IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON SPORTS

Terver Dominic, Abuja

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Ever since Coronavirus pandemic broke out in December 2019, in the Wuhan province of China, the world has not been the same again with disruptions in all spheres of human endeavours, including Sports.

The biggest sporting casualty this year is the 2020 Summer Olympics scheduled for Tokyo, Japan. The event was earlier scheduled to hold from July 24 to August 9, 2020, but has now been postponed to July 2021 due to COVID-19.

The Olympic Games is the largest sports gathering in the world and it is the most watched event, with hundreds of millions of global audience and billions of dollars generated from sponsorships and television rights.

The Olympic Games is not the only sporting event affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Other sports such as football, tennis, athletics, swimming, cycling, basketball amongst others suffered either postponement or outright cancellation across countries of the world this year.

In Africa, several events, such as the African Nations Championship, Africa Cup of Nations, 2022 World cup qualifiers in football for men and women, the CAF Champions league and Confederation cup have all been shifted to later dates this year or postponed till next year.

The famous European Champions League and Europa League which were supposed to end next month, have been postponed to the end of August, 2020.

Similarly, top European Countries’ domestic football leagues are all on hold due to the ravaging effects of COVID-19.

In Nigeria, the Professional Football League, National Sports Festival which is held biennially and by all standards, the biggest sporting event in the country, have all been put on hold due to the outbreak of Covid-19.

According to Kearney, a Germany based online sports marketing magazine, before the outbreak of corona virus, “the global sports industry was worth over 600 billion dollars and was predicted to grow much faster than national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of fast growing economies such as the BRIC nations: Brazil, Russia, India, and China and in more mature markets of Europe and North America, but the COVID-19 pandemic has stunted its growth”.

As a result of this, every part of the sporting value chain has been adversely affected, from athletes, teams and leagues, to the media that cover and broadcast the games.

The sporting world has not just folded its arms, but has adopted different approaches in its response to the growing concerns of the fans. For instance, media organizations have resolved to showing classic games, archived content and documentary in a bid to keep sports fans busy. The broadcast media have also relied on visual technologies to enable fans experience games live without physically being present at the venues. This has served as a new way to engage fans and grow revenue.

As good as these initiatives are, they cannot satisfy the yearnings of the teeming fans who appreciate sports better when they are present in the stands cheering and applauding their top sportsmen and women during live competitions.

It is therefore hoped that efforts by governments and scientists across the globe to contain COVID-19 would yield positive results so that sporting events could resume and fans can get back to the stands in no too distant time.