How sports leagues are handling the pandemic
By Craig Allan, Staff Writer
As the world begins the recovery from COVID-19, the one area that is going to have the most difficulty returning will be the world of sports. Seeing as sports is normally done in front of a crowd of spectators, the stadiums and arenas will likely be one of the last venues to open once this pandemic ends. This forces the leagues to answer many questions; when do they play, how do they play, and if they can even play at all? The Other Press looks at major sports leagues to see how they are planning to play on in a coronavirus world.
Canadian Football League (CFL)
Of all the leagues mentioned, no one is in more dire straits than the CFL. The CFL is not like other leagues that have billionaire owners and worldwide recognition. The CFL is a fan dependent and gate dependent league. Because of this, and the fact that some of the restrictions in place now could be in place for another year according to Dr. Bonny Henry, going to a football game soon is unlikely. In a video conference call with the House of Commons, league commissioner Randy Ambrosie came before the House asking for $150-million dollars to keep the league going through the pandemic, stating that the league will likely have to cancel the upcoming season. He claims to want a “partnership” when asked if the CFL was looking for a “bailout,” but getting the government to agree to give any government money to the CFL will be a tough sell. The CFL, combined with its Grey Cup championship have survived World Wars, other financial hard times, and failing franchises—could the coronavirus be the last straw for the three down league?
National Football League (NFL)
Unlike other leagues, the NFL may be able to weather this storm with little ramifications. Because the average NFL season runs from September to the Super Bowl on the first Sunday in February, the NFL has been able to skip over the coronavirus epidemic. They are not entirely unscathed though, as they have had to cancel their international games in Europe, but outside of that, they are not as concerned as other leagues. In some cases they have even been successful, as the recent NFL Draft had the highest ratings of any draft in history.
National Hockey League (NHL)
The NHL was only about a month away from the beginning of their playoffs when the pandemic forced them to pause the action. Since then the league has been planning and spit balling ideas for how they can finish the season. One idea that has gained a lot of traction is the idea of “hub cities” having all the teams play out the season in set locations with no fans. Cities like Edmonton and Vancouver have put in their applications. The idea will still have some obstacles like the fact that players will have to be tested for the virus frequently, and players may have trouble just getting to the cities—but the league is determined to finish out the season.
National Basketball Association (NBA)
The NBA, who was also about a month away from its playoffs, were really the canary in the coal mine when it came to the coronavirus in sports. Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert was the first athlete in the Big 4 sports to be diagnosed with the coronavirus. The NBA has no set plan to return to action, but they are allowing teams in places with more laxed social distancing regulations to open their practice facilities.
Major League Baseball (MLB)
The MLB was the closest league to beginning their season when they had to announce they were suspending operations due to corona. Of all the leagues, the MLB’s plans to return may be the most elaborate, as they have tossed around every idea from a season contained in the teams spring training facilities, to three team divisions where all teams play in their stadiums within driving distance of their divisional competitors. Baseball may have the best possibility of returning of all the sports, as the structure of the game is the easiest in regards to maintaining social distancing, but playing while maintaining a worthwhile profit margin, especially due to the fact that they will be obligated to pay for each player’s full salary, will likely be the league’s biggest struggle.
This is uncharted waters for the sports world. At this time, no one knows how it will go forward in the future. For the time being, it looks like the raising of the Stanley Cup, a home run into the stands, and the roar of the crowd will be done or replaced with muted silence.