Leagues are refining their plans to start- though travel restrictions and national borders may get in the way. Meanwhile, colleges are cutting traditional sports and turning to video games, and Bill Simmons offers a look at Spotify’s sports plans.
Start Up in Place
Photo Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
As leagues develop plans to return to play, many are counting on a centralized location to ensure the safety of players and staff. The National Women’s Soccer League has chosen Salt Lake City as its preferred spot for a month-long tournament set to start June 27 before returning to a regular schedule this year.
All nine of the league’s owners have voted in favor of the proposal, which would see games played at facilities operated by the Utah Royals FC ownership group. CBS Sports, which signed a three-year deal with the NWSL this offseason, would broadcast the games.
MLS is far along in talks to send all 26 teams to Orlando to play at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. Orlando, and specifically Walt Disney World, is also beginning to separate itself in discussions as a site for the NBA to resume play, though many variables remain. Disney is also a broadcast rights holder for the NBA and MLS.
Las Vegas is reportedly still a front-runner for NBA action, which may develop into a West vs. East dynamic with Orlando.The NHL has narrowed its list down to “eight or nine locations” which could each host up to 12 teams if the league were to resume play. The league has been considering a 24-team playoff format upon its return.
Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
The Canadian-U.S. border will be closed until at least June 21, but that won’t affect how the NHL plans to resume its season.NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said NHL players and team staff fall into the category of “non-discretionary” purposes, including work, that can still cross the border.
The league is hoping to move forward with Phase 2 of its plan soon, which would open practice facilities to small groups of players. That step will be optional, as players could have difficulty with travel restrictions or submitting to a 14-day quarantine. Additionally, approximately 17% of NHL players are in Europe during the pandemic.
Travel restrictions could also limit full competitive balance in other sports. While the PGA Tour will resume play June 11, at least one top-50 golfer is wary of the restrictions. EnglishmanLee Westwood said travel precautions will probably keep him from entering the country. He is one of an estimated 25 players on the Tour currently outside the U.S.
International restrictions have also hit foreign fighters in the UFC. While the MMA organization held an event in Florida earlier this month, its plans for “Fight Island” would allow Russian Khabib Nurmagomedov and other international fighters back in action. UFC President Dana White said the island, the location of which is undisclosed, could be up and running before the end of June.
Tell Better Stories with Better Images
Words alone can’t quite convey the significance of this time in history. That’s why you need high quality photos as well.
IMAGN is the nation’s largest sports-image wire service that also offers award-winning entertainment, political and breaking local and national news photography from the USA TODAY NETWORK.
Universities are continuing to get on the esports train, even as traditional sports get the axe. Eastern Michigan University has announced a partnership with esports operator Gen. G. to bring competition to the school.
The new EMU + Gen. G. futures program will highlight the connections between gaming, business and technology while also hosting high school tournaments. Gen G. also has partnerships with Kentucky and the University of Pennsylvania.
The move is the latest in a trend from universities that are adopting esports and video gaming, which is slated to be a $200 billion industry by 2024.
Traditional sports get axed
While the virtual action heats up, COVID-19 has continued to put a squeeze on athletic departments. Central Michigan University cut its track & field program this week in order to save $600,000 – though it may endanger the school’s NCAA FBS status. Without football – or football crowds – athletic departments will likely continue to shed programs.
Among those that have been eliminated:
Akron: men’s cross country, men’s golf and women’s tennis
On News Cycles: In 2020, people are like, “What just happened? What’d you think?” And you have about 12 to 18 hours to jump on that before people start looking forward.
Media Consumption Saturation: Podcasts are competing against other things — hundreds of channels, streaming services … all this stuff cannibalizes each other.
And the other thing is just that there are more podcasts. More content, more people in the space. The products are better. You’re competing against more shows.
How Spotify views sports: They looked at us in two ways. One is, “Could we blow out The Ringer into something bigger with more resources?” Yes. And then, “How do we figure out sports?” It’s a nut they’ve been trying to crack for two years, but it’s hard to find the right team. I think they felt they had most of the right pieces in place, and the thing they were missing was that one person who had succeeded in this space and had gut instinct on what works.