Here in Western Europe we are deep in a lockdown resultitng from the global coronavirus pandemic. All non-essential work is suspended, the workforce told to stay at home, all public gatherings cancelled, no groups allowed on the streets, all sporting events postponed or cancelled.

Some of the biggest spectator events are sports & music.

SPORTS

Soccer specifically.

Huge numbers of people in attendance at physical stadia eg for the Premier League soccer in the UK an average 38,000 people attend every single match in the league season.

Statistic: Main football leagues in Europe in 2018-2019, ranked by average attendance of games (in 1,000s of people) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista 

However the general feeling is that the spectators are “been treated as cattle to be herded around the country in order to make this smallish TV audience enjoy the game more.”

When you consider that the biggest objection (from players) to behind-closed-doors events is the lack of atmosphere it really does point the finger at the concept of “rent-a-crowd” especially when in the UK the average TV audience (which in reality is paying for the inflated wages) is 1 million paying subscribers to PPVTV.

Its hard to get real figures per game, but breaking the publicly available numbers down by the number of games (380) in the season gives a rough guide:

Globally the number per Premier League game for the potential audience is 12.3 million per game.

In 2019 the Premier League reported that, they, via Sky Sports had 2.5 million billion social views on their social media platforms  = roughly 6.5 million per game.

SPECTATORS

What part will spectators feature in the future? Especially if they are a small part of the direct revenue stream – large part of the audience atmosphere factor.

Could we somehow replicate the audience participation in a manner that appeases the participants?

How do you create ‘tension’ in an empty snooker hall or on a golf course?

Does it matter that much to professional sports people?

“With increased isolation, sports have the least to worry about. Their TV ratings and the need for fresh content for that audience carrying out a functional isolation is far, far greater with [the public] being at home in front of their televisions than ever before”

Maybe in a world where social distancing and avoidance of groups becomes the norm (at least until vaccines become available) the sports people will have no choice but to perform to empty stadiums.

ECONOMICS

The big question is always going to be how will sport pay for itself.

Sports-stars are among the highest paid individuals globally, between direct salaries, sponsorship, video game rights etc there is phenomenal amounts of money involved.
The biggest driver of these massive income opportunities has been the broadcasting rights. TV initially, followed by online streaming and global distribution enabled exponential growth of income for clubs and players. The sponsorship and advertising opportunities provided by broadcasting is where the money comes from.

Naturally in order to spend money, advertisers and sponsors have to make money through relatable sales. Merchandise, cars, watches, drink, whatever it is; has to be sold in order to be able to justify the marketing spend.

When we consider pro-rata the attendance revenues are a small proportion of the revenue stream and it may be an easier prospect to consider offsetting losses from game attendance by re-examining what’s on offer for fans who aren’t in stadiums, arenas, and ballparks.

“Attendance revenues may go down substantially but these people are going to have disposable dollars to spend on their passion for sports,” said Gennaro.

So how do we achieve this? What can we do to integrate the stadium experience with the experience of those at home?

“What if the Red Sox can sell a virtual season ticket, through VR, a kind of enhanced MLB At-Bat version, that has maybe a third of the games in virtual reality? You can control your view — you’re sitting behind the Red Sox dugout, that will be a whole other revenue stream that will be a partial offset. I think we’re going to see some things on the media side through technology and innovation that will compensate somewhat.”

This is a very compelling last word view of the future that will come to pass on spectator sports:

“I think attendance will be even less of a percentage of revenues than it is today. Even if we didn’t have the virus, I think that would be the case. Now it will be exacerbated.”

CONCLUSION

We are on the cusp of change which is being accelerated by human kinds’ need for entertainment. Drivers for this will be the needs of spectators being fulfilled by the wants of broadcasters.

Money is the common denominator.

When you consider each and every one of those ~19 million contact points identified in relation to the Premier League each game has the potential to be part of a marketing funnel, the monetisiation opportunities of the post pandemic sports world becomes virtually apparent.

INSPIRATION FOR THE ARTICLE: A closer look at the economics of sports in a post-pandemic world – The Boston Globe

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