'March Madness' attendance to be limited to essential staff, families: NCAA

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Attendance at the NCAA’s ‘March Madness’ basketball tournaments will be restricted to essential staff and limited family due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, the association’s president Mark Emmert said on Wednesday.

The upcoming Division I men’s and women’s tournaments draw millions of viewers, making them among the most popular annual sporting competitions in North America.

“While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States,” Emmert said in a written statement.

The tournaments, which include 68 men’s and 64 women’s teams, take place in more than a dozen venues across the U.S.

CBS Sports and Turner Sports, which are responsible for broadcasting the tournament, said that they supported the decision to limit attendance and will continue to “fully produce and cover the entire event.”

Other championships will be subject to the restrictions as well, according to the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Numerous international sporting events have been impacted by the global coronavirus outbreak, with the NBA’s Golden State Warriors announcing on Wednesday that they would play without fans, following a two-week ban on large gatherings in San Francisco.

Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Toby Davis