Baseball's minor leagues canceled their seasons Tuesday due to the coronavirus pandemic, and its governing body chief said more than half of the 160 teams were in danger of failing without government help or injections of private capital.
The National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, the governing body of the minor leagues, made the long-awaited announcement.
“We are a fan business in the stands. We have no national television revenue, "National Association President Pat O & # 39; Conner said during a digital press conference." There was a conversation at one point: Well, can we play without fans? And that was one of the shortest conversations in the last six months. It just doesn't make any sense. "
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O'Conner estimated that between 85% and 90% of revenue was related to ticket money, concessions, parking, and stadium advertising. The minors attracted 41.5 million fans last year for 176 teams in 15 leagues, averaging 4,044 fans per game.
MLB teams are planning a regular 60 game season and most of their income will come from money issued.
"I had a conversation with the commissioner and we couldn't find a path that would allow us to play," said O & # 39; Conner. "It was not a bitter decision on our part."
O & # 39; Conner said many minor league teams had received money through the Federal Flexibility Act of the Check Protection Program.
"That was a band-aid in a bleeding industry," he said. “Many of our clubs have gone through one, two, maybe three rounds of permits. In our office here, we have had different levels of salary cuts between senior management and staff, and we have also suspended some people and are about to enter a second round of leave. "
Awaits approval of HR 7023, which would provide $ 1 billion in 15-year federal loans from the Federal Reserve to companies that had 2019 incomes of $ 35 million or less and "have contractual obligations to make lease, rent or bond payments publicly owned by sports facilities, museums and community theaters. "
In addition, the Professional Baseball Agreement between the oldest and the youngest expires on September 30. MLB has proposed reducing the minimum affiliates from 160 to 120.
"There is no doubt that what the pandemic has done has weakened us economically," said O & # 39; Conner. "I don't think it has challenged our resolution. I don't think it has affected our desire to stick together and get a good deal."
There have been no substantive conversations for approximately six weeks.
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"There are many teams that are not liquid, or solvent, that cannot proceed under normal circumstances, and these are anything but normal circumstances given the PBA and the uncertainty of the future for some of these ball clubs," said O & # 39; Conner. "So I think that the coronavirus has really reduced the ability of many clubs to do it. And I think that we are seeing without some government intervention, without doing something to hire capital partners, we could be seeing half of the 160 that are going to have serious problems. "
MLB has already told clubs to retain groups of 60 expanded players, of which 30 players may be active during the first two weeks of the season beginning in late July.
Conner said that the financial impact of the pathogen could extend until 2023.
"As serious as the Major League Baseball threat was," said O & # 39; Conner, "this coronavirus threat transcends any list anyone wants to make regarding the possibility of teams not being present in the future."