Here is this week's dose of “5-Point Friday”. A weekly round-up of the sports news and stories that I find most interesting and enjoyable.
Surfing news I am paying attention to -
The World Surf League (WSL) announced that it has called off the 2020 season in the wake of the global Covid-19 pandemic and unveiled a new format for the 2021 campaign. This year’s World Championship Tour (WCT) had been scheduled to start in March and run through until December but no events were able to be held amid the ongoing health crisis.
“After careful consideration and extensive discussions with key stakeholders, we have made the decision to cancel the 2020 Championship Tour and Qualifying Series seasons due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” WSL chief executive Erik Logan (@eriklogan_elo) said in a statement.
“While we firmly believe that surfing is amongst the sports best suited for competition to be held safely during the age of unresolved Covid, we have huge respect for the ongoing concerns of many in our community as the world works to resolve this,” Logan added.
The 2021 season is now scheduled to start in November in Hawaii and finish in September 2021. For the first time, the WCT will feature an equal number of women’s and men’s events.
Notably, the women will now join the men at Teahupo’o, Tahiti, which will be the site for surfing at the 2024 Summer Olympics, which is otherwise being held in Paris, France.
Other key format changes include the introduction of ‘The WSL Finals’. Following the 10-event WCT season, the world surfing champions will be crowned at a single-day event featuring the top five ranked men and women. Previously, champions in the elite series were determined based on accumulated points.
Meanwhile, a mid-season cut will be introduced for the 2022 WCT season, which will reduce the men’s field from 36 to 24 and the women’s field from 18 to 12. This is designed to ensure that the stars of the sport meet head-to-head more frequently.
“I’m really excited about these new format changes,” said two-time WSL champion Tyler Wright. “As someone that has spent a lot of time out with injury and on the couch in the last few years as a professional spectator, I feel that change is good and needed. Having Tahiti come back on the schedule will be interesting and challenging. It will take us a few years to get our feet and positioning in. However, with the next generation of strong and talented women coming through I think we’ll soon have Tahiti specialists.”
Rugby League news I am learning about -
The NRL has begun due diligence on a bid by private investors to take a stake in the NRL that could bring between AU$500 million ($355 million) and AU$1 billion ($710 million) into the game.
Melbourne Storm chairman Matt Tripp is helping facilitate a private-equity bid involving Oakwell Sports Advisory.
“I think there is a 12-month window to execute something that may never happen ever again,” Tripp said.
“This is not a cash grab – this is an opportunity to find other means to continue to grow revenue for the game. If we can do that through third-party investment, then that’s something we will look at in conjunction with the NRL with their support.
“We had a really productive call the other night and we’re going to run the process to ground.
“In terms of other codes heading down this path, Super Rugby is looking at it, Six Nations, Serie A, so naturally the question is why wouldn’t we want to at least have a look and run the process? “That’s all I’ve asked of the NRL and they have very sensibly obliged and decided this is the right process to run and the right thing to do; just to take a look, nothing more, nothing less. We need to keep our eyes open. This is an opportunity that should be explored.”
Formula 1 partnership I am interested in -
Formula 1 has signed a new digital partnership with the Zoom communications platform to help deliver the global motor racing series’ first-ever virtual hospitality product.
Tested at the most recent Steiermark Grand Prix and set to run during the remaining European stages of the 2020 season, Formula One's Virtual Paddock Club will invite fans to take part in a range of online experiences via Zoom.
Officially launching at the Budapest Grand Prix on 19th July, fans will gain behind-the-scenes access on the race weekend, including live updates, as well as insights from personalities and former Formula One drivers.
Ben Pincus, Formula One sponsorship director, said that the partnership with Zoom will help deliver a live sporting experience and could also present new business opportunities.
“Zoom by its very nature is about enabling and connecting businesses remotely and this partnership, which has been developed virtually, is an example of just that,” Pincus said. “We are excited to work with Zoom to continue to connect businesses and their VIPs through this virtual hospitality experience.
“We hope this will be the first of many innovations we roll out in the coming months for our partners. Over the past few months, through Project Pitlane and Virtual Grand Prix races, we have seen the ability to innovate is imperative as we collectively adapt to an environment that continues to evolve.”
Baseball story I am following -
After nearly two weeks of searching for a home, the Toronto Blue Jays are going to be playing their 2020 home games at Sahlen Field, in Buffalo.
Pittsburgh’s PNC Park and Baltimore’s Camden Yards were considered alternate venues after the Canadian government rejected a proposal that would allow Toronto to play its home games at the Rogers Centre. However, reluctance from Maryland officials forced the shift back to the home of their Triple-A affiliate.
Sahlen Field will require a series of upgrades, particularly to bring its lighting up to major-league standards and to the clubhouses so they will be COVID-19-compliant.
The Blue Jays' first home opener is scheduled for July 29th against the Washington Nationals, However, these games are expected to stay at Nationals Park, where the Jays are playing road games on July 27th and 28th. A more likely target for August 11th, when the Blue Jays host the Miami Marlins. Buffalo has not had an official major-league game played in the city since the Federal League was here in 1915.
Women's soccer news I am excited about -
A star-studded ownership group headed up by Alexis Ohanian (@alexisohanian), co-founder of Reddit, announced that the NWSL has awarded its fifth expansion franchise to the city of Los Angeles.
The majority female-owned team, which will temporarily be known as Angel City until their official name and venue partner are announced, will join the NWSL in 2022, becoming the league’s 11th franchise.
“The growth trajectory of the NWSL is incredibly exciting, but we also need to be strategic and thoughtful about how fast we expand and the communities we partner with,” said NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird (@lisainog). “We’ve long sought the right partner in LA considering the NWSL fanbase that already exists in the region and the massive interest in women’s soccer in general. Those factors, along with an incredible ownership group make this an ideal situation and we couldn’t be more thrilled to move forward.”
A number of celebrities are among the franchise’s founding investors, including tennis icon Serena Williams (@serenawilliams), actors Natalie Portman, Uzo Aduba (@UzoAduba), Jessica Chastain (@jes_chastain), America Ferrera (@AmericaFerrera), Jennifer Garner and Eva Longoria (@EvaLongoria).
Have a wonderful weekend, all!