Last year, the Rabils announced a new era of professional lacrosse.
Mike, Paul, and the rest of the PLL team have brought professional lacrosse the the forefront of television and, more importantly, digital media. The league is partnering with Adidas, Gatorade, Vineyard Vines, Capital One, Ticketmaster, and more to bring lacrosse to the mainstream. As the 2019 season brought the first look at what full-time professional lacrosse players might look like, the league developed new broadcast offerings (in-game, on-field interviews with players), a touring model, and massive engagement with their festival atmosphere.
What happened next, no one would have expected — COVID-19 or Coronavirus. As the agile upstart company does best, the PLL pivoted. The league announced the start of the 2020 season would be delayed. Then on May 6th, the PLL announced the Championship Series Powered by Ticketmaster.
The Championship Series Powered by Ticketmaster is a fully quarantined, tournament-style season to crown the second PLL champion. A 14 game (four games per team) group play stage will determine seeding for a single elimination tournament. The Series will be played at a yet-to-be disclosed location between July 25th and August 9th on the NBC family of networks. This will be the most condensed and widely distributed lacrosse product ever — 20 games in just 16 days.
Additional details and why it matters:
- The announcement was made by Paul Rabil during the third hour of The Today Show on NBC News.
- All PLL staff, players, and NBC staff (less than 300 total) will be required to arrive on the first day of a mini training camp, pass comprehensive health screenings, and remain on site through the completion of the Series.
- The PLL is the first North American sports league to announce a return to play plan. The architecture of their plan may be applicable to other leagues, such as the NBA who has also floated the idea of a quarantined finale to their season, which was suspended on March 11th.
- With the postponement of the 2020 Olympic Games, NBC was left with a surplus of broadcast availability. The PLL will take advantage of those broadcast slots, as well as the influx of time spent at home by individuals and families across the world due to COVID-19 quarantines.
- Leading into the second season of play, the PLL has added an expansion team (Waterdogs LC), held three separate drafts, signed new sponsors, and announced a partnership to incorporate sports betting (explained here) into lacrosse beginning with the Championship Series.