Washington Football

The Spring League shows bubble setup in football is possible

Washington Football

While the NFL and college football have refrained from adopting bubble setups for their return, one league hopes to show bubbles can work in football.

The Spring League, a six-team football development league, will become the first football league to use the provenly-effective bubble for its fall football tournament this October in Las Vegas.

The league calls itself a “springboard to the pros” and serves as a developmental opportunity for players cut from NFL rosters or college athletes who either opted out of their seasons or had the season canceled in 2020. Its mission closely resembles the XFL, which was shut down in March during its inaugural season as a result of COVID-19.

Since it was founded in 2017 by Brian Woods, the league has held an annual month-long series of practices and games to showcase players’ talent to NFL and CFL scouts. This year, however, The Spring League will have to adopt to the restrictions presented by the coronavirus.

In October, approximately 280 players, coaches and staff members will travel to Las Vegas for the fall football tournament. Of the 280 people, 228 will be players with 38 on each of the six teams. They will all be housed at the same hotel and practice and play at the same facility. The model closely resembles the successful efforts the NBA, WNBA, NHL and professional soccer leagues have adopted in recent months. The event will be funded internally with the possibility of broadcast agreements coming later. 

Beginning on Oct. 7, the teams will have 10 days to practice before nine games are played from Oct. 17-28. The league chose to ban huddles and limit each team to 19 players. All other staffers will be stationed either at the end zone tunnel or off the field entirely. 

 

Additionally, the facilities will feature disinfecting tents on both sides with three officials assigned to clean the ball and some players' equipment after every play. 

While much effort is involved to play a contact sport like football safely during a pandemic, this is not the first event The Spring League has successfully hosted during COVID-19. Last month, it put on a four-day showcase in Denver, and no known coronavirus infections resulted from the event. 

In the few weeks since professional sports have returned following the coronavirus hiatus, the bubble method has proven most effective. The NBA, NHL, WNBA, NWSL and MLS all saw few positive cases and have been able to control the virus effectively. Major League Baseball, on the other hand, has seen numerous outbreaks in multiple franchises after choosing not to isolate players and staff members in a bubble for its 2020 season. 

Football is no different. Without the option of a bubble, college football conferences around the country have begun canceling or postponing their seasons as COVID numbers rise nationwide. The NFL claimed a bubble was not practical for a six-month season and will instead approach its season with a “virtual football bubble” where personnel will be expected to abide by extensive social distances and mask-wearing rules. Players can be disciplined for high-risk behavior, according to the league.

While on a much smaller scale, if The Spring League can successfully complete its tournament this fall, other football leagues might be forced to reconsider a bubble as an option.

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