Coronavirus and sports: no fans or high-fives while some leagues resume play


It’s one of the best times of the year to be a sports fan.

The end of April is when the playoffs get into high gear at all levels of hockey and in the NBA. It’s when baseball fans begin to determine if their teams will be good this year, European football aficionados are ready to draw exciting conclusions from their seasons, and NFL and CFL fans are excited about what is going to happen – not to mention the ongoing drama of professional tennis, golf and auto racing circuits.

But not this year. Since Utah jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, professional sports in North America have held up.

Seven weeks after the NBA suddenly became the first major US-based major league to suspend its season – less than an hour before Gobert’s team takes the field, nothing less – attention is starting to wane turn to when the game could resume and what it might look like.


While ideas of what might constitute a safe return to play vary from sport to sport and from country to country, one thing seems clear: there is little or no appetite for that tens of thousands of fans are packing arenas to watch the games unfold.

Asked about this possibility, the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada said that the sports crowd would be one of the many factors to be reconsidered regularly as the pandemic cloud begins to rise, but probably one of the last authorized public activities.

“I don’t see a single chief medical officer of health across the country who is going to say that these mass rallies will be there,” said Dr. Theresa Tam Wednesday at a press conference in Ottawa.

“When we say we do it, it certainly isn’t – so mass gatherings won’t be part of our lives for a while. “

Premier Ontario Doug Ford, a well-known sports fan, sounded the same when asked at a separate press conference about the possibility of fans attending games.

“I don’t believe that when sports return, they will return with a full stadium anywhere in North America,” he said in Toronto on Monday.

Of course, diehard fans may try to find a way to watch matches in person, even if they are legally prohibited from doing so. Nicaragua’s professional football league has continued to play without selling tickets – but ESPN reported this week that some fans discovered the matches were being played outside and showed up to watch.


Nicaragua is one of the few countries in which professional sports leagues have been allowed to continue playing.

Belarus and Turkmenistan – two countries that have generally challenged the global consensus on shutting down public life to stem the tide of the pandemic – are also high on this list. In Belarus, at least, fans have been sidelined in numbers such that a team has grown accustomed to placing models in the stands.

For seasoned sports fans in North America, the matches in Nicaragua, Belarus and Turkmenistan may not offer an exceptional viewing experience. None of these countries is a major sporting power, and the level of play is far beyond what fans are used to.

For something closer to a familiar level of competition, those who miss the major North American leagues may want to turn their attention to South Korea and Taiwan.

At these locations, the COVID-19 curve has been flattened to the point that authorities believe it is now reasonable to resume organized sports, although with certain restrictions.

The Taiwan Professional Professional Baseball League (CPBL) started its season on April 11 – about a month late. The stadiums are not open to the public, but the league’s unusual dominance in the world of active sport has earned it unprecedented international attention. It has started broadcasting its games in English, and a rights holder claims to have attracted five million viewers to these new shows.

According to NBC News, CPBL players live together in dormitory style accommodations and are not allowed to travel anywhere except the ball fields.

An even higher level of baseball is about to start in South Korea, with the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) planning to start the regular season on May 5. Some of the best KBO players will end up working in Canada and the United States. , including Hyun-jin Ryu, who was recently acquired by the Toronto Blue Jays to be their best starting pitcher.

In addition to not having fans present to cheer them on, Korean league players will also have to comply with unique restrictions designed to avoid any chance of spreading COVID-19, including prohibiting spitting and high-fives. In addition, the referees were ordered to wear masks and gloves.

South Korea’s best football league, the K-League, will start its own season three days later. Restrictions include prohibiting handshakes and even talking to other players on the field.

Horse racing continued during the pandemic on a small number of tracks in Florida and Arkansas, and some American racing circuits are heading towards reopening.


In North America and Western Europe, however, it is not yet clear when major team sports can resume.

The National Hockey League’s most optimistic plan is for players to resume training in mid-May and for the regular season to resume in July, leading to playoffs in August and the Stanley Cup in September, said a source at the Associated Press on Wednesday. . In this scenario, four NHL arenas would likely be used as centralized centers for all games.

Football players are starting to return to the training grounds in Europe, although nothing has been said definitively about the resumption of play. Some leagues have decided to completely suspend their seasons, while the English Premier League is currently targeting a back in June and the German Bundesliga wants the government to give it the green light to be back in action on May 16.

The Major League Baseball should not start its season before mid-May at the earliest, possibly with all the games in Florida, Arizona and / or Texas. The NBA could reopen its training facilities as early as May 8, if local governments allow it, but has not said when its season may resume.

As is the case in Taiwan and South Korea, it is expected that all matches in these leagues will be played without supporters being present for an indefinite period.

Like many businesses, the sports leagues are experiencing significant loss of income during the pandemic. Lack of income from ticket sales and other sources of income has led some teams to issue large numbers of layoffs or pay cuts.

BEFORE CHRIST. Prime Minister John Horgan noted at a press conference on Wednesday that the suspension of professional sports has also created “negative economic consequences” for companies outside the sports industry.

“It’s not just the starter recipes … and who has a hot dog and a beer and all that, it’s all the other economic spinoffs,” he said.

The Canadian Football League is asking the federal government for assistance of up to $ 150 million, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said talks are underway. The Canadian Premier League football team is also seeking government assistance.

With files from the Associated Press and AFP


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here