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Rory Smith and
LEEDS, England — A swath of sporting events across Britain, including the entire professional soccer schedule, were canceled in the hours after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, with most likely to remain on hiatus through the weekend as a mark of respect.
Representatives from various sporting organizations were called to a meeting with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport on Friday morning, with the government’s guidance that each sport choose its own response.
The biggest focus was on the Premier League, the world’s most popular domestic soccer competition. League officials and club executives huddled for two days trying to find the correct response to the queen’s death. It was decided that the entire round of games would be postponed, something agreed to with the lower-tier leagues and the professional women’s competition, which had been poised to start its season this weekend.
“We and our clubs would like to pay tribute to Her Majesty’s long and unwavering service to our country,” said Richard Masters, the Premier League’s chief executive. “As our longest-serving monarch, she has been an inspiration and leaves behind an incredible legacy following a life of dedication.”
Sports with events scheduled for Friday had already moved unilaterally to cancel them.
Horse racing — the sport closest to the queen’s heart — called off all of its scheduled meetings for Friday. The British Horseracing Authority is expected to make a decision on Friday on when it will resume. On Thursday, it was announced that both the second day’s play in the cricket test match between England and South Africa at the Oval, in London, and golf’s P.G.A. Championship would not take place. The Tour of Britain cycling race was canceled entirely, with three days’ racing remaining.
Soccer games did take place on Thursday, as several clubs played in continental European competitions, with players wearing black armbands and crowds observing a minute’s silence. Two fixtures in the second-tier Championship, scheduled for Friday, were postponed.
For English soccer leaders the decision to cancel the games was in part because of the need to mark the moment at the earliest opportunity. Previous precedents made finding the right answer a difficult task: Although games were canceled after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997, games were played when the queen’s father, King George VI, died in 1952.
The leagues also face a decision on how to rearrange games scheduled to be played close to the queen’s state funeral, which is expected to be held either next weekend, or the following Monday, Sept. 19.
The postponements are likely to hit soccer the hardest, as the current season’s calendar is one of the most compressed in modern history. The league is already facing a six-week break between mid-November and December because of the World Cup in Qatar, leaving few empty slots for rearranged games.
Other sports have decided to play this weekend, including rugby and a return of the horse racing schedule. Cricket and golf events that were suspended are also expected to resume.