**This is a developing story and will be updated.**
The public health crisis has managed to delay or postpone the start of major sports across the US. After a four-month hiatus, the NBA, MLB and NHL are finally kicking into gear. Now, all eyes are on the National Football League (NFL) to see if it can begin on time.
NFL training camps are set to begin on Tuesday, July 28, but with no concrete plan to combat the coronavirus pandemic, it’s still unknown if the season will launch without any hiccups.
Last update: July 22, 2020
NFL executives have voted to do away with all preseason games for the 2020 season. The leagues and NFL Players Union (NFLPA) are still working on health and safety rules to govern training camp and the upcoming season.
What we know so far on the 2020 NFL season
On July 20, the NFL and NFLPA finally agreed on COVID-19 testing protocols, which is a step in the right direction.
According to ESPN:
- Players and staff will be tested every day for the first two weeks of training camp.
- After two weeks, testing will be conducted every other day.
- Team positive test rates must remain under 5%.
- Training camp will be limited to 80 players instead of the traditional 90.
What it will look like should fans be allowed inside stadiums is another question. The only sliver of information available comes from a tweet by ESPN reporter Adam Schefter.
Fans at NFL games this season now will be required to wear face coverings, per @nflPRguy.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 22, 2020
We know fans will not be permitted at stadiums once basketball, baseball and hockey resume. Additionally, it’s still an open debate on how the NCAA plans to tackle college football this year.
- MLB will play a 60-game season starting July 24.
- The NBA resumes play on July 30 with a tournament in Florida.
- The NHL will host a 24-team tournament in Toronto and Edmonton beginning August 1.
NCAA conferences like the Big 10 and Pac-12 have announced they will only play conference opponents this season. Smaller conferences like the Ivy League have opted to cancel football altogether.
What if the NFL does not return?
When March Madness was abruptly canceled, the ripple effect spread to all other US sports leagues. First came the NBA and NHL hiatus and then the postponement of MLB. The result was sportsbooks struggling with revenue shortfalls and having to take bets on things like Russian table tennis.
The NFL had the benefit of time on its hands. After watching from afar, hopefully the league can find a way to play games while keeping both players and staff safe.
Football is easily the most-watched and most bet on sport in the US. According to a few sports betting operators, if it can’t return, it could be a disaster.
Jay Kornegay, executive VP of operations for SuperbookUSA, told USA Todaythat football accounts for a little under half of the company’s business.
“I don’t care what business you’re in, you take away 38% of it, it’s a devastating blow. In this case, it could have a rippling effect on other sports, as people might get disinterested in other sports as well,” Kornegay said.
To some, however, the thought of a year without NFL betting is not even an option.
Eric Schippers, senior VP, public affairs and government relations at Penn National Gaming, said that while hopefully the NFL will resume, there currently isn’t a plan in place should it not.
“Unfortunately, we haven’t done any long-range planning for that possibility,” Schippers said in an email to PlayUSA.
Schippers also added that there are no available figures Penn National could share on projected revenue loss should the NFL season be axed.
“We’re hopeful live sports will continue to resume as we’ve seen over the last several weeks,” he said.