Salvatore “SoccerSam” Fantauzzo: “If it was up to me, it would be let’s start the season in April. Go a little bit into the spring. That probably the way I would suggest because we don’t know what’s going to happen with COVID. 

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

If he had his way, Salvatore “SoccerSam” Fantauzzo wouldn’t start the next Major Arena Soccer League season until March or April 2021. He also wouldn’t mind playing games behind closed doors.

The Rochester Lancers owner says he is thinking of the health of the fans, players, staff, league and arena workers, including the financial health of the owners.

Due to the unpredictability of the COVID-19 pandemic and the state and local regulations and rules that vary from arena to area, that that concept might be the best way for the indoor league to go forward.

Fantauzzo is one of 17 MASL owners and everyone gets one vote at league board meetings.

“If it was up to me, it would be let’s start the season in April,” he said on the Soccer is a Kick in the Grass radio show Monday night. “Go a little bit into the spring. That probably the way I would suggest because we don’t know what’s going to happen with COVID. The election’s going to happen, things are going to change. Hopefully, somebody comes up with the medicine to secure this thing.

“I just go done watching the world news and it seems that things are getting worse in some states and not better. I think we should prolong the season. March, maybe at the earliest. April maybe; makes more sense. Shorten the season a little bit and just run from there to NPSL outdoor. That’s how I see it. Again, I am only one vote.”

The NPSL is the National Premier Soccer League, of which the Lancers are a member. That season usually starts up in May and runs through July.

The 2019-20 MASL season shut down in March before the league could hold its playoffs. On Oct. 2, the league said last week that it was “looking at several options, with the target of playing as soon as Dec. 31.” That date was subject to change, the MASL stated.

“Keeping the season going is crucial,” Fantauzzo told co-hosts Andrew Battisti and Joe Sirianni. “It’s important. Playing without fans, if we have to, it’s still doable. If you play without fans and instead of playing at the Dome [Arena] and instead of playing at some of the bigger arenas throughout the country, you do basically what the NBA did. They went into a small little arena at Walt Disney [in Orlando, Fla.] and made it look like the big time.”

One possibility for the Lancers, Fantauzzo said, is to play their games at TSE (Total Sports Experience) a local indoor soccer company that has facilities in Gates, N.Y. and East Rochester, N.Y.

“We go to TSE, you put the boards up, you put the cameras on, you put the lights on, no fans,” he said. “You probably lose less money than having to pay inside an arena not knowing if the fans are going to come or if fans are going to come because of COVID. Or, if Governor Cuomo wakes up one morning and decides you can no longer have fans and you have booked the arena for 12 games. Or you’re on a flight to go to Kansas City and you realize that once you reach there, you have to quarantine for two weeks when you get to Kansas City because we’re coming from New York. There might be an issue in New York or vice versa.”

Everyone’s health matters, said Fantauzzo, who felt traveling should be limiting to division play and bus rides to cut down travel and its costs.

“I would rather see us play [in] division, bus rides only, and if we have to, play without fans and not take risk of all this craziness,” he said. “If we wait until March or April, then I think everybody will be more clear on what’s going to happen. If we rush the season start, Jan. 1, Dec. 31, I just think the whole country is still unclear on what COVID or what it’s going to do.”

Fantauzzo said he understood he and other owners would be earning less, but expenses should be lower “because you’re not playing in bigger arenas.”

“It’s not just about the fans being safe – that is the most important – but I want our players to be safe, I want our staff to be safe. I want the concession people to be safe. That’s a lot of ask for right now without knowing what’s happening. It’s not like going into a restaurant. You sit at a table. The waitress comes to you. You’re talking about an arena with 2,000 people, 3,000 people walking around, the bathrooms, the concessions. I think it’s going to be difficult to control that unless we have some kind of direction on what’s going on with COVID or what COVID really is.”