The NFL could create hubs for games to start the season as the country continue to struggle to get the spread of the pandemic under control. The KC Chiefs are slated to open the season on September 10th.
The recent outbreak of COVID-19 amongst the Miami Marlins within the first week of the MLB season opening up brings into focus just how difficult and complicated bringing back sports is and the struggles the NFL will find itself.
However, leagues that created a ‘bubble’ have found success in keeping the virus at bay and able to play games, albeit not in home stadiums, which brings us to the NFL and the Kansas City Chiefs.
How could the league create a bubble, considering the size of the roster and the sheer number of support staff required for to maintain the roster?
How can the NFL ensure the games are brought back safely while also doing their best to ensure that games actually take place?
With the KC Chiefs in mind, I take a look at some options of how it could work.
First off, the league would designate hub cities – eight of them to be exact – with four teams assigned to the cities.
With fans not in attendance at games, there really is no home field advantage for any specific team, and no revenue lost for a specific owner, so the games really can happen anywhere because they are taking place to be shown on television.
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To reduce the headache, it likely would be each division against each other in this ‘pool play’ style format. Considering each division will already play against each other, it ensures the competition.
Next, cities would then house four teams and the support staff. With the lack of overall travel on a regular basis in the country right now, the league should be able to find both hotel rooms to house players as well as support staff.
Cities may end up being chosen in part based on this facet of the equation, the availability and access of rooms and facilities, etc.
Part of the sell, because there are no fans and in reality, very limited sports options with massive ratings for live sports that do take place, the league would offer games almost every night of the week.
Thursday night? How about Wednesday? All works. Monday also works. If college football takes place on Saturdays, the league would avoid that day.
Would television networks be willing to chip in extra in 2020 with the idea that games like the Cowboys against the Eagles or the Saints versus the Vikings could do huge ratings?
The stadiums would host two games a week over a three week period, allowing for a ‘bye’ week in between to allow for virus testing and protocol procedures to ensure the opportunity for the spread of the virus is contained as best as possible. Locker rooms and whatnot would obviously need to be cleaned down after each game.
My guess, in this scenario, is that the Kansas City Chiefs would likely end up in Las Vegas with the Raiders. The plethora of hotel rooms, dining facilities and the event spaces allow for a team bubble concept at venues trained and built to handle large crowds.
The MLS and NBA are showing it can work, albeit with commitment from the players to stay in the bubble, but if it happens, the opportunity for football exists and is out there.
Figuring out a way to do a bubble, if even for a short time, buys the league time to allow the country to stem the tide of the virus spread and allow for a more certain, safer working environment.