UFC TAPS OUT ON ‘FIGHT IS­LAND,’ WHILE XFL FOLDS

Youth sports get emer­gency fund­ing to cope with shut­downs caused by pan­demic

Vancouver Sun - - SPORTS - TOM MAYENKNECH­T

Bulls of the week: It may pale in com­par­i­son to the $75-bil­lion-ayear pro­fes­sional sports in­dus­try in North Amer­ica, but the youth sports sec­tor is val­ued at more than $17 bil­lion and is ar­guably worth more to the young peo­ple, fam­i­lies and friends who re­volve around it all year.

It is both the most vul­ner­a­ble seg­ment of sport busi­ness and the most es­sen­tial.

Thank­fully those qual­i­ties are be­ing rec­og­nized by gov­ern­ments in most ju­ris­dic­tions and that’s why the not-for-prof­its and char­i­ties that over­see youth sports in com­mu­ni­ties across Canada are among those re­ceiv­ing emer­gency fund­ing and bridge fi­nanc­ing dur­ing the shut­downs caused by the novel coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

As long as we have vol­un­teer coaches, of­fi­cials and lead­ers ded­i­cated to sus­tain­ing clubs, leagues and associatio­ns, the next gen­er­a­tion of Cana­di­ans will con­tinue to en­joy the ben­e­fits of the fun, fit­ness and friend­ship that comes with youth sports.

Yet those very same vol­un­teers — and, where they ex­ist, paid pro­fes­sional staff and tech­ni­cal di­rec­tors — will need to work to­gether smarter than ever to over­come the dis­rup­tion of the COVID-19 cri­sis.

Here’s to the cel­e­bra­tion and ap­pre­ci­a­tion that will man­i­fest it­self when youth sports do be­gin to come back from the cur­rent shut­downs.

Bears of the week: Born a quar­ter cen­tury apart, 74-year-old Vince Mcma­hon and 50-year-old Dana White are cut from sim­i­lar cloths. They are the masters of hype. They trade in hy­per­bole. They them­selves are part of the show. That tri­fecta has served both of them for most of their no­table ca­reers in sports en­ter­tain­ment. Yet de­spite their pow­er­ful clout and longevity in the world of WWE wrestling and UFC mixed mar­tial arts, noth­ing could save them this week from the bear mar­ket that’s en­velop­ing the North Amer­i­can econ­omy, most no­tably the busi­ness of sport.

It’s been a bad week for both Mcma­hon and White.

Mcma­hon had to call The Un­der­taker to pre­side over the fu­neral of his XFL, which an­nounced it was shut­ting down op­er­a­tions and ter­mi­nat­ing all em­ploy­ees Fri­day.

It’s an open ques­tion as to whether XFL 2.0 would have had the ca­pac­ity to con­tinue much beyond 2020 in the best of con­di­tions, but the novel coro­n­avirus proved to be bad eco­nom­ics, bad timing and bad luck for his sec­ond at­tempt at spring foot­ball.

While the NFL pre­pares for a vir­tual draft this month and what it des­per­ately hopes will be busi­ness as usual come the first Thurs­day af­ter Labour Day week­end, the XFL joins the Al­liance of Amer­i­can Foot­ball as the sec­ond spring foot­ball league to die be­fore com­plet­ing even one sea­son.

White was (a) prom­i­nent in a con­fer­ence call with U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump Sun­day; (b) all over the air­waves boast­ing about UFC’S own “Fight Is­land” to host tele­vised com­pe­ti­tions; and (c) de­fi­antly mov­ing for­ward with plans for UFC 249.

All three threads came to a halt Thurs­day when UFC bowed to the right­sh­older and spon­sor pres­sure and sus­pended fight op­er­a­tions for the time be­ing.

In typ­i­cal White fash­ion, he pro­claimed that his op­er­a­tion will be the first sport back from the COVID-19 cri­sis, al­though ESPN will likely make that call when it comes. In a hum­bling turn of events, Mcma­hon shut down and White stood down. Nei­ther was ac­cus­tomed to it.

The Sport Mar­ket on TSN Ra­dio rates and de­bates the bulls and bears of sport busi­ness. Join Tom Mayenknech­t on Satur­days from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. for a be­hind-the-scenes look at the sport busi­ness sto­ries that mat­ter most to fans.

Fol­low Tom Mayenknech­t at twit­ter.com/thes­port­mar­ket

JEFF ZELEVANSKY/GETTY IM­AGES

Dana White, pres­i­dent of the UFC, says his op­er­a­tion will be the first sport back from the COVID-19 cri­sis.

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