On March 12, Major League Rugby (MLR) went to twitter and announced it would suspend the 2020 Major League Rugby season. It follows suit with other competitions across the globe.
MLR was one of several North American sports leagues that made these decisions in relation to the Covid-19 virus outbreak. Reacting to national and state government actions, although a big reason for this was the National Basketball Association (NBA), who were the first North American professional sports league to suspend operations.
With no physical rugby to be played in the short term, and wanting to stay engaged with their fanbase, MLR is actively looking to promote an alternative form of competition – eSports.
Rest assured, MLR will be back on the pitch #ToPlayAnotherDay. While we continue to prioritize the safety of our players and fans, the competition continues with MLR 2020: Virtual. pic.twitter.com/WmwvBj2Cy0
— Major League Rugby (@usmlr) March 15, 2020
Each MLR team had only completed five games in the season. The Toronto Arrows were leading Major League Rugby’s eastern division with 19 points. Meanwhile, the San Diego Legions currently have the most points in the Western Division with 23 points. The season schedule was originally supposed to end in late May.
Now, with teams in lockdown and the desire to maintain their connection with rugby fans, using the TWITCH platform, a ‘virtual rugby competition’ is in the planning, with teams and players prepared to challenge their conference and fellow MLR teams; while the Coronavirus health concerns limit physical contact.
Online, players and team representatives can compete in a ‘virtual contest’. Visit the MLR website for more information on this new and alternative form of competition.
2020 MLR Season suspended
Coronavirus is having a huge effect on the sport, and in the community. The situation in the U.S. is quite concerning. There are now over 3,000 cases reported of coronavirus and unfortunately at least 61 deaths in the US according to CNBC News on March 15.
Furthermore, New York City, America’s most populous city, has decided to close all public schools. As well, a lot of American cities have ordered the bars and the restaurants to be closed according to CNBC News.
Sport, so often a great meeting place for fans, has had to make the greatest sacrifice. Competition, where large crowds gather, has been suspended. And MLR followed the lead of other organizations.
NBA, the first North American League to Suspend operations
The NBA found out in the Utah Jazz vs. Oklahoma City Thunder game that one of their players had coronavirus. Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz was tested positive for coronavirus on March 11 according to Ricky O’Donnell of SB Nation. As a result, the game was called off just a few minutes before tip-off.
Then later that night, it was found out that referee Courtney Kirkland was found to have been in contact with Rudy Gobert. He refereed the game between the Utah Jazz and the Toronto Raptors on Monday, March 9. As a result, the March 11 Sacramento Kings-New Orleans Pelicans game he was going to referee in was cancelled. Fortunately, according to Clutchpoints, Kirkland today was just tested negative for coronavirus.
The incident with Gobert testing positive for the coronavirus was a big reason the NBA decided to suspend its operations. This caused many other North American leagues to also suspend operations. This list includes the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer, and Major League Rugby.
The bigger question though is how worrisome the coronavirus has become in North America and the world. The World Health Organization called it a pandemic this weekend, which prompted countries like New Zealand to put in place border controls. Mandatory ‘self isolation’ for inbound travelers has had a direct impact on Super Rugby; which has been suspended.
This is a scary time for everyone across the world, not just in North America. Last Word on Rugby wishes everyone good health at this difficult time.
Major League Rugby e-Sports alternative contest
Major League Rugby has decided to do an eSport tournament virtually to keep people involved with the game. MLR has reported on twitter that the competition will continue virtually. They have also decided to partner with local charities, which was reported on Twitter.
In an official statement, MLR said ‘In addition, all MLR teams have partnered with local charitable organizations to raise funds during the live streams to support their communities during this difficult time’.
Stay tuned on @usmlr social media channels for the full schedule and more information.”
This will be an e-sports tournament on the video game Rugby 20. If ever a platform had an alternate function – with players and fans looking to have social contact, without the physical risk of person-to-person transmission of Covid 19 – then eSports is the perfect tool.
Until teams can again [safely] run out onto the field and contest for the ball, this seems a perfect distraction. It may take off and start a new trend……until fans can again, cheer on the 2020 MLR season, when it hopefully restarts in due course.
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images