When will pro sports return?
Every sports fan out there is anxious to know the answer to one question: When will pro sports return? Of course, the health and safety of each and every player, coach, personnel, media, and even fan is of utmost importance. Over the past several weeks, rumors about professional leagues continuing play with regards to proper care and prevention of COVID-19 have become quite evident. In a few countries, such as Germany and Japan, some leagues have already returned to action in a fanless environment. Germany’s professional soccer league, the Bundesliga, is back in action and broadcasts matches on a number of channels. Additionally, the Korean Baseball Organization has been playing its games without fans since May 5. NASCAR also returned on May 17 at Darlington Raceway.
For the rest of professional sports leagues, return-to-play plans are currently still in progress due to the overwhelming amount of necessary precautions. These range from deciding who is allowed to enter stadiums, safely transporting players, and properly distancing employees, coaches, and players. Furthermore, proposals have discussed the ideas of allowing leagues to return in specific sites. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman plans to end the remainder of the regular season and go directly into the playoffs with an unconventional 24-team format. These games would only be played in two different cities. Even more bizarre would be the possibility of Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex hosting the remainder of the NBA season, which is the most probable plan.
An important factor that puts pressure on leagues to return is money. Athletes will experience significant pay cuts, which has become an issue for some players, including Tampa Bay Rays ace Blake Snell. Additionally, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred recently stated that without a 2020 season, the league could lose up to $4 billion.
Despite the extra steps that need to be taken in order for pro sports to return, league officials are optimistic that their respective associations will start or resume fanless seasons in July. Coronavirus tests in the United States are still quite limited, so when the availability to be tested increases considerably, sports leagues will be able to begin with more confidence. At the end of the day, health is the main concern.