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COVID vs. Sports

By The Biz Team (Siam)

COVID-19 has uprooted every aspect of our lives and professional sports are no exception. The introduction of social distancing has had a significant detrimental effect on all sporting events. Not surprisingly, COVID-19 has also led to the disintegration of the sporting calendar, with professional sports teams everywhere suspending their games to restrict the spread of the virus. Even the Summer Olympics, traditionally the most-watched sporting broadcast globally, has been pushed back for at least the next 12 months. What’s worse is that every single individual associated with making the sporting event successful, including the athletes, fans, media professionals, management, coaches, and ground staff, have been affected.

The economy is suffering under the gloomy skies of the COVID pandemic causing people in almost every profession to lose jobs, thousands of businesses have been closed and frugality has become the new way of life. Even individuals with the most secure job are left wondering what will happen to them in the near future. For the most part, the one group of people who have always been insulated from the ravages of a recession or poor economy have been athletes. The majority of professional athletes are wealthy and among the richest people on earth, making in a week what us mortals make over a lifetime. However, this time, things are not so rosy. The COVID 19 pandemic has cut through everyone ‘s profession and athletes are no exception.

In North America, professional sports is a multi billion-dollar industry employing millions of people including: trainers, physicians, nutritionists, physical therapists, stadium vendors, ground keepers, film crew, TV personnel, security personnel, coaches, and many more. Professional sports is a many-layered functional entity that is closely dependent on many people for effective functioning.

In 2018, the global value of the sporting industry was in excess of $470 billion, and increasing at a rate of 1-3% every year. In 2019, the trajectory was upwards, but all this changed in early 2020. COVID-19 has proven to be the Achilles heel of professional sports; it has stopped this mega billion-dollar machine right in its tracks. Within a few months, every level of the sporting industry came to halt.

There are no live games and the public is finally getting used to life without sports. Without games, there are no fans, no vendors, no security personnel, no trainers, etc; the pandemic has affected millions of people employed in the sporting industry. Many in this industry have lost their jobs and perhaps will never get them back.

Without any type of revenue, the owners of professional sports teams have had to make big decisions like cutting people and reducing salaries.

While athletes have not been agreeable to the pay cuts, they are fully aware that if they do not accept the salary reductions, they most likely will not play again. The salary cuts have affected every professional sports team and range from 10-30%; this is by no means a trivial amount, considering that many athletes are paid millions of dollars a season. However, many players feel that they are being unfairly targeted with salary cuts, especially since many large corporations have had a cash bailout from the government.

In May of 2020, the NBA players agreed to take a 25% pay cut but, with most players making over a million dollars, surviving on half a million dollars a year should be no problem.

With MLB, things are much more complex and salaries are still being paid out to players depending on the individual contracts. Some cuts have been made and a few players have voluntarily asked for no pay, but overall, MLB players have been the most reluctant to accept pay cuts.

The NFL has been spared cuts primarily because the pandemic has not yet occurred during the playing season. While the NFL still has not made drastic cuts in personnel, it is still offseason; we will just have to wait and see what happens come Fall. For now, the players union has fought tooth and nail to protect the present pay rates.

While all athletes and owners are united in their fight against Coronavirus, deep down there is an internal struggle with management. No one wants to take a pay cut. The players argue that they have a bona fide contract and should be paid. Owners claim that there is a major loss of revenue because there are no fans and without TV revenue they are losing millions. At the same time, players are arguing that if the game is not safe enough for fans to attend, then why should it be safe enough for them to play? Why should the player travel to play when the public has been advised not to? Hence, the players say they should not be the ones taking a pay cut; the owners are already wealthy and should compensate. However, in the court of public opinion, there is no sympathy for the players.

Along with professional sports, there are empty sports arenas in every college. While games have been suspended, what is astonishing is that many coaches are still making 6-figure incomes. Most of the coaches have not agreed to cutbacks because colleges realize that without a coach, there's no team and without a team, the college cannot make millions in revenue. However, the ripple effect of the pandemic will affect these colleges soon because without games, there will be no more money coming in.

While the fans do miss sports, they surely have no sympathy for the athletes who are already wealthy and well-paid. The universal feeling among the public is that athletes are spoiled and need to wake up to the reality that COVID-19 has affected millions of Americans. The pandemic has permitted many Americans to become used to a life without sports and have made them realize just how much money they were spending to watch it. When and if sports returns, it is going to take a lot of convincing to get those paying fans back.

The pandemic has restructured our lives in how we behave and has changed the way we spend money. The COVID pandemic has proven that life for sports fans doesn't end when there are no games. The public has already learned to live without live sports and many have adopted different interests like exercising, reading, watching movies, etc. The COVID pandemic has done one good thing for the average fan and that’s helped them save a ton of money! Watching live sports may provide a thrill for a few minutes but, having more money in your pocket for essential life items is so much more important.


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