Will corona tsunami engulf world sports?

With steep rise in coronavirus cases, there has been massive disruption in the sporting calendar worldwide this year.

I n the wake of the coron av i r u s e p i d e m i c, sporting world—from the IPL to Tokyo Olympics—has come to an unprecedented halt. Majority of the sporting events, regardless of their respective scale, are being called off or postponed indefinitely. With steep rise in Covid-19 cases, there has been huge disruption in the sporting calendar worldwide. This has resulted in badly affecting sporting value chains, from athletes to teams and leagues to the broadcaster and so on. One such league which is feeling the pinch is Spanish football league LaLiga, which set up its base in India in 2018. “Football clubs with matches in June and July are going to be badly hit. We are working to enhance our product in every possible way, trying to give a different broadcast experience not just your average broadcast”, says Jose Antonio Cachaza of LaLiga India. Though the industry may be going through the darkest phase right now, the hope of eventual revival is very strong amongst the key players.

“As far as recreational status is concerned, European countries are starting. Once lockdown is over, people are going to get back to the tennis courts. Certain norms like number of people on court might change. But short-term changes will impact players till July”, says Anil Khanna, former All India Tennis Association (AITA) president. While some are of the opinion that online matches could be the solution, many like Udit Mediratta, director, global marketing at Ab-InBev, disagree. “Online platforms are as relevant as ever. As for advertising companies will need to think of different way. How do you we still leverage football content to fans at this time is the challenge. Maybe in the future we can leverage e-gaming, e-commerce to increase consumption of sports,” Mediratta says. Cachaza, however, seems sceptical about the online matches earning requisite revenues. “Digital consumption can get boring after a while. Online solution is not going to keep the flame burning. In India fans are craving digital content. We were ready for this situation but maybe under better circumstances” he says.

While the sporting world is undergoing a financial downturn, people are thinking about the government being a last resort. “Sports can be a great employer. Government need to encourage sports. This is a realization we need to bring in our system”, says R.K. Khanna, former AITA president. According to Sunil Gulati, FIFA council member, sports isn’t just an industry. He says, “It has been re-emphasised to me that sports is not the central industry like healthcare, etc. But sports fraternity has stepped up to help humanity.”