2020 has become a direct synonym for the coronavirus. For the past months, the world we knew before 2020 has changed dramatically. People were forced to remain in lockdown, shops and restaurants were closed. Major sports events were canceled indefinitely, and the world has turned into a mess.
However step by step, countries announced the mitigation of some restrictions. The Bundesliga resumed in May in Germany, but the matches will be played behind closed doors, which is a tragedy for die-hard fans. It is unknown how long the situation will last. Most experts think that the current situation is unlikely to change this year and the virus is not going anyway any time soon.
But recently, New Zealand has announced the return of fans on major sports events. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern lowered restrictions on level 1, which is likely to happen by June 10.
New Zealand has seen zero cases of COVID-19 in the past 15 days, making it successful in defeating the virus. Level 1 is the lowest stage of restrictions. And the recent situation has encouraged Ardern to adopt easing measures.
Australia is also following the path of New Zealand, where the government is planning to regulate rugby fixtures. Rugby, which is the most popular sport in the country, will accept fans from round 5. But they should obey strict distancing rules. It will certainly benefit the gambling industry in the country, where a wave of new casinos in Australia in the past years relied mostly upon the rugby games. The coronavirus, in this case, has become a problem not only for Australia but also for the whole world, where the scarcity of major leagues forced people to bet on eSports and other games.
How did we get to this point?
Australia and New Zealand were not the only countries where the attendance of fans was prohibited. Big sports and everything connected with it – games, broadcasts, bets, club budgets – became one of the first business victims of the new coronavirus. The point is not only that the fans had nothing to watch because of stopping or postponing the championships in popular sports: a chain reaction radically changed the world of sport and the closely related market of broadcasts and bookmakers.
Belarusian Premier League was actually the only league in Europe that continued playing regardless of the virus. The matches of the hitherto not popular Belarusian championship were broadcast for the first time in many European countries, and it garnered wide popularity. If it weren’t for Belarusian football, the fans would have nothing to watch. Belarus was the only country on the continent that continued to play football. On March 19, the last in Europe championships in sports was suspended by Turkey.
Many national leagues and fans found themselves in a very difficult position. In Sampdoria, six footballers fell ill with the coronavirus, in Valencia – more than 10, in Juventus, it hit three, including the Frenchman Blaise Matuidi and the Argentinean Paolo Dybala, and Cristiano Ronaldo played alongside the virus carriers.
The Italian football championship has been stopped since March 9. The Federation, League, and most Serie A clubs hope to end the season, despite the epidemic that has killed more than 20,000 people in the country, according to the official report.
Serie A announced to resume the league on June 20, however, like in Germany, fans will not be allowed to attend matches. Without fans, it is very difficult to play and talk about home advantage, but clubs will be forced to adapt to the new reality, existing in the modern world.
Italian Deputy Minister of Health Sandra Zampa opposed the resumption of the championship with fans in the stands. According to her, without a vaccine against coronavirus, you can’t talk about the admission of people to stadiums.
Clubs are unlikely to go broke right away, the most popular championships are insured, but smaller leagues are destined for suffering. Long downtime can lower the salaries of players, especially stars. Perhaps, the broadcast system will also change, contracts for them will be concluded for one, and not for several seasons. Together, this is a huge challenge to big sport and fans, and the solution is not yet obvious.