Are There Contingency Plans in the Event of a Catastrophe?
January 29, 2015 8:23 AM   Subscribe

Do the four major US professional team sports leagues (MLB, NHL, NFL and NBA) have secret plans on how to proceed with the league and the league schedule in the event of a catastrophe such as a plane crash to one of the teams?

For example, Major League Baseball plays a 162 game schedule. What if a team perished in a plane crash after playing 62 of those games? What would become of the other 100 games? Would the team simply call up their triple A team? Maybe there is a provision for the team to draft players from other teams in order to field a competitive team.

I have to/want to believe that in this day and age of sports being a huge business, that there are stashed away contingency plans for each league on what to do. For the simple reason that nobody would want to publicly speculate on what happens in this event, I doubt there are public plans on what would happen, but good corporate governance would dictate that there at least be a plan in place. Whether that plan would be executed as written is open for debate, but is there at least a plan in place?

I believe in the Russian hockey league the KHL, in 2011, a team jet crashed killing all aboard. The team did not participate in the rest of the season (not sure what happened to the teams that were scheduled to play them), there was some sort of draft held to help them field a competitive team, and they geared up to play in the following year's league schedule.

Does anyone know of such contingency plans?
posted by 724A to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know of contingency plans specifically, but my guess would be that the teams have insurance. If a team dies that team's owner would get a payout from their insurance and all the other teams would get a payout for their share of lost revenue (from games they would have played against that team) from either their own insurance or the insurance for the team that died.

I assume they would get a pretty sweet set of draft picks in the next draft.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:26 AM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: They do indeed. There were a bunch of articles about this after the Lokomotiv pane crash you reference.

here's one from espn

In the event that a team disaster ever did occur, each of the four major professional sports leagues has a contingency plan, built around some sort of "disaster draft" designed to restock the team in the event of a tragedy.
Some, like Major League Baseball, remain tight-lipped about its plan, tabbing it "confidential."
"All I can say is that, yes, we have a plan," MLB spokesman Richard Levin said. "But God forbid it should ever be needed."
Others, like the NBA and NFL are more open about their disaster plan. In fact, the NFL will go as far as to provide a faxed copy upon request. Headed under "Administrative/Business Operations," the NFL policy has extensive nuts-and-bolts instructions for replenishing a team in the event of a "disaster" or "near-disaster."

posted by bowmaniac at 8:26 AM on January 29, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: It's called a Disaster Draft. Here's the wikipedia page on it.
posted by barchan at 8:28 AM on January 29, 2015 [5 favorites]

There's a wiki page on it as well
posted by bowmaniac at 8:30 AM on January 29, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks! I don't know how I missed the articles when I found the Lokomotiv example. Much appreciated.
posted by 724A at 8:31 AM on January 29, 2015

Response by poster: The Wiki page talks about drafting players, but except for a vague reference for the NFL, it does not talk about what happens to the remaining schedule and the issue of teams that played that team having different games played if the team is not immediately replaced.
posted by 724A at 8:36 AM on January 29, 2015

Yeah, I just realized that myself. I know the MLB official rules linked in that wiki has a section labeled "Disaster Plan" (section 29) but it doesn't go into scheduling. Considering MLB schedules were done by hand for decades by 2 people, it does make you wonder about contingency plans. . . .

An avenue of research might be to look at how the teams dealt with 9/11, when games were put off for ~ a week (at least for baseball). Also with how they redo schedules for strikes? Hockey's had a few strikes in which they had to release schedules at the last minute after the season's started, and it never seems like a big deal at all, but perhaps they kept a kind of "rolling" dynamic schedule going as the strike progressed. Perhaps they consider scheduling trivial compared to draft procedures? Or it would just be easier to give teams a bye for the remainder of the season in a mid-season catastrophe?

For the NHL: When the Phoenix Coyotes filed for bankruptcy a few years ago, some "off the record" NHL business dealings were released as part of the kerfuffle, including the NHL constitution and bylaws, and that's where the details about their disaster plans come from. The NHL's is called the "emergency rehabilitation plan" and it's Section 16c of their bylaws, although I'm having trouble finding a link that isn't hosted by the Toronto Star, which isn't working for me.
posted by barchan at 9:08 AM on January 29, 2015

Another constituency to think about is individual players: First, there would be any non-dead players on the dead time. Presumably the teams insurance would pay out their salaries or the team would do so from its insurance money.

However, what about players on other teams. Some players have contracts with bonus structures based on scoring or averages or things like that, right? What happens to someone who gets paid an extra X for scoring at least Y times, or $Z / point or whatever when suddenly they lose many opportunities to score? Or what if you get a bonus for having a slugging average of W and the team that dies has the worst pitchers in the league and you would certainly have hit another gazillion home runs against them, pulling up your slugging average?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:32 AM on January 29, 2015

Response by poster: Baseball has a lot of performance clauses in their contracts including games played for starting pitchers and for some fielders. Do they prorate them? Football being such a short season in games played, you wonder what would happen with their schedule. If a team in say the NFC East had the disaster and one team in their division had not played them at all yet while the others had played them once, what would happen to the division standings?

I assume this has been thought out by the leagues. I wonder what the plan is. Now thinking about it, the restocking of the teams seems like the easy part. They are all in the league together and since they all don't know whose team might face the tragedy, it makes sense they would all agree to a draft of some sort. I think the scheduling is competitive and would be more contentious. The insurance and contractual issues would be a mess, but I think that would play out in a court or through negotiation/arbitration.
posted by 724A at 11:19 AM on January 29, 2015

One thing that would help a team re-cuperate after something like this is that they would surely see a spike in revenues as soon as they were able to play again. If a team had a tragedy like that the fan-base and even fair weather fans would rally around the team, make a point of going to games the next season etc. They'd probably get a contract every game on the local network instead of just select games, etc. And while it probably wouldn't be enough to make up for the lost revenue from games not played, even before the team was playing again there would be a huge spike in merchandise sales.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:26 AM on January 29, 2015

All of the leagues have policies on games that are cancelled, forfeited, or delayed -- due to weather, labor disputes, national disasters, whatever. Baseball, despite those 162 games, leaves room in its schedule to reschedule games that are rained out, often as a doubleheader. The NFL, when games were missed due to labor disputes, reworked the season's schedule with a shortened season where they tried to focus games on division opponents; they have used various strategies for making up games that had to be delayed due to weather. If the "emergency draft" happened, most pro leagues would try to make up the game later in the season. (For college teams, the games are more likely to be forfeited, and the leagues work out how that will affect playoff standings if necessary.)

If an entire team suddenly disappeared from the roster and it were impractical to do the emergency draft, the authority to make decisions about scheduling would rest with the commissioner, who would look at the specific situation, consult with players' and coaches' and owners' representatives, and make a decision on scheduling and team ranking that would try to balance all those competing concerns.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:44 PM on January 29, 2015

I honestly don't see any scenario other than the entire season being canceled or massively delayed. Athletes are so beloved here, and sports fandom is so emotional. Once a columnist points out that professional sports leagues routinely cancel or delay seasons to argue about percentage points of revenue, I think the general public will be upset if the season goes on as planned. In that case I think it depends on scheduling. Like if games can be suspended for 2-3 months and still allow for a reasonable albeit shortened schedule, maybe that would happen. If it's a month before the playoffs, I would imagine that they'd be canceled.
posted by acidic at 7:54 PM on January 29, 2015

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