What is the Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Sports Leagues and Betting?
The coronavirus pandemic has brought the world to its knees, leading to a public health emergency that has seen thousands of lives lost and the global economy into what experts believe could be the sharpest downturn since the Great Depression.
One of the sectors that has received a major blow as a result of the pandemic, is the sporting world, and this even extends itself to football betting sites. Nearly all major live sporting events have been suspended, as one of the attempts to curb this highly infectious virus. Even the Summer Olympics, which happens to be one of the most watched live sporting events, have been postponed by a year.
The sports industry is valued at about $471bn a year. With the virus spreading across the globe, nearly every part of the sporting value chain has felt the impact. From athletes, teams, managers, and stadium workers, to the media and their employees responsible for broadcasting and covering the games, just about everyone is hoping that the pandemic will be over so normal life can resume, and money can continue to flow.
In order for you to fully comprehend the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on sports as well as the impact it has on the best betting sites in the USA, you first need to understand how the business of sports works.
How the sports business model works
Let us start with the basics of how the sporting world earns its revenues. In its simplest form, there are three main income streams that the major leagues depend on. They include: match day revenue from ticketing and hospitality, commercial revenue from advertising and sponsorship partnerships, and broadcasting revenue from the sales of media rights. You can think of most of the professional leagues in terms of entertainment companies, where each team acts likes a different channel.
Usually, each team will retain its own identity, and will also have its own employees and fan bases. This may not be the purest form of comparison between the two, but both in sports and entertainment, the more eyeballs you get during an event, the more money you are going to make. The coronavirus pandemic has essentially limited the number of eyeballs to sporting events, simply because no sporting events are going on, and the result has been a very sharp dip in sporting revenue.
It is worth noting that the major leagues rely on broadcasting income with sports media rights having an annual income of about $50bn. It is a fact that each sport will monetize differently, with the general principle being that the organizing body will work an equitable formula for all the generated income to be shared among the participating clubs.
The collective power of these leagues to sell media rights is enormous. Take the NBA for instance. It is estimated that its current TV deal is somewhere north of $24bn over nine years. The English Premier League, on the other hand, has a deal worth $12bn in just over three years, while Major League Baseball is worth over $5bn over seven years.
With such figures, any temporary shutdown of the sporting activities will always be accompanied by devastating financial consequences for all the players within the sector. As the lockdown due to coronavirus keeps on getting longer and longer, the leagues are beginning to feel the heat, from not meeting their commitments to broadcasters.
This will limit the league’s ability to distribute income back to the clubs, and the ripple effects of this will be felt by nearly all the participants in the industry: the absence of games means no TV games and no match day revenue.
The impact of the pandemic on specific leagues, so far
The coronavirus pandemic gained momentum at a time when most leagues were well into their season. Due to the suspension of sporting activities to stop the spread of the virus, some leagues were forced to void the seasons. This means that the entire sporting season was canceled and all the results were expunged from the records. It was a complete reset of the season back to the previous one.
However, due to the financial ramifications that voiding a season came with, certain leagues could not afford to void the season. A prime example is the English Premier League. The pandemic came at a time when Liverpool FC was nearly being crowned as the season’s winner, needing only two wins to be declared the champions. Apart from denying Liverpool FC the chance to get their maiden trophy in nearly three decades, the Premier League Clubs could not afford the losses they were likely to incur if the seasons were to be voided.As a result, a consensus was reached that all the games will be played in empty stadiums. This is just one of the many drastic measures that some leagues have been forced to take o combat the coronavirus pandemic. Here is a brief look at how some of the leagues are coping or planning to cope with the devastating effects of the pandemic:
Major League Baseball
The baseball season in the United States lasts about six months, and among all the major sports leagues in the country, it seems as if Major League Baseball is being the most creative in dealing with this pandemic.
Unlike most of the leagues whose seasons were almost over, the baseball season was just about to start. As such, they have the pleasure of salvaging most of their season. Their plans of carrying on with the league have been changing by the day, and each day sees a new radical proposition being made.
For instance, there were plans to dissolve both the National and America Leagues, and proceed with the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues. There were propositions that all the West Coast teams should play the Cactus League in Arizona, while all the East Coast teams should play the Grapefruit League in Florida to limit travel.
Also, all the coaches, players, media, and team personnel would go on strict quarantine with no fans in attendance, to reduce the chances of transmitting the Covid-19 virus.
The NFL had planned a huge introduction to Las Vegas – the Sin City, also known as one of the best places to find the top football sports books. However, the chance to enjoy the pleasures of the world’s entertainment capital, and to venture off to the city’s iconic venues, never went according to plan, thanks to the outbreak of the coronavirus.
The famous Las Vegas Strip was shut down, and currently, there are suggestions to proceed with the plans in a virtual format. As such, teams would communicate through video conferences, and players would appear through Skype.
UFC has also gotten very creative in dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic. They don’t have any plans to hold fights in empty arenas with fighters having N95 masks, but they are planning to hold the fights in a secluded private island.
Of course, with such a plan, fans will be present, but all the action will be well covered by their broadcasting partners. This is a great way to ensure that the sporting calendar is not halted, and the spread of the virus is also prevented due to limited travel.
The NBA was one of the leagues that were nearing the close of their regular seasons when sporting events and public gatherings were halted due to the outbreak of the virus. There are several proposals to return to play and end the season, with going straight to playoffs in a single location, being one of them.
With this proposal, a best of three-games series will determine and crown the season’s champion. This would ensure that the season closes in time, without any undesirable delays for the next season. However, there are objections to this approach, and it seems as if the NBA is not very keen on finding champions for this season.
In fact, suggestions are coming from some very powerful quarters that the seasons should just be canceled entirely. If no concrete proposition regarding the completion of the season will be proposed, it is highly likely that the NBA season will be scrapped off, and all teams gear up for a new season when it will be possible to resume live sporting events.
The National Hockey League is in the same position as the NBA regarding how to proceed with the season amidst the coronavirus pandemic. There is a plan for the league to halt the regular season and instead go straight away into playoffs, and there are also talks of voiding the season. For now, we can only wait and see which path the league will adopt.
Strategies the sporting industry is adopting in response to the Covid-19 disruption
The disruption caused by Covid-19 is immense, and everyone has got to find a way of dealing with it. For sports fans, in the absence of the live-action, and since most of the football betting sites are inactive at the moment, now is the time to go back and watch replays of the games you missed.
For the players, this is the time to reflect on their respective careers, performance and to spend more time with family now that there is no training or upcoming games that would normally take up the bulk of their time. But how is the rest of the industry coping with the disruptions?
The media is creating new ways to engage consumers
There are no live games, commentaries, or interviews. The media has been forced to increase the depth of the content available to their fans. Sports broadcasters like Fox Sports and ESPN have resorted to showing archived content, sports documentaries, classic games, and niche sports competitions.
This is in an attempt to keep all the consumers engaged, and offer them some unique content they might not have had a chance to watch. Individual leagues have also gone the same route. For example, the NFL is availing all the games since 2009 for streaming.
Introducing flexible payment options for consumers
Both Turner Sports and the NBA have scrapped off the paywall that blocked millions of fans from accessing their joint streaming subscription service – League Pass. Major League Baseball also seems to have taken the same route by showing some of their archived content on their YouTube channel and MLB.TV. The Premier League would have wished to do the same, but they don’t have a streaming channel until 2022.
Creating a contingency plan for live games without an audience
For a very long time, live games without the audience were viewed as a form of punishment for some home teams. However, the pandemic has shown that it doesn’t always have to be that way. The concept of playing in empty stadiums is real in the face of such pandemics, and leagues across the world are trying to figure out the logistics of making this a reality.
This is something that leagues have never thought of in the past, and due to the lessons learned from the coronavirus, it is imperative to have a system in place to hold games without live audiences. Part of such planning may include having games in locations not affected by the pandemics, isolating teams, and their management staff, restricting physical movement, and observing strict quarantine rules once the games are over.
There are no winners or losers during this global pandemic. All sectors are hurting and people are forced to take drastic measures they never imagined they would take. The deaths, loss of income, and the overall slowing down in pace the world has faced, is unprecedented.
If you are a gambler, you think of yourself as lucky because you may think of making money from some of the best betting sites in the USA, but you know that most good deals come around when there are live matches to bet on. It is an unfortunate period and all we can hope for is that the pandemic will come to an end, and we will return to normalcy as quickly as possible.