NFL readies 'virtual draft' this month

Los Angeles (AFP) –


The National Football League has outlined details for a "virtual draft" to be held later this month after original plans for the April 23-25 event in Las Vegas were scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic.

An NFL report on the league's website said commissioner Roger Goodell had notified all 32 teams that the draft would take place using the phone and internet in order to comply with social distancing guidelines.

All NFL league and club facilities are currently shuttered due to the COVID-19 crisis, meaning team officials and draft hopefuls this year will need to participate in separate locations.

"Because of these circumstances, clubs have been advised to prepare to conduct the 2020 draft entirely outside of their facilities and in a fully virtual format, with club personnel in separate locations and able to communicate with one another and draft headquarters by phone or internet," Goodell said.

NFL employees would be separated in the same way, Goodell added, working in locations outside of league offices.

Goodell said the arrangements for a virtual draft had been made after officials failed to find any other viable alternative.

"After consulting with medical advisors, we cannot identify an alternative that is preferable from a medical or public health perspective, given the varying needs of clubs, the need properly to screen participants, and the unique risk factors that individual club employees may face," Goodell said.

"I have spoken to many of you in the past several days and recognize the challenges facing all of us. We are operating in an environment unlike anything we have experienced before, one that requires flexibility, patience, and cooperation.

The NFL is nervously following the progress of the COVID-19 crisis with the start of the 2020-2021 season just five months away.

So far there are no plans to delay the start of the season although there is the strong possibility of disruption to pre-season training, which could force a rejig of the season schedule.

The coronavirus outbreak has brought sport in North America to its knees with most major professional leagues for basketball, baseball, soccer and ice hockey either halting play or delaying the start of their season.