The game's the thing
Cancelling sport will dent morale. A solution may be needed
Most fans of professional sports have some kind of ritual associated with watching a game. Perhaps they wear their team's shirt, scarf or hat to show their allegiance and bring their team luck. They may organise a “tailgate” party in the stadium car park, or head to a nearby bar to be with friends. For many, the match is the highlight of the week. And their emotions will rise and fall with the fortunes of their team. So the sudden cancellation of sporting events because of the coronavirus outbreak has come as a great disappointment.
Almost all the most prestigious events have been postponed: top-flight football matches, professional basketball and its “March madness" college equivalent, Major League Baseball, professional ice hockey, the Masters golf, the French Open tennis and Formula 1 car-racing. The Euro 2020 football championship has been put off until 2021. The prospects for the Tokyo Olympics in July and August are doubtful.
The economic implications will be significant. Sport is a big business. As well as attending games, American fans buy around $15bn of sports merchandise annually. Globally, many fans pay to subscribe to a sports channel to watch games: the global audience for English Premier League football was 3.2bn people last season in 188 countries. The TV rights for Premier League matches are worth £3.1bn ($3.6bn) a season. Loyal viewers mean companies like to associate themselves with teams; global sports sponsorship was estimated to be worth $55bn in 2018. Up to $150bn is wagered illegally on sports every year in the United States and more than 50% of Americans have placed a sports bet
at some point.