Oregon governor’s office denies NWSL request for more fans

PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s office has turned down an appeal by the commissioner of the National Women’s Soccer League to allow more than 100 fans at the Challenge Cup tournament final Saturday between the Portland Thorns and Gotham FC.

The governor on Friday moved 15 counties to “extreme risk” status, including the Portland metro area. As a result, outdoor sporting events in those areas can no longer have more than 100 spectators. The Thorns and Major League Soccer’s Timbers had previously been able to host about 3,800 fans at Providence Park, which translates to 15% of the stadium’s capacity.

In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird had asked Brown to grant an exemption and extend the 15% allowance to the final.

“The NWSL and our clubs have been health and safety leaders in the world of sport during the current pandemic. Our medical protocols are sound, and all appropriate precautions are taken every time our players take the pitch for training and competition,” Baird wrote. “We’re confident the Thorns can safely accommodate fans and are hopeful you’ll consider our request.”

The request was denied Monday in a letter to Baird from Leah Horner, Brown’s regional solutions director.

“Governor Brown understands how much Oregonians enjoy attending live sporting events, but, for right now, that doesn’t outweigh the very real risk of resulting hospitalizations, and possibly even deaths with our current levels of COVID-19 spread,” Horner wrote. “Oregonians have made smart choices and incredible sacrifices throughout this crisis. We are holding the line for a few more weeks, as we work to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.”

The “extreme risk” designation also impacts the rivalry match next Sunday between the Timbers and the Seattle Sounders.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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