The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world of sport as we know it. Desperate times call for desperate measures. And this meant a tectonic shift in rules and regulations between sports disciplines.
Rule changes in sport this year had mostly to do with social distancing and avoiding as much contact as possible. The best known was the ban on salivation at cricket games. Shining saliva on the ball is an instinctive act in cricket, and bowlers have had a particularly hard time holding back. The ICC stipulated that a team should receive two warnings that five runs would be awarded to the batting team if the field team committed the third violation.
The teams had to stay in bio-bubbles, as did the referees and the broadcasters. Mixing was avoided as much as possible. Until recently, the games were played in empty stadiums.
The ICC also said that if a player shows symptoms of COVID-19 during a friendly match, teams – much like the concussion substitute – are allowed to make a like-for-like substitution. Due to the logistical challenges, home referees were used in all game formats.
Handshakes before the game were banned in all sports and the teams arrived on the field at different times. And yet the referees overlooked the interactions between the teams after the game, which pretty much spoiled the purpose of not allowing handshakes.
In European football, the leagues allowed teams to create more substitutes – from three to five in one game – during the restart of the 2019-20 season, taking into account the increased risk of injury and fatigue. There were also water breaks around the conclusion of the first and third quarters of the game. This is also being followed in the ongoing Indian Super League.
Funnily enough, deliberately coughing against opponents or the referee became a bookable crime. The English Football Association allowed the referees to send off players who had committed the offense. It’s safe to say that the players had enough sense not to do this.
Financial fair play rules were relaxed during the pandemic to give teams some respite as their finances took a hit this year. Fiscal year 2020 is linked to 2021, and the two years are valued as a single financial period. This enabled the larger clubs to untie the purse threads in the transfer window.
In tennis, two Grand Slams and the World Tour Final took place after the sport returned. The players were not allowed to give their towels to ball kids, but instead were given boxes on the sides of the court to store their sweaty towels.
There was a big change at the US Open that could soon become permanent. To reduce the number of people in court, line judges in all courts of the US Open were replaced with hawk-eye technology. Expect Arthur Ashe’s main stadium. The linesmen returned at the French Open when the players’ demand that clay courts also eliminate the use of linesmen fell on deaf ears. In the future, these officials could soon be a thing of the past.
The support staff and substitute players at events like the NBA, Formula 1 and European football were asked to marginalize themselves socially in the early days of the sport’s restart. Huddles and high fives were also discouraged, but slowly relaxed over time.
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Cricket, Australian men’s cricket team, Twenty20, Black Lives Matter, English cricket team, ICC Cricket World Cup
World News – USA – How COVID-19 changed the rules of sport
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