Soccer Stadium

Major League Soccer Welcomes Back Fans After Five Months

This Tuesday Major League Soccer’s ‘MLS Is Back’ tournament will conclude in the Orlando, Florida bubble that MLS has been operating out of for the past month. Now, FC Dallas is taking on the hosting role to compete against Nashville at Toyota Stadium this Wednesday and Sunday, where they’re not only going to be gearing up for the return of a standard MLS season, but will also be welcoming fans back into the arena. 

There’s still major risk with attending any sporting event right now, as the Covid-19 pandemic is still very much an issue all across the globe but especially in the United States. However, all of those risks are explicitly written out in the 1,438-word legal waiver that fans will need to sign in order to enter the stadium. Essentially, the waiver states that you are aware you’re putting yourself at risk of exposure to Covid-19 if entering the arena, and MLS or any party connected to the games will not be held responsible for any new cases that appear as a result of attending a game. 

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Luis Dollar is the president of El Matador, a supporters group for the FC Dallas team, and he recently spoke with the media about his excitement to see his favorite team in person again, but is also fully prepared to adhere to any and all health and safety procedures put into place by MLS. 

“We’re going to be on our best, most safe behaviour, but if Wednesday night for some reason the protocols aren’t kept in place, or we don’t feel they’re being run in a way that we deem fit, we might not show up on Sunday. As of right now we’re confident.”

The NBA, NHL, and MLB are all currently operating in a “bubble-type” of environment; essential personnel only with no fans in the stadium. However, those three major sporting leagues have more prime time/lucrative television deals that allow them to make up any revenue through at-home viewership. The MLS is much more reliant on money they make from fans who are actually in the arena, buying the tickets and memorabilia. However, the fact that MLS is restarting their “regular season” in Texas, one of the most infected states in one of the most infected countries in the world, is raising a lot of red flags for experts.

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Texas in general has been under major scrutiny within the past month due to their severe strain on hospital staff, inadequate ability to contact trace/test everyone, and excessive spread of the virus in every community. Currently the state has a weekly average of 7,800 new cases. Zach Binney, an epidemiologist recently expressed his concern over MLS’s premature decision to move back into Texas. 

“I think MLS is showing a complete disregard for the health and safety of their fan-bases and the communities in which they play. I think it’s ridiculous that they’re talking about having fans.”

Binney is not alone in this, other epidemiologists throughout the country believe that opening stadium doors to fans is “irresponsible” and doesn’t hold any real value. MLS claims they will be consistently testing players and staff members as they return to competitive games, and responded to all the criticism by claiming that they’re being incredibly careful and have “consulted with state and local officials and their medical task forces to be committed to having the proper precautions in place,” according to Gina Miller, an FC Dallas spokesperson. 

Miller went on to claim that MLS staff in general is already very familiar with the health and safety protocols they have in place as they’ve been experiencing it for the past few weeks. However, the US’s general lack of response to the virus is sparking major debates about the future of all major businesses and industries within the country. Sports, universities, and public schooling systems in general being at the forefront of these debates, only time will tell how much worse it needs to get for our world leaders to make more of a severe change in the way we contain this virus.