COVID-19 having unprecedented impact on sports: Brock expert

The past 24 hours have seen a wave of cancellations in the world of professional sports the likes of which have never been witnessed.

As the world fights to deal with the impact of coronavirus COVID-19, there had been some cancellations of tournaments and events over the past few days, but the complete suspension of the National Basketball Association schedule Wednesday, followed by similar moves from the National Hockey League and NCAA Thursday, will have a massive impact on the sports industry, says Brock University Assistant Professor of Sport Management Michael Naraine.

“The only comparable situation that comes to mind where there was widespread shutdown from a North American perspective is 9/11, but that was for just one week, and only really affected the MLB and NFL,” Naraine said. “Other than that, there have not been many occasions with complete shutdowns save for World War II, which affected the Olympic Games and Tour de France.”

Naraine pointed out that while many people might think massive sports franchises can handle the financial implications of a shutdown like this, there are widespread impacts beyond just the teams themselves.

“From a business standpoint, the spread of COVID-19 is going to hurt a lot of stakeholders involved such as stadium employees and concessions staff, as well as the revenue fans commit directly or indirectly when attending or watching on TV,” he said. “While gate revenue has become less important over time, it is still a key revenue generator.”

Naraine said the spread of COVID-19 may also significantly impact sports properties where ticket sales are one of the top drivers of revenue.

“A sport like curling is heavily dependent on gate revenues at its events despite the fact that it has a broadcast agreement with TSN in Canada,” he said.

Naraine believes the only winner in the chaos currently facing the sports industry is eSports, which he believes will see an increase in popularity and engagement in the coming weeks.

“More and more young people are going to spend their time playing sports video games,” he said. “eSports is a multi-million dollar proposition that has taken the world by storm and, given that it does not require face-to-face contact, we’re going to see more broadcasters opt to show these elite, competitive matches on their apps and channels.”

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