The 2020-2021 season has just started, and we are already getting a glimpse of what we can expect in the coming months. First, the Spanish ACB had to reschedule a game because several players had tested positive for COVID-19. Then the Adriatic league, VTB, French Pro A, and the Eurocup followed. Those are just a few of the top tier leagues. At a lower level, there are many more games rescheduled.
So far, the NBA bubble seems to be the only bulletproof league, but no other league has the resources to create such a bubble. Even if they had, it would be logistically impossible. Because every country has its own lockdown rules, and they also have travel advisories for each other. That is a specific problem for international competitions like the EuroLeague, EuroCup, FIBA Championsleague, and FIBA Eurocup. Also, there are numerous regional leagues involving cross border travel, like the Adriatic league, VTB, Balkan league, e.t.c.
Aside from the logistical problems that come with rescheduling games, there is also a financial impact. Both direct and indirect. Every team is already hit because most games have to be played without spectators, but many sponsors also have trouble honoring their contractual agreements with the clubs. Those sponsors, too, have been hit by COVID-19 and are facing cashflow problems, which trickles down to the clubs as well.
Nobody knows when life will go back to normal, but it seems like it will take years before leagues and clubs have recuperated financially.
But things could get worse before they get better. Right now, we are only talking about rescheduling games, but what happens if some countries go back to a complete lockdown? Every postponed game has an impact on the schedule, which in turn impacts other schedules as well. Just think about the Olympic games. Adam Silver has already addressed that topic and said that the NBA will NOT pause for the Olympic games.
Return of the fans
According to research from PricewaterhouseCoopers, they expect revenue growth in the sports industry to fall to 3.3 percent over the next three to five years compared to 8.0 percent per year over the past three to five years.
What about the spectators? Will they return to the gyms when the situation is declared safe, or there is a vaccine? After all, sports is all about passion. Especially in Europe.
Has the pandemic changed people’s behaviors and habits in a way that will be difficult for sports to recover from when life goes back to normal?
For many people, the routine of going to work, coming home, eating dinner, and settling in on the couch to watch a game has not been part of their lives for seven months. They’ve been working from home, schooling their children at home, developing new hobbies to occupy their downtime, and watching television when it fits their schedule.
Therefore, the question is can we ever expect scenes like this again?
Tough negotiations ahead
Even the NBA will feel the COVID-19 consequences beyond this season. Just think about the renewal of the collective bargaining agreement, and negotiating new TV contracts. Despite the success of the bubble, NBA TV ratings are only half of what they normally are, so the NBA is entering the negotiations with less leverage than before. We can already predict the outcome.