The Premier Lacrosse League is replacing its already delayed regular season with a 16-day tournament that’ll require the players to be quarantined.
The PLL becomes the first U.S. professional sports league to announce its intention to play games under a so-called “bubble’’ scenario during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Major U.S. sports leagues like the NBA, NHL and MLB have suspended their regular seasons and are mulling various plans that may enable them to resume games, including the bubble model. That scenario may prove more problematic for the major leagues simply because of the number of people involved.
For the PLL, the total number of people involved would be less than 300, including players, medical staff and media production personnel, said Paul Rabil, the league’s co-founder and one of its players.
Here’s how it’ll work: Players and personnel will self-quarantine and be tested for the virus prior to arrival, Rabil said. There will be another test administered upon arrival and yet another midway through the competition, which is scheduled for July 25-Aug. 9. The games will be played without fans.
Once someone is on site they won’t be allowed to leave until the tournament is completed. Should anyone test positive after arrival the remainder of the event would be postponed, Rabil said.
The games will be shown on the various networks of NBC, which is the league’s broadcast partner. The tournament is scheduled for what was originally NBC’s broadcast window for the Tokyo Olympics, which have been postponed a year.
PLL officials are still deciding exactly where to stage the tournament. Sites are under consideration in the mid-Atlantic, Southeast and Midwest, Rabil said, declining to be specific.
“What we’ve put at the forefront is the health and safety of our players,’’ Rabil said in an interview, noting the league’s decision was made in consultation with a Covid-19 committee of medical experts.
On the business side, Rabil said: “We’ve shifted the most important things — distribution, consistency and generating value to our league via sponsorship. “This hits on distribution and sponsorship generation.’”
Rabil said the league likely will add another four or five sponsors prior to the event.
From a competition standpoint Rabil said the league would stage, in total, 20 games in the 16 days.
All seven teams will play four so-called group games to determine seeding for a single-elimination tournament. The initial four games will be randomly selected.
There will be a minimum of three games on NBC, with another nine slated for NBCSN and eight on NBC Gold streaming service.
In the U.S. there have been about 1.2 million Coronavirus cases with more than 69,000 deaths.
Scott Soshnick is the editor-in-chief of Sportico, Penske Media’s new sports business platform.