California, New York, and Texas preparing to allow live sports without fans

California Governor Gavin Newsom (Credit: Getty Images)

The governors of California, New York and Texas, representing three of the four most populous American states, have each announced they are prepared to allow live sports without spectators in their states in the coming weeks amid the global Covid-19 pandemic.

The announcements pave the way for the return of live competition in dozens of major sporting venues in the US, as well as opening up further potential regional competition bases for major leagues, who are planning their returns from the ongoing public health crisis.

California Governor Gavin Newsom recently said he did not see the likelihood of fans attending games in any large numbers before the advent of a vaccine for Covid-19, something generally estimated by medical experts to be at least a year away from existing and perhaps longer.

But Newsom has now said that California is on track to open up live sporting events without spectators in early June “if we hold these [coronavirus] trend lines.”

“Sporting events, pro sports, in that first week or so of June without spectators and modifications and very prescriptive conditions also can begin to move forward,” Newsom said.

California is home to 18 professional teams across Major League Baseball, the National Football League, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, and Major League Soccer. The state also stages numerous other sporting events, such as golf and tennis.

Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is encouraging major sports teams in the state to plan on reopening without fans.

New York state has nine teams across the big five leagues. Some of the biggest local teams, however, would not be allowed to proceed under any New York regulation as their home venues are based in New Jersey. They are the New York Giants and New York Jets (both NFL), New York Red Bulls (MLS), and New Jersey Devils (NHL).

Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, however, have closely coordinated on multiple facets of the region’s overall Covid-19 response, in part due to the frequent movement of millions of people back and forth between New York and New Jersey, and it would not be surprising to see Murphy soon follow suit on sports-related measures.

“Hockey, basketball, baseball, football – whoever can reopen – we’re a ready, willing and able partner,” Cuomo said. “I think this is in the best interest of all the people and the best interest of the state of New York. And then they’ll be up and running and when we can fill a stadium again, we can fill a stadium. But why wait until you can fill a stadium before you start to bring the team back? And if you can televise it in the meantime, great,” he said.

At the weekend, Cuomo said horse racing at tracks across the state and motorsports at Watkins Glen International will be allowed to resume without spectators from June 1.

New York and California would join Florida, Arizona, Georgia, Oklahoma, and now most recently Texas in allowing live sports amid the coronavirus. 

The NTT IndyCar Series has announced it will open its delayed 2020 season on June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. But Texas Governor Greg Abbott has now gone a step further by saying some professional sports will be able to return on May 31, including golf, auto racing, baseball, softball, tennis and basketball.

All organizations must apply to the Department of State Health Services for approval to hold professional sporting events in the state.

“Let’s be clear, Covid-19 still exists in Texas,” Abbott said. “Our goals is to find ways to co-exist with Covid-19 as safely as possible.”