Coronavirus: March Madness to be played without fans, NCAA confirms
- Following advice from the NCAA's COVID-19 advisory panel, it has been decided that no fans will be permitted for March Madness games.
March Madness will be played without any fans in attendance due to the coronavirus outbreak, NCAA president Mark Emmert has confirmed.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) officially classed the proliferation of COVID-19 as a pandemic on Wednesday, with the spread of the virus leading to sport across the globe being suspended or played behind closed doors.
The NBA, NHL, MLS and MLB have withdrawn locker-room access to the media, while the Golden State Warriors will play the Brooklyn Nets in an empty Chase Center on Thursday after gatherings of over 1,000 people were banned by San Francisco's mayor London Breed.
Emmert confirmed attendance at the upcoming Division I men's and women's basketball tournaments would be heavily restricted following advice from an advisory panel.
"The NCAA continues to assess the impact of COVID-19 in consultation with public health officials and our COVID-19 advisory panel," Emmert said in a statement.
"Based on their advice and my discussions with the NCAA board of governors, I have made the decision to conduct our upcoming championship events, including the Division I men's and women's basketball tournaments, with only essential staff and limited family attendance.
"While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-10 is progressing in the United States.
"This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, our student-athletes.
"We recognise the opportunity to compete in an NCAA national championship is an experience of a lifetime for the students and their families.
"Today, we will move forward and conduct championships consistent with the current information and will continue to monitor and make adjustments as needed."
According to the WHO, the United States has seen 696 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 25 deaths.Published 12 Mar 2020, 02:52 IST