For about five months this year, the globe was devoid of nearly all sporting activity. That is about to change with the restart of many of our favorite leagues.
COVID-19 has changed the way that we live. From social distancing mandates to constant mask-wearing, our everyday routines have been modified and adapted so that we can safely conduct ourselves in a more dangerous world.
This pandemic has affected everything, but let’s take a moment to focus on sports. With multiple cancelled seasons, tournaments left unplayed, and leagues like the NBA and German Bundesliga delaying their finishes, COVID-19 threw the usual sports calendar out the window earlier this year.
Due to these previous cancellations and the continued presence of COVID-19, seasons for virtually every fall sport were in doubt until very recently. From the NFL to the Barclays Premier League in Britain, fans and athletes alike have been waiting on the edge of their seats to see how things shake out.
Much to the delight of sports fanatics everywhere, it looks like we will have our seasons as usual…kind of.
The NFL has decided to let teams and local officials determine how many fans are allowed to attend each game. That means limited to no fans in attendance, at least for now.
According to an article by Patrik Walker of CBS Sports, “If you want to attend an NFL game in 2020, you're going to wear a mask.” These first few weeks will be filled with caution, testing, and unrest.
On September 10, 2020, the NFL returned to action when the Houston Texans played the Kansas City Chiefs in front of a reported 15,895 fans.
Across the pond, however, the English Premier League is not quite as willing to open their stadiums for spectators.
Surges in COVID-19 cases in Britain have forced the government to institute more restrictions on social gatherings.
According to gov.uk, “you must not meet in groups of more than 6 when meeting with people outside of your household.” This likely means that fans will have to wait quite a while before attending their local games.
Unlike England, Germany’s Bundesliga is allowing 20% capacity right away upon their September 18th start date. Other European leagues will likely follow the precedent set by these two giants, depending on the state of each individual nation’s COVID-19 progress.
Back in the USA, NCAA football has experienced its own unique situation this fall.
With the SEC, ACC, and Big 12 all planning to play football this fall while the Big Ten and Pac 12 are currently figuring out their plans for the fall season, there has been a lot of debate amongst the sports fans, athletes, and administrators about what the right decision truly is.
While these issues are being worked out, football schedules have already begun. Modified schedules and limited teams have changed the way this season will pan out. While attendance policies vary between each league, there are some allowing fans into stadiums.
Naturally, all 14 of the SEC schools will allow fans, but only between 20-25% capacity will be filled at each game.
Every sport, every league, and every country is dealing with this issue in their own way. There is no blanket policy that can account for every situation facing the return of sports, so we are left with confusing policies and headaches.
As in all things related to COVID-19, the sports world is dealing with a lot of confusion and uncertainty right now. Everyone wants things to go back to normal but it is important that we take our time and make the return of sports a positive thing, not a setback in the pandemic
This is a global issue, not just American. We should take heart in the fact that we are all in this together, working towards a better tomorrow for everyone.
Hopefully, we can all enjoy watching our favorite sports this fall and forget about our worries for a little bit each week.