Empty stadiums and eSports - the future of live sport in the post-lockdown world

Empty stadiums and eSports - the future of live sport in the post-lockdown world

Release Date: 19 May 2020

It's sport but not as we knew it. Covid-19 has affected nearly every live sporting event. But now it's slowly but surely coming back to life, with new measures imposed to keep fans, players, managers and stadium workers safe. The outbreak has also led to a number of new innovations.

The rise of eSports 

The gaming industry has seen an astronomical rise over the last year, even before the global pandemic we face today. However, with most mainstream sports around the world on hold, from the English Premier League to Formula 1, people are getting their fix in lockdown by tuning into the world of digital sports.

International online competitions across the globe are growing in popularity every day, with tournaments now being broadcasted on television and streaming platforms such as Twitch, which grew a third in March alone.

Celebrities from global sports, such as football, racing, tennis and more, are getting involved with eSports, as they have been prevented from competing in their chosen sport and have much more time on their hands. This has seen an influx of professional athletes and influencers compete in online events, such as replicated F1 weekends and football tournaments.

“As a discipline, eSports have a promising, far-reaching future and we’re looking forward to connecting people from Renault Sport Racing to these young gamers and being a part of it,” said Bastien Schupp, Vice-President Global Brand Strategy and Marketing Communications, Groupe Renault.

Despite what is going on today, this spike in popularity may not be limited to this period of Covid-19. Yes, this has definitely caused an increase in viewers, however eSports will only continue to grow as people realise the opportunities, such as bringing people around the world together and helping brands and influencers reach their audiences. This is only the beginning.

A new reality for sporting events

In Germany, they call them geisterspielen - or ghost games.  They are live matches played minus the usual army of loud and fanatical fans. The Bundesliga has become Europe's first major football league to restart. However, the changes are very obvious. The stadiums are virtually empty, substitutes wear masks and goal celebrations are distinctly muted.

These matches received record TV audiences as sport-starved supporters around the world turned to the German league for their fix of football. Previously, the only leagues that were available to follow live were those in Nicaragua and Belarus. During lockdown, many fans turned their attention to other sports such as Korean baseball which has attracted a whole new audience after live games were broadcast on ESPN.

The other major football leagues in Europe - such Italy's Serie A, Spain's La Liga and the English Premier League - will be keeping a close eye on Germany, hoping to restart games and finish their seasons with new safety measures in place.

Teams such as FC Barcelona are also coming up with innovations to keep supporters engaged. Fans have been asked to send in photos cheering on their team from home. The initiative has been launched in partnership with the SEAT car brand, CUPRA. 

FC Barcelona goalkeeper and CUPRA brand ambassador, Marc ter Stegen, says: "Playing at our Camp Nou is always special where the support of our fans is important. This CUPRA initiative is great as its allows us to feel their presence. We need to adapt to the situation and in this way we can create a winning atmosphere for our home matches." 

The images will be projected on the LED screens located around the pitch during closed-door matches at the Camp Nou.

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