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It seems like everything is being canceled around us and with most of us being stuck at home now is the worst time possible for there to be an absence of sports on TV.
With that in mind, I’d like to speculate on which sports are most likely to come back during this time of social distancing and home quarantining.
By now we’ve all heard the same story, first leagues are postponed for two weeks, then there is an announcement of an extension with speculation of even more drastic extensions or cancellations. That is likely because professional health organizations like the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and the WHO (World Health Organization) are predicting that this will be a lasting pandemic, likely to stretch for many months is not a year.
In a world on lockdown, and under the assumption that the quarantine is here to stay (at least for much of 2020), what sports are likely to come back in the age of coronavirus? For this list, I’m considering only major sports (sorry Curling).
Although on the surface one might think that tennis the perfect pandemic-emergency sport, what with the fact that the competitors only involve up to 4 people (in doubles) and they stand far away from each other. The players could theoretically be screened beforehand and the game could be played without an audience.
But the problem lays not with the players but with the massive amount of organizational power that a Championship or Open demands. Players must be brought in from all over the world and quickly progress through many different matches in order to find a Champion. Not to mention most tennis pros don’t travel alone, many bring their significant others, family, coaches, and trainers, all of whom need to find accommodation wherever it is they’re traveling.
With these considerations in play, it is more obvious why nearly all tennis events have been postponed or canceled. Not to say that it would be impossible to hold a tournament during the coronavirus pandemic, but that significant changes would have to be made to enable it to happen and there may not be an appetite for it.
With growing demand across the world for sports to continue, it’ll be a waiting game to see if major tennis organizers want to try making changes like these or just wait it out.
NASCAR was one of the first sports to try out extensive measures in order to not cancel races. In a bid to save the schedules race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The measures included free hand sanitizer for all attendees, hand sanitization stations, and precautions to limit access to the teams and drivers. Even all these measures were not enough to save the race and NASCAR ended up canceling.
But the race at the Homestead-Miami Speedway was saved in a way with the announcement of the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series. The series, which has been running for years, is being touted as a temporary replacement for the real deal. NASCAR has even brought in legends such as Dale Earnhardt Jr. to complete in the Series. Dale Earnhardt would go on to finish in second place in the Homestead-Miami portion of the series.
Although these measures by NASCAR serve as a way to prop up the sport and give the fans some content to stream it is unsure how long before NASCAR decides to make a move back to the real deal by implementing all the measures they had planned on before they postponed all races.
Dana White (President of the UFC) made world news when he announced that at the urging of President Trump the UFC would continue holding regular play with audiences. That announcement did stand for long as less than a week later Dana made statements that the UFC would begin postponing matches for safety reasons.
UFC is another sport with few competitors per match making it an environment where the health of the participants can be easily monitored and controlled. With more advanced testing kits becoming more widely available it is now possible to test someone for the virus in as little as 15 minutes, in some cases. However, the world is still experiencing a shortage of test kits and this move may be criticized.
If the UFC was committed to keeping the sport active, they could set up pre-screening for its fighters and their trainers/team support before a match. Unlike tennis, these matches are usually not tournament-style where the fighters must be in a certain location for days or weeks but rather a one-night event. The UFC may be able to, with relatively safely, get away with having these matches without audiences and with limited support for each fighter.
All these considerations make the UFC our most likely pick for a sport to operate under the coronavirus crisis. For more updates on how the virus has affected sports check out our coronavirus coverage page.
Which leagues do we think are most likely to return?
We make the case for tennis, UFC and NASCAR to return.
Why would these sports return before others?
Certain conditions in these sports make for an easier return to normalcy more likely than in big team sports.
How likely are sports to return?
It is unlikely they would return anytime soon, but as the postponements continue it is more likely that some measures are made to have a limited return.
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