Roughriders still in holding pattern
WHEELING — The West Virginia Roughriders are going to play arena football in 2020, they’re just not sure when.
Due to the global coronavirus pandemic, the Roughriders debut in the National Arena League has been up in the air.
“We’re going to play,” Roughriders owner Gregg Fornario said via telephone Tuesday.
It was announced on Monday that the NAL is aiming to kickoff the campaign on Saturday, June 13, if possible.
“The NAL is eager to start the season and appreciates all the cooperation and patience of the teams, owners, arenas, players, and especially the fans.
“We have been monitoring the events surrounding the coronavirus, and we are anticipating a return to action the weekend of June 13,” NAL Commissioner Chris Siegfried said in a release.
“As most states are starting to slowly reopen following President Trump’s Opening up America plan, the schedule for the season is being created to accommodate the teams, owners and the arenas as long as we continue to see improvements surrounding the virus,” the release added.
Fornario isn’t quite sure about that date, however.
“That’s a little misleading. That’s not etched in stone,” he said. “The league thinks we might be able to do that, but all six cities with teams in the league are still under stay-at-home orders.
“I know Florida is dropping theirs on April 29, but I haven’t heard anything about West Virginia just yet.
“Realistically, I think we could play on the 13th, but if not it would probably be June 27,” he noted. “The schedule will be completely different from what it originally was.”
The other half-a-dozen teams comprising the NAL are the defending champion Jacksonville Sharks; the Orlando Predators; the Carolina Cobras; the Columbus (Ga.) Lions; the Massachusetts Pirates; and the Jersey Flight.
Massachusetts still has its sights set on playing NAL games, however, there are still several questions to be answered, but many were addressed in the following statement released by co-owner and team president Jawad Yatim.
“First and foremost, we hope everyone is hanging in there and doing their best to stay safe during this tough time. This is certainly an adverse situation no matter who you are or what you do.
“I am confident we will be able to pull through this and place my trust in all the remarkable people out there giving all they have to keep us safe and healthy.
“From a Pirates perspective we are hopeful we will be able to compete in 2020. The goal from a league standpoint right now is June 13, but obviously that all will be confirmed or denied by the higher powers that be,” he said.
“What I can confidently say however is that we will begin the season playing with no fans in the arena.
“It’s unconventional but obviously appropriate for a time like this.”
Fornario strongly disagreed.
“We will play in front of our fan base,” he said. “We’re going to have to be creative about it with the social distancing rules. We’re trying to do everything we can to make this season happen.”
As far as the players, he said they have signed 35 that are ready to go at any time.
“We keep in touch with them all the time. They’re anxious to go,” he said.