The Bundesliga professional football league has been started in Germany in empty stadiums. The league is being played while adhering as strictly as possible to social distancing norms. Despite the lack of spectators, it has undoubtedly brought relief to the millions of football fans who can watch it on TV while confining themselves to home. This is a start to resuming sports activities in an age when these are not just entertainment but also big business. Millions of people across the world, apart from the sportspersons, make a living from it. The enthusiasm of sports lovers, be they the active or couch potato variety, energises the business, resulting in massive revenues for the players and associations. Sadly, the COVID-19 lockdown, worldwide, has inflicted a huge blow to the world of sports – the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics is a good example of it. Already the financial losses being spoken of are mind-boggling.
Structured sports, as apart from the amateur weekend variety, ensure that the enthusiasm of spectators translates into earnings that make it possible to have better facilities – from training academies, to better arrangements for teams, modern stadia and, above all, a livelihood for all involved in the game at every level. In the past, sports persons had to pursue their passion mostly at their own cost, which meant they could not go ‘professional’. As a result, they had short careers and even their valuable skills and experience could not become available to the next generation of sportspersons. One needs only to see the condition of a well organised sport like Cricket in India, and the poor condition of many others – it has much to do with monetising the extent of public support. In fact, there is now cross-financing taking place, with the better off sports bodies helping other sports to come up.
The fact is that, unlike the hotel and tourism industry that requires people to be actually present, many sports can continue to enjoy support over TV. The ticket sales would be lost, but the sponsors would be happy to advertise as long as they get the necessary exposure. Some sports, such as golf and tennis, do not need much physical proximity and could be resumed without spectators. The IPL in India has a huge following and thought needs to be given to planning its comeback as quickly as possible. Otherwise, like Jamie Alter, people will just end up unsubscribing their sports channels to mourn the loss of live telecasts. Everybody then would be the loser.