Sports may not be the most important thing in the world, but it does have a tremendous impact on our lives. This is true no matter our own personal devotion to watching it on TV or attending games. Watching sporting excellence is a pleasurable pastime and nothing pulls people together more than cheering on a common sports team.
Of course, the appearance of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) has changed much of this. Its spread caused a months-long abandonment of sports leaving fans to speculate about its return. However, sports are slowly returning and abandoned seasons are once again being played (the NBA) and or completed (the EPL and Bundesliga). Now with more sports contemplating a comeback during this period and the future of sports after corona being discussed, the question arises, should sports attempt a comeback now? Here is what you should consider.
Revenue– It’s no secret that the aim of sports is revenue generation. With Covid-19 putting a temporary halt to ticket sales, it’s no surprise that leagues are anxious to get their revenue generation back on course. Of course, gate receipts are only part of the equation. Concession and merchandise sales, and TV revenue make up a sizable portion of a team’s earnings. While merchandise sales are likely to be impacted less by the pandemic, there are still concerns to be monitored.
Disengagement – Team owners and league commissioners are bound to be concerned about fan disengagement. Off-season team activity such as trades, signings, and drafts still manage to keep fans engaged. However, in the middle of an abandoned season these issues don’t arise and fans are left to maintain that engagement on their own . The longer sports stays off the airwaves, the greater the chance that major leagues risk losing fans.
Bubbles – To combat the threat posed by Covid-19, the NBA and WNBA have implemented bubbles in an attempt to complete postponed seasons. So far, these bubbles seem to be working. The NHL has also announced a plan to follow suit and create bubbles in specific cities. Major League Baseball, on the other hand, having chosen to forgo bubbles, have faced a string of infections across several teams.
Opting out – No player is being forced to play during the pandemic. To this effect, several professional sports leagues have given their players the option to opt out of the season if they harbor concerns for their health. Accordingly, several players citing concerns for their own health as well as that of their families have opted out of their teams’ seasons.
Testing – Leagues have instituted rigorous testing regimens in an attempt to diagnose and quarantine players suspected of contracting Covid-19. Thus it will be easier to stop the spread of the virus among players and staff if this testing regimen is upheld.
Fanless games – Games being played behind closed doors is an unwelcome but necessary measure that many leagues and individual teams must adhere to. Conditions for the NBA’s return included the provision that no fans were to be admitted. So far no fans are being admitted to MLB games and the NFL has announced that fan attendance will be greatly reduced.
Unpredictability – Despite the countless measures being taken, there is no assurance that all would go according to plan. Too many unknown variables can potentially reduce any league’s season to a day-to-day one. NBA commissioner Adam Silver admitted as much, alluding to the chance that Covid-19 could end the season prematurely.
Amateur sports – One of the questions still lingering about the return of sport is the ethics of restarting amateur sports (read: college sports) in the midst of this pandemic. Compensation for NCAA football, basketball and baseball athletes cannot compare to that of their professional counterparts. Naturally the idea of forcing students to risk their lives to play a game for which they don’t receive compensation has riled many in the sports world.
With billions of dollars hanging in the air, the effect of coronavirus on sports has been a humbling one. You may say that there are other more important happenings in the world right now and that sports are unnecessary and nothing more than a distraction. However it is also true that the most important aspect of sports’ return is it’s value as a distraction. Months spent in quarantine have left people lonely, isolated and in need of community. There may be no worse time for sports, yet there may