Finances will be shattered by sports suspensions. But it won’t be the stars who suffer

Most of North America’s major leagues have shuttered during the Covid-19 outbreak. The effects will be particularly hard on stadium workers

On the surface, the Wednesday afternoon matinee between the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles back in April 2015 appears as nondescript as it gets. It was an early season contest between a pair of teams hurtling toward mediocrity. The Orioles won 8-2, powered by a six-run first inning – but that isn’t why we’re talking about it. Peel back the box score, and the otherwise forgettable game’s novelty comes into focus: it marked the first time in Major League Baseball’s long history that two teams squared off with no fans in attendance, an extraordinary measure taken in response to the unrest in Baltimore that followed the death of Freddie Gray, a black man who was killed in police custody weeks earlier.

Five years after that surreal afternoon in Baltimore, and amid a pandemic that has left people around the world unnerved and anxious, the crowdless game may represent the American sporting community’s only hope of salvaging its competitions – and revenues.

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MLS and NHL suspend seasons as coronavirus delays start of MLB campaign

  • Baseball season had been scheduled to start at end of month
  • David Beckham’s Inter Miami had been due for home opener
  • NBA season had already announced suspension of season

The coronavirus outbreak has torn into the US and Canadian sporting calendars as two of North America’s biggest leagues, Major League Soccer and the National Hockey League, announced on Thursday they are suspending operations. Shortly afterwards Major League Baseball said it would cancel its Sprint Training games and delay the start of the new season. The news came a day after the National Basketball Association said it would suspend play until further notice.

MLB teams have been preparing for the new season, which had been due to start at the end of March, for the past few weeks. There had been suggestions teams could schedule games away from cities affected by Covid-19 but on Thursday afternoon MLB confirmed the a two-week delay to the start of the season. During MLB’s 162 game regular-season, teams criss-cross the continent, visiting most of North America’s major cities.

2020 Opening Day to be delayed by at least two weeks; Spring Training Games cancelled beginning today; and @WBCBaseball Qualifier games postponed indefinitely due to the national emergency created by the coronavirus pandemic. pic.twitter.com/yCgUHkdfpF

Related: NBA suspends season until further notice amid coronavirus outbreak

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NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS ban non-essential personnel from locker rooms

  • Move by major US leagues is a reaction to coronavirus outbreak
  • Decision means journalists will be banned from locker rooms

The NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS are closing access to locker rooms and clubhouses to all non-essential personnel, including media, in response to the coronavirus outbreak, the leagues announced in a joint statement Monday night.

They said they made the decision “after consultation with infectious disease and public health experts.” The NBA, in a call with teams earlier Monday, stressed that the move is not to ban reporters but to ensure the safety of players and staff in those areas.

Related: La Liga games to be played behind closed doors until at least 22 March

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MLS to become bigger than baseball? Why the need for comparison?

Figures around the league like to make glorious predictions of the future. But the competition is successful enough in its own right

Every so often, Major League Soccer likes to beat its chest. Great strides have been made over the past 25 years and those associated with the league rarely miss an opportunity to outline just how much further they believe it can grow. The recent remarks of Larry Berg therefore are unsurprising, with the Los Angeles FC managing owner stating his belief that MLS “will pass baseball and hockey to become the number three sport in the US behind football and basketball.”

Such proclamations have become part of the MLS playbook. Back in 2011 the MLS commissioner, Don Garber, claimed the league would be one of the best in the world by 2022. He echoed those sentiments in 2013 and again in 2015. This unapologetic ambition has become something of a party line, as underlined by the zeal of MLS’s new breed of owners like Berg and Jorge Mas, who went even further in his prediction. “I think it will be on par with the best leagues in the world, the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga,” the Inter Miami co-owner said before his new team’s first competitive game.

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