The business of sport amid COVID-19

The business of sport amid COVID-19

Saturday, July 11, 2020

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AS has been said before in this space, the vast potential for earnings from televised sport is motivating considerable creativity aimed at satisfying the cravings of sports lovers, even in our COVID-19-afflicted world.

Most intriguing perhaps, has been the efforts by the England and Wales Cricket Board to organise and mobilise a three-Test series which opened in England earlier this week.

Teams, support staff and officials are being housed in biosecure environments at hotels, right next to the grounds at which the games are being played, without spectators.

The arrangements are complex, extensive and obviously very expensive.

Against that backdrop, we note word yesterday that organisers of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) Twenty20 cricket tournament have reached agreement with Trinidad and Tobago for the entirety of this year's tournament to be hosted in that country come September.

Again very special arrangements are being made to protect all involved from COVID-19.

We are told that protocols are being developed to “minimise risk of transmission of the COVID-19 virus to the population of Trinidad and amongst those who will be travelling to Trinidad & Tobago from overseas”.

These include accommodation of players, support staff and officials in one hotel, strict rules governing quarantine, testing, isolation when deemed necessary, and social distancing.

CPL organisers and franchise owners will feel fortunate that the Caribbean, and specifically Trinidad and Tobago, have so far largely contained the highly contagious novel coronavirus.

That makes it easier to exploit opportunities presented by hundreds of millions of cricket lovers around the globe being starved of cricket because of COVID-19.

And that starvation looks set to continue, with the T20 cricket world cup set for Australia later this year looking likely to be postponed and the highly profitable Indian Premier League, which was postponed from earlier this year, still in limbo.

In a release, CPL organisers said: “Last year's CPL had a combined broadcast and digital viewership of 312 million, and with the tournament being the first franchise T20 event to take place in several months there will be more interest than ever.” That's putting it mildly.

At the local level horse racing, which is not just a sport, but big business, resumed last month and there is persistent talk of staging schoolboy football as well as other competitions, organised by the Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA).

We note a report in yesterday's edition of negotiations between ISSA and its broadcast partners for schoolboy football games — not being broadcast on television — to be live-streamed to fans rather than having them attend.

“We have to negotiate with our broadcasters before we can give the go-ahead for it,” was the comment according to Mr Linvern Wright, chairman of ISSA's daCosta Cup football committee, “but our plan is to have schools stream games that are not being broadcast.”

Obviously, apart from local people there would be a large audience of passionate fans abroad.

Presumably, ISSA and its partners could earn from subscription fees as well as advertising.

Good business with expanded boundaries, no doubt. Of course, all such plans would be subject to government approval for school sports to take place.

Under no circumstances should the health of students and schools' staff be put at risk.

We wait to see.


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