• Connor Watson

Lessons from lockdown - What the last three months can tell us about the NFL

I think the phrase ‘we’re not out of the woods yet’ is apt when discussing the impact Covid-19 is having on the sporting world.

In the past two weeks we’ve heard that the Hall of Fame Game is postponed to 2021, preseason matches are likely all to be cancelled if not heavily reduced, and in the past 24 hours we’ve seen the Pac-12 and Big Ten move to a conference only schedule.

The NFL and College Football as we know it is going to change heavily for 2020. Our usual weekend comfort is going to be different, and we have to be ready for that.

Already we’ve seen rules that ban post game jersey exchanges and almost every franchise has deferred season ticket payments to 2021 in the face of reduced stadium capacities and social distancing.

While this may all seem doom and gloom, we don’t have to start predicting a cancelled 2020 season just yet. If we’ve learnt anything from the last three months it’s that as a community we can pull through and adapt.

It is going to mean some stricter measures coming in much sooner than they currently are. Instigating social bubbles, much like the FIA have done. Their teams,for example, are now racing behind closed doors in a more accelerated schedule with no access to those outside of their subgroup.

We’ve already seen some bending of those rules and a firm stance from the FIA regarding any future breaches. These are the kind of changes we should be expecting for NFL franchises very soon.

The biggest issue here is the size of the team, how large do you allow those social circles to be and still minimise the risk of infection? How many members of staff do you allow to be included under the tag of ‘essential’?

You look at players like Russell Wilson, he always travels with his own personnel team, who work on his fitness, diet and general well being. Are those members going to be ‘essential’ in the new normal we have for the NFL.

It’s not impossible and one solution is very simple, allow NFL teams to broaden their active roster to mitigate the risk of losing too many players to infection. Create smaller bubbles and divide teams accordingly.

We’ve already seen the International FA Board rush through temporary rule changes to allow for more substitutions each game and an extended bench. The rationale behind the change is to reduce the pressure and strain on teams who are now playing concentrated timetables.

So why should any of this inspire confidence when we look to the 2020 NFL season?

It should inspire confidence because the English Premier League is kicking off behind closed doors and because F1 still has races and golf is still teeing off as usual.

We’ve already seen the fruits of our labour in the start-up and continuation of many sports already. I can’t predict the future but if we’re serious about having a 2020 NFL season there needs to be some serious decision making soon.