Post-pandemic sport

by April 25, 2020 0 comments

Cricket and other sports are working on how to reduce contact. Soon, spectator-less sport may become a reality

The German football league, the Bundesliga, is mulling to restart matches on May 9, albeit behind closed doors.  The American National Football League (for American “Football”) is planning to conduct its annual draft online for the first time. Cricket bosses, too, are actually discussing a point that was brought up by former Australian fast bowler Jason Gillespie regarding shining a ball. Legendary cricketer Sachin Tendulkar himself  made it clear that he revelled in the full-throated chants that accompanied his stay at the crease and that this is one reason why the very idea of sport inside an empty stadium is disappointing. Without any actual games taking place on the ground, the world of tennis has been rocked with the likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal promoting a combined men’s and women’s global tennis body. Other sports, too, have taken time during the lockdown to contemplate their future. While by their very nature, racquet sports are socially distanced, possibly with the exception of squash, sports such as football are having serious debate about their future.

And then there is that small issue about spectators. Modern sports is all about having tens of thousands of fans in the stadium. The fans bring with them not only substantial gate revenues but also add atmosphere and colour to the match.This is why “home” games are considered such an advantage for the host team, with the crowd often playing the role of the twelfth man. Indeed, sports associations often punish teams for infringements such as racial abuse by forcing them to play games behind closed doors, thus depriving them of both revenue and support. But now, in a post-COVID world, all games will, perhaps, be played behind closed doors or maybe with very few fans being allowed. It is almost impossible to predict how that will impact the psychology of the athletes. Test cricketers might be used to playing in front of empty stadia but how will Team India cope playing a one-dayer at an empty Eden Gardens? Or for that matter, how will teams like Manchester United and Arsenal play with an empty stadium? These cathedrals of sport, like real religious sites, are huge and organised. They could become a vector of this viral outbreak just like organised religion. It may be months before large audiences are allowed at these venues again. And even though games can be played behind closed doors, officials will have to find a way to ensure players are kept extra safe, particularly for contact sports. It would be interesting to see if the Bundesliga experiment goes ahead and what will come out of that. This might determine if organised sports can restart across the world.

(Courtesy: The Pioneer)

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