The Jacksonville Sharks will have to wait a year to defend their 2019 National Arena League championship, as the league announced Friday afternoon that its 2020 season will be cancelled.
The cancellation announcement comes as a direct result of the complications caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The NAL had already delayed the beginning of its season from its expected start date in April. As recently as late May, it remained optimistic about being able to proceed with a shortened season to begin in June.
According to Friday’s press release, the league’s board of directors agreed that playing games without the presence of fans was not an option. It also struggled with issues regarding arena availability prior to calling off the season.
Founded in 2016, the NAL has just seven active teams, and while many of them have local sponsorship contracts, the teams and the league itself rely heavily on both ticket sales and building loyalty through game-night experiences.
“The owners tried everything they could to make this work,” said Commissioner Chris Siegfried via Friday’s press release. “It’s difficult to produce a schedule, get players in town, promote the games and sell tickets when we still don’t have confirmed playing dates or definitive answers regarding our fans being allowed in the arenas.”
Among the scenarios envisioned, but ultimately rejected, by the league was the idea of playing all of its games in one location with strict social distancing guidelines in place.
In its press release, the league hinted at “many exciting announcements” to come over the next few months. At least one new expansion team is expected in 2021, and the 2020 season’s cancellation may allow the league to revisit its previously-proposed merger with the Champions Indoor Football league.
The league and its teams, including the Sharks, will now look to regroup ahead of the 2021 season, which is expected to kick off next April.