Empty stadiums, canceled fixtures and a massive loss of revenue: the pandemic has wrought havoc on everything from the Olympics to the Superbowl. But some sports have adapted better than others.
The Super Bowl is usually America’s biggest sporting event, on a par with Thanksgiving and Christmas. COVID-19 took the shine off this year. There were 25,000 fans allowed at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium, far short of the 65,890 capacity. Hit hard by the pandemic, some of the world’s biggest brands, such as Budweiser and Coca-Cola, which have in years past put out famous commercials for the National Football League’s ultimate match, pulled out this year. The broadcaster CBS only sold out its inventory of commercial slots about a week before kick-off; in normal times, they’re sold out months in advance. But times are anything but normal.
Occasions such as the Super Bowl are gripping spectacles; less so are the NFL’s financial statements. The game, between Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs, capped a torrid season for America’s richest sports league. It is bleeding billions of dollars, primarily due to lost revenue from fans attending games. Across the world, leagues in different sports face financial crisis. For much of the last “golden decade” of sport, the growth of international games has been unrelenting, turning top teams into commercial titans. The boom soon turned to bust due to the pandemic. The accounting firm PwC projected that sports in North America would generate $75.7 billion in 2020. Instead, the value shrank by more than a third as leagues were suspended, television ratings tanked (with so much televised, viewers couldn’t watch everything at once) and advertising revenues dried up.
Trouble is brewing in Europe too. Consider FC Barcelona. The Spanish soccer club was the first…