Top 5 ways sport has adapted to the pandemic

Coronavirus has decimated the sporting calendar. Everything from the Olympics to Sunday League football has either been postponed or cancelled, leaving a huge gap in the lives of many.

It’s a situation which was absolutely incomprehensible just a few months ago when hundreds of thousands were crammed into sports arenas around the country.

With many desperate for their fix, some sports have tried to maintain the action and conversation with its audiences by filling the void using technology – with different levels of success.

Here we take a look at who has performed best.

Darts

One sport which has been able to stage competitive events, on some level at least, is darts. The Professional Darts Corporation showed great initiative by launching the PDC Home Tour, which sees two players battle it out on separate boards via video link. Never mind two metres of social distance – this is sport being played hundreds of miles apart.

A couple of top players had to pull put due to insufficient internet (how very 2020!) and there were some understandable teething problems on the first night, but other than that it has been very watchable. The familiar surroundings of the home has even improved the performance of some players.

The tournament has kept darts fans engaged in the sport, ensured social media channels remain active and satisfied sponsors, while the lack of competition from other sports means darts has received even more column inches than usual.

As a communications agency with a strong link to darts through our client Selco Builders Warehouse, we’re delighted to see darts hitting the bullseye during the pandemic.

Football

Football hasn’t come through Covid-19 smelling of roses. There has been some bad publicity generated through a handful of wealthy clubs using the Government’s furlough scheme, alongside mass confusion over when – if ever – the professional season will resume.

It has not all been bad, though. The ePremier League Invitational FIFA 20 tournament saw top flight professional footballers taking on each other on their PlayStations and attracted huge global audiences.

Eventually won by Wolves’ Diogo Jota, the tournament raised money for the NHS and selected games were streamed on Sky Sports and on the BBC website.

The branding was unmistakably Premier League and coverage was executed to perfection.

The Football League Trophy – a competition we were involved with as an agency for 15 years – is also set to played out virtually.

There are those who believe eFootball will eventually be bigger than real football, so this period has been the perfect opportunity to increase interest.

Horse racing

Horse racing has been suspended right across the UK – and that is a huge blow to the bookies.

Betting companies have tried to lure punters into backing horses in countries where racing is still happening like Sweden and Norway.

And virtual racing has also, unsurprisingly, grown in popularity. The Virtual Grand National attracted almost five million viewers and generated £2.6m for the NHS.

Wrestling

Wrestling is still hugely popular and, perhaps quite extraordinarily you might think, WWE has been deemed an essential business in America, meaning weekly filming is continuing unabated.

As you can imagine, there is little social distancing present as the bulky athletes haul each other around the ring.

There is no crowd, however, which makes the whole event seem odd to say the least. It’s akin to a band playing in an empty room.

Perhaps even more incredibly, it’s been suggested that the fans could be back watching the action as early as next month.

Motorsport

Motorsport at every level has been pushed back later into 2020. Some competitions have responded by holding virtual races featuring professional drivers, some of which have been watched by tens of thousands of people.

The graphics are so realistic in racing games that, if you allow yourself, you can easily forget what you are watching isn’t the real deal.

Sean Wozencroft

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