuit.
Also underway for the 2020/2021 campaign is football where teams in the top tiers of both women’s and men’s leagues have shaken off any early season rust and now have a few matches under their belts in both England and Scotland.
Glasgow City FC – who are in search of a 14th straight title win – are level on points with Rangers at the top of the Scottish Women’s Premier League while Manchester United are currently top the Women’s Super League. In the men’s equivalent Rangers lead the way in the Scottish Premiership with Leicester City top of the Premier League. Not to be outdone the action continues apace throughout the FAWC, EFL and SPFL.
On the international front Scotland’s men face a date with destiny in November as they travel to Belgrade to face Serbia in a play-off final to reach next summer’s delayed Euro 2020. A win will see the Scots qualify for a major men’s tournament for the first time since 1998.
From the pitch to the course in horse racing the action has moved from the Flat to the Jumps with Ayr and Musselburgh hosting action this month and a highlight of the National Hunt calendar, the Scottish Borders National, taking place at Kelso on the 6 December. Deep in the heart of the beautiful borders countryside in 2019 it was 12/1 shot Bigirononhiship ridden by Craig Nichol who was first past the winning post.
Heading south Ascot Racecourse is also getting in on the sport of kings action later this month hosting its November Racing Weekend, including the Ascot Hurdle won in recent years by star horses Faugheen and Yanworth. Meanwhile Kempton Park features regular floodlit racing and Sandown is gearing up to host the Tingle Creek Festival at the beginning of December.
Moving indoors the basketball season got underway in European style as London Lions put together arguably their strongest roster for their debut appearance in the Basketball Champions League. Alas that didn’t go as hoped but the Lions are a team to watch in the domestic season that started earlier this month with the BBL Cup. Glasgow Rocks have also put together an impressive roster for the upcoming season and are due to play their opening cup fixture on Sunday 15 November when they host Cheshire Phoenix at the Emirates Arena.
The WBBL has also taken a knockout approach to start the new season with the WBBL Cup featuring the top women’s basketball club sides in the UK. BA London Lions and Oaklands Wolves are two teams in the London area looking to make a mark while Caledonia Pride are looking to go from strength to strength in 2021 just four years since they became Scotland’s first female professional team.
Boxing has punched above its weight during 2020 hosting a steady flow of shows and the action shows no signs of slowing up this month. Matchroom Promotions host an eagerly anticipated women’s world title triple-header on 14 November at The SSE Arena, Wembley, featuring undisputed lightweight world champion Katie Taylor putting her title on the line against Spain’s Miriam Gutierrez, while Terri Harper defends her WBC super-featherweight title and Rachel Ball bids to become the WBA bantamweight world champion. That’s followed on 28 November with Seek and Destroy presented by Queensberry Promotions – a showdown for the European crown between two of the brightest – and unbeaten – heavyweight stars in professional boxing, the British champion Daniel Dubois and Olympic super-heavyweight silver medallist from the 2016 Rio Olympics Joe Joyce.
In tennis it’s the end of an era at The O2 as the Nitto ATP Finals (the year-end climax to the ATP season) celebrates its 50th anniversary edition before heading to Turin in Italy for five years as from 2021.
The waiting game continues in Scotland and London for a green light to the return of spectators at events. But the good news is there’s plenty of action taking place and scheduled into 2021 with venues poised to facilitate the return of crowds just as soon as government guidelines permit.