The Olympics and Paralympics head to Tokyo, Euro 2020 sends football fans around Europe, plus the return of the Ryder Cup
The month begins with the Six Nations, as rugby union’s northern giants rebuild after an ultimately unsuccessful World Cup. Wales are the holders, but must travel to Dublin and Twickenham. Beaten finalists in Japan, England start as favourites but France may be a decent outside bet, with Cardiff and Murrayfield their only away trips.
In the women’s tournament, England will be favourites to retain their title after their recent away Test victory over their nearest rivals, France. Sarah Hunter’s side open their campaign with a trip to Pau, and end it in Padova against last year’s runners-up, Italy.
February’s first weekend saw perhaps the biggest single sporting fixture on the planet – Super Bowl LIV in Miami. The Kansas City Chiefs earned their first NFL championship for 50 years, but left it late to overcome a San Francisco side who had one hand on the Vince Lombardi trophy in the fourth quarter.
Staying stateside, look out for the NBA’s All-Star weekend in Chicago, and the Daytona 500 this month. Elsewhere, the Champions League returns with thrills and spills guaranteed in the last 16, and at the end of the month there are rainbow jerseys to be won at the track cycling worlds in Berlin.
The women’s T20 World Cup concludes in Melbourne, where Australia will be hot favourites to defend their title. England will be targeting the final after getting a favourable draw, but must avoid a repeat of the one-sided defeat inflicted by the Aussies in 2018.
Formula One returns with the traditional curtain-raiser in Melbourne, with Lewis Hamilton bidding to match Michael Schumacher’s haul of seven world titles. Elsewhere, it’s arguably the biggest week in horse racing at the Cheltenham Festival, while England play two Test matches in Sri Lanka.
Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will battle for the final Euro 2020 places as 16 teams are cut down to four in the play-offs. England’s women head to the States to face the USA, Japan and Spain in the SheBelieves Cup. Summer creeps in with the cycling classics and Major League baseball seasons getting under way, and the men’s and women’s Boat Races on the Thames.
The first LPGA major of the year, the ANA Inspiration, is held in California. One week later, it’s over to Augusta for the first men’s golf major of the year, with Tiger Woods defending his Masters title. The first-ever Vietnam Grand Prix will race through the streets of Hanoi, and the NFL draft will be held in Las Vegas.
More traditional sporting highlights include the Grand National – with Tiger Roll chasing a hat-trick of wins – the start of cricket’s County Championship season, the London Marathon and two weeks of tension at the Crucible, as Judd Trump battles to retain his world snooker title.
It’s a month of finals, with the men’s and women’s FA Cup showpieces at Wembley, the women’s Champions League in Vienna and the men’s Champions League in Istanbul. Not forgetting the Scottish Cup, Europa League and EFL play-offs, with football’s richest game, the Championship play-off final, offering a lucrative place in the Premier League.
The first of cycling’s three Grand Tours, the Giro d’Italia, starts on foreign soil – in Budapest, to be precise. The Netherlands hosts an F1 Grand Prix in a busy month for motor sport, with the Indy 500 and Monaco GP also taking place. Thrill seekers might also want to head to Cardiff for the Nitro World Games – the largest action sports event ever held in the UK.
Euro 2020 kicks off this month, and will be hosted by 12 different cities from Dublin to Baku. England and Wales are the only qualified home nations so far, with Scotland and Republic of Ireland in the play-offs. England will play their group games at Wembley, plus the semi-finals and final – if they get that far. Gareth Southgate’s side are in Group D with Croatia, Czech Republic and a play-off winner.
Wales are in Group A, with a trip to face Italy and two other games in Azerbaijan, against Switzerland and Turkey. If that sounds tough, spare a thought for the play-off winners who end up in Group F – with Germany, France and holders Portugal. Sixteen teams will progress from the groups into a straight knockout.
The Copa América takes place in Argentina and Colombia, and there’s plenty of action away from football. England play three home Tests against the West Indies, and there are three golf majors as the US Open, women’s US Open and women’s PGA are contested in the US. There are also three big rugby union finals, with the Premiership, Pro14 and Super Rugby trophies to be won.
The Tour de France sets off from Nice on the long road to Paris. It’s hard to bet against another Team Ineos winner, but will it be defending champion Egan Bernal, or can Geraint Thomas or Chris Froome secure another British win? Speaking of which, this could be a big month for Andy Murray, with Queen’s Club and a potential Wimbledon return as he continues his fightback from injury.
It’s the biggest sporting event on earth; 11,000 athletes from more than 200 nations, competing in 339 events across 33 sports. The 32nd Olympic Games, the second to be held in Tokyo, will dominate the sporting summer.
While Rio 2016 suffered from big distances between venues and poor infrastructure, that shouldn’t be a problem in Tokyo. Thirteen of the venues, including the National Stadium, are within 5km of the athletes’ village, although the marathon and walking events will be in the northern city of Sapporo, due to concerns over heat.
British medal hopes include Dina Asher-Smith in the 200m and Katarina Johnson-Thompson in heptathlon, Adam Peaty in the pool, Laura Kenny in the velodrome and 11-year-old skateboarder Sky Brown. New events to watch out for include 3-on-3 basketball, surfing, speed climbing, skateboarding and karate, while baseball and softball will be popular draws in Japan after being brought back to the Games.
The spotlight will be on Tokyo, but the British summer of sport will still be in full swing. Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep are looking to defend their Wimbledon titles, while Lewis Hamilton will go for a seventh British Grand Prix crown at Silverstone. After Shane Lowry’s memorable win at Portrush last year, can anyone end the long wait for an English winner at Royal St George’s in The Open?
The ECB’s controversial new cricket tournament, The Hundred, finally kicks off this summer. Eight new city franchises have drafted players, with men’s and women’s teams competing for a place in the inaugural finals in August. Time will tell if the bold new format – 15 six-ball overs, then a 10-ball final over – will draw more casual fans than the disbanded Women’s Super League, or the men’s county-based T20 Blast, which will continue.
Two weeks after the Olympic closing ceremony, the torch is passed to the Paralympic Games. Also held in Tokyo, the Paralympics will welcome 4,400 athletes competing in over 500 events. British names to watch out for include runner Sophie Hahn, former swimming medallist turned para-canoeist Charlotte Henshaw and Amy Truesdale, who is chasing gold in the new para-taekwondo event.
Elsewhere, England complete what’s sure to be an entertaining Test series against Pakistan, while the year’s third and final grand tour, the Vuelta, begins with a jaunt to the Dutch city of Utrecht. The domestic football season kicks off too, with the Premier League and Football League returning early in August.
Europe are bidding to retain the Ryder Cup trophy they won emphatically in France two years ago, as the USA takes over hosting duties. Europe lead 7-2 in wins since the turn of the century and will fancy their chances of an away win at Whistling Straits. The lakeside Wisconsin course looks and feels like Scottish links, complete with sheep, stone bridges and testing weather conditions.
September also sees T20 Blast finals day, the Royal London Cup final and the county championship’s closing rounds. The Tour of Britain begins with a first-ever visit to Cornwall, while the road cycling world championships take place amid the peaks of Vaud and Valais in Switzerland.
There’s a double helping of T20 World Cups in 2020, with the men’s tournament also taking place in Australia at some of cricket’s most iconic venues, from the Gabba to the MCG. England will be on the hunt for another trophy, and revenge after their dramatic late defeat to the West Indies in 2016.
The Windies, the hosts or familiar foes New Zealand are all potential semi-final opponents for England if they progress from their Super 12s group. Ireland and Scotland, meanwhile, will hope to make it out of their preliminary groups after qualifying for the tournament.
Elsewhere, the Champions League group stages will be heating up, and F1 enters the home straight with races in Japan and the USA. Super League’s showpiece finale, the grand final, takes place at Old Trafford, before an Ashes series between England and Australia which concludes at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
The Formula One season reaches its climax in Abu Dhabi, and there are year-ending showdowns in men’s and women’s tennis, plus golf in Dubai. Two of the biggest horse races in the world, the Melbourne and Breeders’ Cups, will be contested, and the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations will kick off – although the hosts are yet to be confirmed.
The sporting year ends with a few festive staples – the PDC world darts championship returns, and there will be the usual post-Christmas football and horse racing action. The Club World Cup will return to Qatar, 12 months on from Liverpool’s victory. The European cross-country athletics championships will be held in Ireland, snooker’s UK Championship will be played out in York, and one hero from the past year will win the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year award.