This is is what a stadium looks like during a pandemic.
This is is what a stadium looks like during a pandemic.Vienna Reyes on Unsplash

5 huge threats Coronavirus poses to the future of sports

From athletes to fans, professionals to amateurs.

The coronavirus pandemic has drastically affected every aspect of our lives. Its effects aren’t just felt by us as individuals, but are also felt by society as a whole. The pandemic has crippled businesses and industries worldwide, and the sports industry is no exception.

While there are indeed signs of hope moving forward, the coronavirus continues to pose huge threats to the world’s future and the future of sports still remains uncertain.

The past year has forced the hand of the sports industry, with all major professional sports leagues postponing their seasons and operations at the outset of the pandemic. Although these major leagues were able to bounce back by adopting a “bubble” system, the experience was far from the usual sports experience that athletes and fans are used to.

Now, the sports industry appears to be getting back on track, with NBA games, for example, gradually allowing fan attendance and providing hope that we’ll eventually get back to normal. However, despite the steps that are being taken in order for us to return to normal as quickly as possible, the damage that the past year has done cannot be denied.

The pandemic has wrought numerous setbacks to every stakeholder in the sports industry, and its effects will definitely be felt for the years to come. With this in mind, let’s take a look at five huge threats that the pandemic poses to the future of sports. These are the things that the people in power should seek to mitigate and find solutions to for the sports world to fully recover from this crisis.

A Compromised Fan Experience

A huge part of the unique experience that sports bring is seeing sports fans go all out in support of their favorite players and teams. This is true for both players and fans. Players, especially those in the biggest stages, have acclimated to the professional atmosphere where they showcase their skills in front of thousands of people, and fan interaction is something that could directly affect the performance of players in the court or in the field.

While television and streaming is always there, the live sports experience is incomplete without the huge number of fans and the bedlam in the arena caused by the inhuman feats of professional athletes. Furthermore, watching sports live is a communal experience for supporters of each team especially in professional sports where homecourt advantage is present.

Although sports events such as the Super Bowl and recent NBA point spread have allowed fans to watch, albeit at limited capacity, there’s still no telling when fans can experience the unmatchable thrill of the full live sports experience as we know it.

Athlete Performance

The pandemic has affected the performance of the top athletes of the world not just due to the absence of live fans in attendance and the lack of in-game fan support that might be the push that players need to perform at their best. Players have not been exempt from being infected by the virus, and its long-term effects may limit the performance of professional athletes and prevent them from performing at the highest possible level.

Not only does being infected with the virus sideline the top players in the world, its effects on teams and careers as a whole are apparent as well. This is not just a threat to the actual health of athletes, which must be a priority for everyone, but may also affect the fan experience.

Moreover, some professional athletes may fail to observe the strict health protocols that must be followed, which may result to, if not infections, suspensions which can likewise prevent them from working on their craft and achieving their full potential.

Threat to Amateur Sports

The world of professional sports will not be possible without amateur sports. Leagues such as the AAU and the NCAA are instrumental in developing the talents of young athletes in order to prepare them for the next level. However, much like in professional sports, COVID-19 has also halted the world of amateur sports.

The NCAA, for instance, was forced to postpone its season and to make some reorganizations with its conferences in order to adjust to the pandemic. Because of this, some of today’s rookies across sports leagues have minimal college experience entering the professional leagues. This could be detrimental for them as they might need more time to adjust to the pace of the big leagues.

Plus, with the coronavirus basically forcing amateur leagues to provide less exposure to amateur athletes, the next generation of professional athletes might not be as developed as those who came before them, which could altogether affect the quality of competition and entertainment.

The Financial Threat

Professional sports, at its core, is still an industry that revolves around money. Money makes it possible for these athletes to live comfortable lives and focus on their craft which then in turn provides us viewers with top-tier entertainment. Revenues of sports leagues also ensure that the people behind the scenes are well-compensated.

However, the pandemic has hit the sports industry hard, with the industry suffering billions of dollars in revenue losses as a result of the shutdown that the coronavirus required, and this financial hit has resulted in the loss of jobs and a general anxiety for the future. Thus, it is paramount that sports leagues find a way to adjust or bounce back in order to avoid further losses.

The Threat to Competition

These are indeed unique times, and the circumstances we are in may compromise competition as a whole and the legacies of great athletes.

With the entire world in crisis, it’s natural for some players to prioritize their health and those of their families first before their work, which may affect the level of competition among professional athletes. In fact, some critics have already put asterisks beside some of the achievements of athletes this year, such as the 2020 NBA Championship and the most recent Super Bowl.

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