The corona-virus pandemic has upended all areas of life and certainly, sports is no exception to this. Cancelled tournaments, postponed tournaments, matches without spectators, the sports community has witnessed it all. Every aspect of sports has been affected, from the athletes themselves to media coverage. Economically speaking, matches without spectators incur significant losses but the impact of the pandemic is much more drastic than that.
The global value of the sports industry was estimated to be $471 billion in 2018. Now due to the global pandemic, every part of the sporting value chain has been affected, from athletes, teams and leagues, tournaments, to the media that cover these games. Even the Summer Olympics that were to be held in Tokyo this year was pushed to 2021 owing to the prevailing conditions. The Indian Premier League (IPL), which is the richest cricket league in the world, was postponed indefinitely by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in March and is now slated to commence from 19th September 2020.
It is a fact that the sports fraternity will continue to be under some stress even after the world starts adapting to living the new normal life because even when the economy is fully opened, fans’ wearing masks, gloves, and practising social distancing would become the new defining features of life.
From the perspective of an athlete, most sports are played in front of a packed stadium but now due to social distancing, this will not happen. The players will not get the satisfaction of seeing a full-house as they are forced to play in front of empty stands. Even when respective governments begin to allow spectators, it would not be anywhere close to the full capacity for a long time owing to the prevalent social distancing norms.
In Taiwan, the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CBPL) games were played in front of dummy spectators made out of cardboard sheets. This was a desperate attempt to give players a sense of playing in front of audience and also to make the game look better on TV.
In the case of IPL, the BCCI generates revenues in the form of broadcasting rights. The BCCI is not relying on the sale of tickets as the revenues generated from auctioning the broadcasting rights make up for the most part. In a pandemic hit world, other sports can seek to implement the same. Needless to say, in order for that to happen, the league and the sport must be popular enough to bring in the required cash flow.
It will require a significant period of time for things to go back to being the same they were. But until then, all sporting action cannot and will not be paused. There are huge sums of money involved in hosting any league or sporting event, they must go on even if with certain modifications and restrictions which are the need of the hour. Till the time the threat of the virus fades away, we have no choice but to adapt to the new lifestyle trends. The show must go on.