California governor Gavin Newsom said Monday sports in the state could return in early June without spectators provided progress continued to be made in checking the advance of the coronavirus.
Newsom, who has previously been sceptical about the return of sport in California during the COVID-19 pandemic, said he believed professional sports could resume under certain conditions next month.
“Sporting events, pro sports in that first week or so of June, without spectators and modifications, and very prescriptive conditions, can also begin to move forward,” Newsom said.
“A number of other sectors of our economy will open up again if we hold these trendlines in the next few weeks,” Newsom added during his daily coronavirus briefing.
California is home to no fewer than 18 franchises across the major professional US sports leagues.
The NBA, Major League Baseball, National Hockey League and Major League Soccer have all been on shutdown due to COVID-19 since March.
Newsom has said he doubts fans will be able to attend sports events until a COVID-19 vaccine or substantial “herd immunity” has been achieved.
The California leader has also questioned the ability of leagues like the NFL to start without a hitch in September.
“It’s difficult for me to imagine what the league — broadly leagues — do when one or two of their key personnel or players are tested positive,” Newsom said earlier this month.
“Do they quarantine the rest of the team if an offensive lineman is practicing with a defensive lineman, and they are tested positive? What happens to the rest of the line? What happens for the game coming up next weekend?”
Newsom’s remarks on Monday were mirrored by comments from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who said he was keen for fan-free sport to return to the state.
“I also have been encouraging major sports teams to plan reopenings without fans,” Cuomo said at his daily briefing.
“But the games could be televised. New York state will help those major sports franchises to do just that. Hockey, basketball, baseball, football — whoever can reopen, we’re a ready, willing and able partner.”
Sport is also poised to make a return in Texas, with governor Gregg Abbott giving the greenlight to basketball, baseball, auto racing, football, golf, softball, and tennis from May 31, provided no spectators are present.
So far, none of the shutdown major leagues in North America has indicated when they may resume play, with officials mulling a variety of options to allow for the return of competition.