Basic Elements of Sports Law
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With the pandemic affecting us all across the globe, we are having to adapt to different ways of living and working. And this is no different in the world of sport.
On the negative side, fans are either restricted or can’t attend games. The athletes are being tested on a regular basis to see if they have the virus or not and with so many games cancelled during the lockdown, media companies didn’t have any live sporting events/games to broadcast, which in turn had a financial knock-on effect to the rights holders.
We don’t yet know when a vaccine will be ready but I am pretty sure sport will go through a ‘start-stop’ season for the next period of time with many restrictions applied by the Health experts in terms of whether a live event will happen and the restrictions applied on fans attendance.
Anyway, with all this negative talk, are there any positives we can take from the pandemic? Well, my personal opinion is yes. So what are they?
‘Back to the community’ – throughout the pandemic, sports has played its part in reaching out and supporting their local communities. For example, Liverpool Football Club has been providing 1,000 meals per week for their local community as part of the club’s COVID-19 recovery response work.
‘Spending time with the family’ – the period of lockdown allowed the athletes, sports administrators, coaches and referees to take ‘time out’ with their families. Family is so important. Working in the sports industry (either on or off the field) can be so demanding on their time.
‘Acceleration of digital’ – this takes me to the key part of this article. The acceleration of digital. With the pandemic has come a number of innovations, leading to a change of behaviour and adoption of digital technology by fans, sports clubs/leagues/federations and athletes.
There are numerous examples of the acceleration of digital in the sports industry but the following are my favourite ones:
In addition, the pandemic has quickened the need to engage fans in a more interactive way of using digital technology. For example, Intel’s True View technology provides clubs such as Arsenal FC with a unique viewing experience that goes above and beyond ordinary live broadcasts. Fans can view their team’s matches from any angle or position on the pitch.
Sports organisations like the NBA, NASCAR, FIFA, FIBA and others really took on the challenge during lockdown to organise online events/tournaments. This is helping them create new long term relationships with a younger more tech-savvy group of people.
Regarding gaming, we are seeing huge growth in this sector. New games are coming out which are taking the ‘eyeballs’ of the traditional sports content.
For example, Mobile gaming skyrocketed during lockdown; 2.9bn people (71% of internet users, up from 63% in 2015) now play games on their smartphones (source: Newcoo, WARC Data Global Ads Trends, July 2020)
In addition to online e-learning courses, many leagues and federations took to peer-to-peer communication software platforms, to organise online coach education and club development courses for their members.
On-field has also benefits with the use of technology such as VR being used to improve training techniques for players. For example, a Manchester-based company called Rezzil is using Virtual Reality during training with players in a number of football clubs in England.
From a digital point of view, sports clubs, leagues and federations must:
The future of sport maybe still unclear as the pandemic threatens to impact our events & games during 2020 and beyond but as an industry, we must continue to engage our audience, community and embrace digital.
Geoff Wilson (@geoffwnjwilson)