Not only could Sacramento Republic FC be back in action again in mid-July, it sounds like they’ll probably be playing at their home venue of Papa Murphy’s Park, too.
After the USL Championship announced this week they hope to restart the 2020 regular season again on or around July 11 out of the coronavirus pandemic, a story on the league’s website on Saturday gave strong indications teams will not participate in a “bubble” or hub tournament in a centralized location, with clubs instead tabbed to play at their home venues.
But there was one thing that was certain. When that time came, the clubs and the league wanted to make sure they were competing in their own communities.
“One of the things that was consistent throughout – other than complete confidence in the fact that we would in fact return – was a sense among the group that when we came back as a collective, our clubs wanted to do so in their own communities, in their own venues,” said Ryan Madden, USL VP of Communications & Public Relations, on the Soccer Saturday Radio Show hosted by Greg Rakestraw. “This idea of a hub model – which is something you see with some of the other professional sports leagues in the United States – wasn’t really an option for us, and one of the reasons we are able to go about it is we have 35 clubs, we have this huge national footprint, which allows us a bit of flexibility. Once we knew that we wanted to come back in our communities, in our venues, that simplified the process for us a little bit.”
Sac Republic’s statement after the tentative restart date was revealed did hint at games being played in Sacramento this year, too, provided local approval is given:
With the framework for a return to play set by USL Board of Governors meeting, Republic FC will continue to work with local health officials, players and staff to safely resume the 2020 season, and implement proper precautions to safeguard community health. As the schedule, stadium access, broadcast components and other details become finalized, we will provide our amazing supporters with all updates and opportunities to come together to support our club and our community.
It’s worth noting two primary obstacles at present before we see games at Papa Murphy’s Park again: The players need to approve the league’s plan and the sides need to settle on financial terms, and local authorities need to authorize games to be played again depending on the status of the coronavirus when the time comes.
On the first point, we’ve seen leagues, like MLS and the NBA, come to agreements with their players in recent days, while other leagues, like Major League Baseball, still haven’t. It seems likely a deal can be reached, but certainly not a guarantee.
And it’s unclear if a locale will not allow games to be played at all what would happen as a consequence. While the current tide appears to be going to opening up, I would think there has to be contingency backups of alternate locations. Maybe Tucson, where teams routinely go in preseason, with a surplus of fields? Anyway, that will be dealt with when the time comes, I assume.
It’s also unclear if fans will be allowed to attend or not. For some USL Championship teams, the standard attendance is sparse enough that they could safely socially distance (hey-o!), while Sac Republic aren’t at that advantage with regular sellouts. My hunch is teams will be able to allow limited numbers of fans at some point this year, but that remains to be seen, of course.
At any rate, it sounds like players will likely be able to enjoy home cooking and sleep in their own beds, and if the other obstacles can be overcome, then Papa Murphy’s Park could be hosting Sacramento Republic FC games again this year. Stay tuned.
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