Since the first case back in December, coronavirus has gradually become the word on everyone’s lips – and for all the wrong reasons.

After the recent outbreak in Italy, it is now having major impact on European sport.

A number of Serie A games have been played behind closed doors, and it has now been announced that all Italian sport will be suspended until April.

With Liverpool looking set to win their first ever Premier League title, the fear for Reds supporters is that the potential trophy parade could be cancelled, with mass gatherings of people advised against to prevent the spread of the virus.

Surely Liverpool couldn’t lift their first title in 30 years in front of an empty stadium?

Well, we’ve taken a look at major sporting events that have been cancelled throughout history – sometimes even the biggest competitions aren’t safe!

1919 Stanley Cup

Perhaps in the most similar vein to the coronavirus outbreak was the cancellation of the 1919 Stanley Cup. The best ice hockey teams from USA and Canada compete for the prestigious trophy every year, but the 26th edition of the competition was cancelled after the Spanish flu outbreak.

Most of the Montreal Canadiens players fell ill prior to their deciding game against Seattle Metropolitans, leading to health officials calling the match off.  Canadiens manager George Kennedy and defencemen Joe Hall died as a result of the flu.

Although the lives of Jurgen Klopp and Virgil van Dijk probably aren’t at risk, it is a stark reminder of how a pandemic can bring the sporting world to a halt.

Stanley Cup
The Stanley Cup is one of ice hockey’s most prestigious trophies. (Pic by Micheal Miller, under creative commons licence)

1940 Summer Olympics

As you would expect, a whole host of events were cancelled during this period due two World War 2. The Olympics were perhaps one of the biggest though, with the Games scheduled to go ahead in Tokyo in September 1940, after they became the first non-Western city to win an Olympic bid.

They were initially rescheduled in Helskinki, Finland, but they were ultimately cancelled after the war broke out.

Nazi leaders proposed the Aryan Games as a replacement for the Olympics during the war.

Needless to say, those plans never materialised.

1989 MLB World Series

As the third game of the 1989 Major League Baseball World Series was about to get underway in San Francisco, the city was rocked by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake.

With Oakland Athletics leading San Francisco Giants 2-0 in the series, thousands of people were packed into Candlestick Park with the third game scheduled to start at 5:35pm.

At 5:04pm, the quake hit, killing 63 people. None of those casualties came within the stadium, and many experts believe that the timing of the game reduced the loss of life in the city – many people were at home or in bars to watch the game, so very few were caught on the collapsed freeways.

10 days later game three was played, with Oakland, who went on to claim the series 4-0, winning 13-7.


2001 PGA Tour

Two events were cancelled on the PGA Tour in 2001, after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center brought America to a standstill.

A number of events were abandoned after the horrific scenes in New York, with both the Tampa Bay Classic and WGC Championship in Missouri cancelled.

2001 FIFA Club World Cup

The Club World Cup, which was lifted by Liverpool in December 2019, failed to go ahead in 2001 after the collapse of FIFA’s marketing partner ISL.

1999-2000 Champions League winners Real Madrid were set to compete in the competition, but financial difficulties and fixture congestion meant the second edition of the tournament failed to go ahead.

Liverpool fans may question why this year’s competition went ahead, despite being forced to play a largely inexperienced side in the Carabao Cup against Aston Villa, after they were required to play two games in two days, in two different continents.

2004-05 NHL

The 88th season of the National Ice Hockey League failed to go ahead in 2004, after an unresolved lockout. A lockout is a denial of employment initiated by the management of a company (in this case NHL) – rather than the employers.

It would be the first time the Stanley Cup failed to be awarded since the Spanish flu pandemic in 1919 (see number one on this list).

In a similar fashion, the 1994-95 MLB season was cancelled after a strike.

One can only imagine the carnage if the Premier League caused a cancellation of top-flight football in England.

2011 Bahrain GP

After its inaugural race in 2004, the Bahrain Grand Prix became a staple of the early weeks of the Formula One season.

But with anti-government protests causing unrest in the Persian Gulf, the decision was made to reschedule the event for later in the year, before it was eventually cancelled altogether just a week on.

The 2012 event went ahead despite human rights activists reporting excessive force used by Bahraini authorities.

This year, the race will be held ‘behind closed doors’ amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Bahrain protests
Protesters in the Bahraini city of Sitra. (Pic by Al Jazeera English, under creative commons licence).

2011-13 Egyptian Premier League

The top flight of Egyptian football was cancelled for two years running, after two separate incidents.

The 2011-12 season was abandoned following the Port Said Stadium disaster. 74 people were killed and over 500 were injured after fighting broke out between supporters of Al-Ahly and Al-Masry – instigated largely by the latter.

The 2012-13 campaign was then cancelled in the wake of the Egyptian coup d’état. Egyptian army chief General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi led a coalition to remove the President of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, from power, leading to widespread unrest in the country, thus leading to the cancellation of football events.


2012 New York City Marathon

Less than 48 hours before the 2012 New York City Marathon, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the race was cancelled.

Three days prior, Bloomberg had said the event would go ahead despite the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy the week before.

Bloomberg reversed his original decision though, with the belief that holding the event while thousands were without electricity and water would only serve to fuel controversy in the state.

2016 Copa Sudamericana

Brazilian side Chapecoense and Colombian team Atlético Nacional were set to compete in the 2016 Copa Sudamericana final before tragedy struck.

The plane carrying the Chapecoense team to the first leg away in Colombia crashed, killing 71 people, including 19 of the 22 man playing squad.

In the wake of the disaster, Atletico Nacional requested the trophy to be awarded to Chapecoense. Organisers CONMEBOL agreed, handing the Brazilian side their first ever continental title.

Chapecoense tribute
Tributes held for those that lost their lives in the Chapecoense plane crash. (Pic by Daniel Isaia/Agência Brasil, under creative commons licence)

(Liverpool parade pic by Eric The Fish, under creative commons licence)