With recorded coronavirus cases continuing to rise in the United States, MLS is joining three other leagues in limiting player facility and locker room access to essential personnel only.
Concerns over the spread of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, have had implications on collegiate and professional sports in the United States. It appears to have impacted attendance for Seattle Sounders FC home matches, as coronavirus has taken a particular toll on Washington state, while MLS announced last week that it was creating a task force to guide the response of the league and its clubs, putting it among the circuits to recently implement precautionary measures.
On Monday, MLS and three other major sports leagues–the NBA and NHL, along with MLB–took it a step further by announcing a restricted access policy that takes effect Tuesday. This measure limits access to player facilities, including locker rooms and clubhouses, to essential personnel only, with media access now limited to designed locations outside of these areas. A joint statement from the four leagues stressed that, while the policy is temporary, they will continue monitoring the evolving situation to determine what further steps, if any, will need to be taken:
“After consultation with infectious disease and public health experts, and given the issues that can be associated with close contact in pre- and post-game settings, all team locker rooms and clubhouses will be open only to players and essential employees of teams and team facilities until further notice. Media access will be maintained in designated locations outside of the locker room and clubhouse setting. These temporary changes will be effective beginning with tomorrow’s games and practices.
“We will continue to closely monitor this situation and take any further steps necessary to maintain a safe and welcoming environment.”
Thus far, there has not been an MLS match postponed, played before an empty stadium, or moved to another venue because of concerns over the spread of coronavirus, but precautions already in place will likely affect plans for at least some teams over the coming weeks. Santa Clara County, home to the San Jose Earthquakes and the team’s Earthquakes Stadium, has instituted a mandatory ban on mass gatherings of 1,000 people or more through the end of March, announcing that policy Monday after the death of a county resident who had been diagnosed with COVID-19.
The Earthquakes have a home match scheduled for March 21 against Sporting KC–the club’s only remaining home game this month–and Earthquakes Stadium has a friendly featurring Chivas Guadalajara vs. Club Leon on its docket for March 28. In a statement issued Monday, the Earthquakes said they will comply with Santa Clara County’s policy, with an announcement on upcoming stadium events to be made soon:
“The San Jose Earthquakes fully support the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department’s recent announcement barring all mass gatherings through the end of the month and will comply immediately. We will soon have more information regarding upcoming events at Earthquakes Stadium.”
While the World Health Organization is on the verge of deeming the spread of the coronavirus a pandemic, the number of confirmed cases in the United States, though growing, is much lower than recorded in the rest of the world.
Archival image courtesy Earthquakes Stadium (formerly Avaya Stadium).