NFL to closely monitor restart of soccer in Europe

An interesting case study is about to begin in Germany with the restart of Bundesliga play, and the NFL is watching closely.

Soccer’s return without fans in Europe on May 16 will provide the NFL with its closest comparison to date since the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the world and shut down major sports two months ago. NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy told Newsday’s Bob Glauber the league has "been in contact with all domestic leagues, but also sports organizations around the world," and has compiled "a number of protocols" to "see what works, see what can translate into our sport."

Soccer provides the NFL with its best tool for comparison, at least among those currently available.

NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo and James Palmer elaborated on the process that the league is working through in attempting to plan multiple scenarios for activity starting with training camp.

"I know some baseball leagues have already restarted but when you’re talking about soccer you’re talking about a league that is going to have a lot of close contact in the way that the NFL is going to have," Garafolo said during Tuesday’s NFL NOW. "So not only the league but also the NFLPA is going to be keeping a close eye on this one to see how is this going to work in the restart."

Close contact is still much more frequent in football than it is soccer, but the number of active on-field participants and the overall nature of the sports at least offer the NFL something of a trial. The league can observe how these leagues go about returning and operating safely, learn from successes and mistakes and apply them accordingly.

"They’re watching leagues all over the world," Palmer said. "The English Premier League could potentially start on June 1 and that’s one of the major leagues in sports around the globe.

"Any league that resembles closer to contact than baseball does is something to keep an eye on."

The league sent out a memo last week detailing the path to reopening team facilities with a deadline of this Friday for when club protocols must be in place.

As uncertainty continues to reign during this unprecedented time, essentially everything remains on the table. The goal, of course, is to proceed as normal as possible. Training camps typically wouldn’t open for another 9-10 weeks. Until then, the league is continuously working to be prepared for every possible scenario.

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