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Mass gatherings in England stoke concerns over distancing rules –



In many ways, it’s been a perfect storm for illegal gatherings in England as hot weather, which is set to persist into Friday, and Liverpool Football Club’s first league title in 30 years prompted people to abandon their cooped-up coronavirus existence.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned that the government has the power to close beaches and other public spaces in England amid growing concerns over the public’s adherence to physical distancing rules.

Following widespread rule-breaking that has seen beaches crammed, illegal street parties in London that have turned violent and a mass celebration in Liverpool, concerns are mounting that people have ditched their risk-averse attitude as the government eases its lockdown restrictions.

With the hot weather set to continue Friday, there was clearly a potential for more mass gatherings, although early indications were that people had not converged on the beaches around the southern English coastal town of Bournemouth in anything like the numbers they had over the past couple of days.

WATCH | Massive crowds ignoring physical distancing rules flock to U.K. beaches:

Local officials declare it a ‘major incident’, lambasting people for their ‘irresponsible behaviour’. 1:15

Hancock told TalkRadio that he was “reluctant” to go down the route of closing public spaces as “people have had a pretty tough lockdown.”

However, he said “we will take action” if there is a spike in the number of coronavirus cases.

‘Completely overstretched’

On Thursday, the local council around Bournemouth said services were “completely overstretched” as people headed to the seaside, many packed into trains from London, on a day meteorologists confirmed as the hottest of 2020. Under lockdown restrictions in England, groups are limited to six people and people are advised to avoid public transport wherever possible.

A “major incident” was declared that gives additional powers to local authorities and emergency services to tackle the issue, a decision that prompted a rare intervention from the government’s chief medical officer on social media.

Prof. Chris Whitty tweeted that COVID-19 remains in “general circulation” and that cases will rise again if people don’t follow the guidelines.

“Naturally people will want to enjoy the sun but we need to do so in a way that is safe for all,” he said.

The scenes of revelry were evident overnight on the streets of London and Liverpool, two of the worst-affected cities during the pandemic, which has claimed 43,230 lives across the U.K., by far the highest in Europe.

A night after clashes in the south London district of Brixton following a street party, which left 22 police officers injured, London’s Metropolitan Police said officers had to attend further unlicensed music events, block parties and raves.

Police warnings

Kensington and Chelsea Police said a gathering in Notting Hill in west London was dispersed by around 2 a.m. Friday. And though there were no confirmed reports of serious injury, it said objects had been thrown at police officers.

“Such behaviour and any violent acts will not be tolerated,” it said.

In the wake of the clashes in Brixton on Wednesday night, the Met said it was undertaking an “enhanced policing operation” across London, which involved additional officers in place.

“It’s hot, some people have drunk far too much, some people are just angry and aggressive and some are plain violent,” Met commissioner Cressida Dick said.
The events were unlawful and should not be happening, she said, warning: “We will come and close them down.”

Rejoicing in Liverpool

In Liverpool, the scenes were far more jubilant as the Reds ended a 30-year wait to be champions of England again. Fireworks lit up the sky and thousands of delighted fans packed the streets after Manchester City’s defeat to Chelsea meant no team could catch Liverpool in the Premier League.

“You want to be amongst it,” said 23-year-old supporter Libby Stevens.

Fans celebrate at Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium after Liverpool FC clinched the English Premier League title on Thursday. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The gatherings took place just days after Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave notice that a number of the lockdown restrictions will be eased from July 4, including allowing pubs and restaurants to open their doors. He also effectively announced that the two-metre physical distancing rule will be reduced to a metre from that date, a move that is largely aimed at bolstering businesses.

The relaxation has met with a lot of criticism, not least because the U.K. is still recording relatively high new coronavirus infections and deaths.

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Reports: NHL playoffs will take place in Toronto and Edmonton – Stanley Cup of Chowder



If the NHL playoffs end up happening, it looks like all of the action is going to be north of the border.

Sportsnet reported earlier this afternoon that Edmonton and Toronto have been selected as hub cities, with a formal announcement to come sometime soon.

Other reporters have since confirmed those reports.

The Sportsnet article linked above also makes note of the fact that Elliotte Friedman reported that (sensibly) the Eastern Conference teams will be in Toronto and the Western Conference teams will be in Edmonton.

It remains to be seen where the Final will be played.

If the reports are to be believed (and when there are this many “reports,” they’re rarely wrong), this appears to be a good sense decision by the NHL.

Frankly, large swaths of the United States are in the midst of disastrous COVID-19 spikes, and even the states that are seeing encouraging trends are still a cluster or two away from falling into the same state.

Canada appears to have a better handle on the virus, and the cities above have the amenities needed to support the league’s hub plan.

While some will cry foul/favoritism, with no fans, there’s really not going to be any home-ice advantage in these series. One could argue that the Leafs will be more comfortable in their own arena, but how much impact will that really have?

Presumably, the league will still require players from the home cities to stay in the hubs/clusters/pods/whatever like the rest of the teams, so it’s not like the Oilers players will get the luxury of sleeping in their own beds every night.

Overall, another step toward resumption by the league, again with the caveat that things are fluid.

Training camps could start in just a couple of weeks, and teams would likely end up heading to their hub cities before the end of the month.

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Report: NFL to cut preseason in half – TSN



The NFL will cut its preseason in half and push back the start of exhibition play so teams have more time to train following an all virtual off-season made necessary by the coronavirus pandemic, a person with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the league hasn’t announced that the preseason will be cut from four games to two.

The pandemic forced teams to conduct their entire off-season programs via videoconference. So, teams will be gathering together for the first time when training camps open July 28.

Minus the usual minicamps, on-field practices and in-person weight training from April to June, players’ conditioning won’t be what it normally is. So, eliminating the first week of preseason games Aug. 13-16 will give them more time to ratchet up their football fitness.

Teams will now play exhibitions Aug. 20-24 and Aug. 27-31 during what were originally the second and third weeks of exhibition play with all 32 teams playing one home and one road game.

Most of those games will remain the same as originally scheduled although some matchups in that second slate will have to be changed so every team gets a game at home.

The exhibition finales on Sept. 3 were also scrapped, giving teams more time to get ready for the regular season, which opens Sept. 10 with Houston at Kansas City.

There are no changes to the regular season schedule.

The league continues to draw up protocols, not only for COVID-19 mitigation but for ramping up practices during the first few weeks of training camp.

The annual Hall of Fame Game pitting Pittsburgh and Dallas on Aug. 6 was recently scrapped as the induction ceremonies were pushed back to 2021.


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Hubmonton! Edmonton and Toronto picked as NHL hub cities, multiple sources report – Edmonton Journal



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This in from NHL insider John Shannon, talking to Reid Wilkins of CHED about the NHL’s selection of Toronto and Edmonton as playoff hub cities: “It looks like Edmonton and Toronto are the two hub cities.”

On Twitter Shannon said: “All indications pointing to a “Made in Canada” for the Hubs. Amongst other things, the increased virus cases in 36 states, have Edmonton and Toronto has the hub cities for the NHL.”

And from Mark Spector of Sportsnet: “EDM gets the Hub, an obvious decision that took too long to make. Lowest COVID by far. They’ll also get Oilers and West teams, my understanding, with East playing in TOR. Makes no sense for TV to have East teams out West.”

Denver hockey writer Adrian Dater: “Vegas losing out on being a hub, to Edmonton, a last-minute shocker. But the virus made too big of a comeback in Vegas it seems. Wow.”

And on the NHL and NHLPA collective bargaining agreement, there’s also hopeful news:

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