SPORTS has been a conspicuous casualty of the coronavirus pandemic. Since last December, the fear of the unknown has been haunting athletes and sports administrators across the world. The postponement of the Tokyo Olympics 2020 proved to be the last straw, leading sports bodies everywhere to shut down all activity until the time normality was restored. Having said that, the estimated financial losses due to inaction and mounting levels of insecurity and frustration within the sports fraternity have led to the resumption of the German soccer league Bundesliga and a few others in Europe, besides some baseball leagues in the Far East. Such defiant moves, however, have triggered a debate all around because of the risks involved. Many players are wary of taking to the field, as the situation is still not normal even with infection rates falling in parts of the world. On the other hand, hundreds of thousands of fans have scoffed at the idea of not being allowed to witness the action firsthand as their favourite teams gear up for contests in empty stadiums.
There are massive financial challenges if sports activities continue to be at a standstill any longer. For instance, in less than two months of no activity, giant set-ups such as Premier League football in England and Cricket Australia are said to be fighting for survival amid fears of going bankrupt. The parent bodies of various sports as well as administrative set-ups, therefore, are very much inclined to accept the resumption of games in empty stadiums as the only way out, simply because there is too much at stake. With broadcasters, who dish out billions of dollars in TV contracts to teams and clubs, vociferously backing the idea, it is most likely to be adopted as the new normal in sports, at least for now. Though fans are an integral component of the game, they will hopefully come around to the idea of watching matches on TV for their own and their teams’ safety.
Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2020