Major League Soccer tightened it’s restrictions and mandated Charter Flights for club travel in a press release today amid growing concerns and restrictions involving the coronavirus (COVID-19).
The release, which comes on the heels of game postponements in Seattle and San Jose earlier in the day based upon state and county recommendations for those cities, outlined an increased focus on sanitation, and restricted access to players.
On Monday, MLS, along with all other major sports leagues in the United States (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL), restricted locker rooms to players and essential club personnel only, effectively eliminating locker room access for the media.
The latest move spells out the implementation of procedures that would help “ensure the safety of fans and communities,” the league said in their press release.
MLS says that clubs and stadium operators are increasing cleaning staff, disinfecting high-traffic areas, sanitizing facilities before and after the match, and making hand sanitizer available throughout venues. Stadiums will also allow guests to bring in their own bottles of hand sanitizer as well as encouraging fans who feel that they are sick to stay home.
But the changes to the stadium environment will be apparent. MLS has suspended the opening procession where professional players and youth athletes enter the field together, they have postponed player appearances and autograph sessions, and are limiting the fan experience during team warm-ups.
The charter flights are an especially important subject, however. The LA Galaxy were initially scheduled to fly to Miami on Thursday for their Saturday match with David Beckham’s Inter Miami. The just-less-than five-hour flight from Los Angeles to Miami would have put them in direct contact with the flying public in a confined space, thereby negating all the restrictions that had previously been put in place to protect player and staff safety.
Charter flights had been a big topic of discussion during the offseason with the players winning an increased number of private flights in the latest CBA. The charter flights being mandated now, will not affect the overall number of charters down the road for each team.
For now, that seems to be the totality of the restrictions. But as we’ve seen over the past couple of days, things can change rapidly.
With major leagues in the United States and around the World, and schools and colleges, choosing to play games behind-closed-doors in fear of spreading the virus with large gatherings of people, it could only be a matter of time before MLS puts the league on hiatus for a couple of weeks with promises of making those games up down the road.
As of right now, the Galaxy and Miami will still face off this weekend for Week 3 of the MLS season. That game kicks off at 12 PM Pacific Time and can be found on FOX.