Canadian teams won't play in US; Championship game to air on FS1
March 5, 2021 by Charlie Eisenhood in News with 0 comments
After canceling their 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Ultimate Disc League announced plans to begin its 2021 season on June 5th, three months from today, with a 12-game schedule and Championship Weekend on September 10th and 11th.
“We are committed to the June 5th date based on current data and trends, but obviously we will keep a close eye on where things are heading [with COVID-19],” said AUDL President of Media and Marketing Tim DeByl. “We believe the AUDL has made good decisions so far, and hopefully our players and staff believe we will continue to do so as we head into summer.”
2021 Schedule, Divisional Changes
Much of the league’s plan lines up with their thinking from the winter, except that opening pull has been pushed back by a month. As expected, the league’s three Canadian teams–the Montreal Royal, Ottawa Outlaws, and Toronto Rush–will be unable to compete against the US teams due to border restrictions and will instead play in a separate AUDL Canadian Cup series, featuring eight games–two home and two away for each team.
The US teams will play a standard 12 game schedule, but the divisions have been altered due to the removal of Canadian teams this year. The East Division will not exist in 2021: the New York Empire and Boston Glory will join the Atlantic Division, alongside Atlanta, DC, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, and Tampa Bay. Four of the eight teams will make the playoffs and the division will send two teams to Championship Weekend, while the five-team West and Central Divisions will get two playoff teams each, with the Divisional winner heading to the Championship Weekend.
The league’s COVID protocols are set to be in effect throughout the 2021 season. Current regulations include requiring players to wear masks during all team activities (excluding the 14 players who are on the field during live gameplay, who are encouraged to wear masks if they can do so safely), complete COVID screening questionnaires up to three hours before an event, and undergo temperature checks on-site, though protocols are subject to change as new information emerges and vaccinations become more widespread. In contrast to other sports leagues, regular testing is not a part of the AUDL’s approach and will be used only in cases where a player screens positive for potential COVID infection by reporting symptoms or known exposure.
Travel to away games presents one of the riskiest COVID settings for the AUDL, which says that guidelines are forthcoming.
“The AUDL is preparing for a variety of scenarios this June,” said DeByl. “Our COVID Task Force is tracking the vaccination rate among players very closely. We will be releasing travel guidelines to players based on where we are in June. We are cautiously optimistic about where things are heading.”
If fans are allowed at games, league protocols will apply to them as well. There are also specific guidelines for players who have recovered from COVID-19 infections about consulting with cardiologists before returning to play. The AUDL said that they expect that fans will be allowed in stadiums in some capacity on opening day.
Championship on FS1
This year’s championship game will be aired on Fox Sports 1, the second highest rated sports cable channel behind ESPN. The league began a two-year deal with Fox Sports last year to air the game of the week on FS2. After receiving solid ratings for the network on re-run broadcasts last year, Fox Sports agreed to give the 2021 title game a slot on its much bigger FS1 network.