Opinion: How the coronavirus outbreak will change the future of global sport


Sports have taken one of the largest hits from the coronavirus outbreak, with major sports tournaments across the globe being suspended indefinitely or being played behind closed doors.

Disruptions this massive have not been caused since World War II. During this time, people witnessed the World Cup, Olympics and all global sports competitions cancelled.

With sports competitions across the globe being cancelled or postponed indefinitely, a question is raised. How will the sports competitions, attendance, and players jump back once the coronavirus outbreak eventually clears?

Rugby League Australia holds on tight

South Sydney Rabbitohs in their victory against Cronulla Sharks. Photo: NRL

National Rugby League in Australia are still holding on with all their strength to not postpone or cancel their matches for the season.

This weekend saw disputes between the Health Department in Australia and the NRL executives as they were recommended to cancel their games, yet proceeded as planned with no crowd restrictions.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison lead the charge for the matches to continue, wanting to watch the Cronulla Sharks play the South Sydney Rabbitohs live, downplaying the virus effects.

Following the announcement that Liberal parliament member Peter Dutton was infected with the virus, Scott Morrison was forced to watch the game in the comfort of his own living room, along with the general population.

In a press conference on Sunday, ARL Commission Chairman Peter V’landys and NRL CEO Todd Greenberg discussed their plan to continue the 2020 season through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The continuation of the NRL season, bringing happiness to fans of the sport, would see the NRL become one of the only national leagues in the world to continue their matches amid the coronavirus outbreak.

NBA Shutdown

Live press conference featuring Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert.

The NBA announced on Thursday that it would be suspending play following the conclusion of the night’s games.

The news came after a player, who a Utah Jazz source told foxsports.com.au is Rudy Gobert, tested posted for the coronavirus. Gobert had only two days prior downplayed the coronavirus outbreak. The player jokingly ended a press conference by touching everyone’s phones, microphones and recorders.

“The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of tonight’s schedule of games until further notice,” the league said in a statement sent on Thursday afternoon.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has been sidelined for the past week with a knee injury, presumably not becoming infected with the coronavirus. ‘The Greek Freak’ has been the face of NBA for the past two years from his incredible performance.

Yet, it is unknown what this lack of competition time will do for his strong form, along with other NBA players that will be without game time.

During the NFL off-season, basketball is the most watched sport in the USA, also having a growing increase its popularity globally in the last 10 years.

According to a study done by Investopedia, television rights, merchandising, and ticket sales are the NBA’s primary revenues, with two of those being erased if matches are to be ceased. Local TV contracts can gross between $120 million and $150 million annually from the NBA alone. What program, if another even exists, is going to make up for that income loss? Presumably, nothing.

The ‘Beautiful Game’ loses its soul

Daniele Rugani tested positive for coronavirus. (Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP)

The past week has seen almost all major football competitions become suspended indefinitely. Starting with the cancellation of the Serie A, as a consequence of Juventus player Daniele Rugani testing positive for coronavirus, all major leagues in England, Germany, France, Spain and Greece have now been suspended indefinitely.

Once panic over the coronavirus eventually settles, it is to be assumed that matches will continue to be played behind closed doors. Yet for many clubs, that only complicates the scenario.

As a recent example, the UEFA Champions League match between Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund was played behind closed doors this week in Paris. Both teams record some of Europes highest attendance records per match.

A report released by UEFA in 2017 revealed that Borussia Dortmund earn an estimated €1.8 million per match from ticket revenue alone, making up 16 percent of the club’s annual income. Paris Saint Germain weren’t far behind, earning an estimated €1.5 million in ticket sales per match, making up 11 percent of the club’s total revenue.

Although PSG are supported through other income methods, clubs such as Borussia Dortmund are left with a major gap in their income if their season matches are to be played without an audience.

Attendance equals passion. Football games without attendance, as seen this week, are played with an eeriness in the air. Disputed by many, football crowds have the inescapable ability to change the course of a match.

Sport is a place of happiness

Borussia Dortmund “Yellow Wall”. Photo: Sports Bible

Let me preface this by saying that what is happening in the world is a global tragedy that is largely left out of our control. The coronavirus has caused over 6,000 deaths worldwide with up to 200,000 infections.

During times of crisis, it’s sport that has seen the world come together. In World War I during the famous Christmas Truce, a football match was played to bring happiness to the men whose lives only a day prior were at risk of being lost.

There is no real solution to filling the holes left inside people when sport is cancelled.

If sports are continued with crowds, then thousands more people are at risk of being infected. If sports are continued with no crowds, the clubs income suffer and the passion on the field is lost. If sports are cancelled entirely, there is forever a gap of happiness and social stimulation missing in society.

With no fans, players that have spent their lives training to play on the massive stage are left to play without live energy. If they are cancelled entirely, a seasons worth of income is lost.

You may be thinking that these players are earning massive dollars if they’re playing on the big stage and you’re right. That is, if your name is Cameron Smith, Lionel Messi or Giannis Antetokounmpo. For every other 18-21 year old trying to get a foot into the big leagues, this season will potentially leave them without that breakthrough start.

There is no perfect solution to filling the gaps left without sport, yet there is something everybody can do when sport does come back. Go to the matches. Watch your team live. Scream at the opposition for foul play. Buy a jersey at the clubs merchandise booth. Make sure that this disruption in the season doesn’t negatively impact your sport for years to come and bring the competition to life now more than ever.




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