Managing the on-going impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in sport

Managing the on-going impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in sport

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on every aspect of our lives, and the world of sport is no exception. The sporting environment has had to adapt and change to continue entertaining and inspiring fans around the world. Let’s take a look at the biggest impacts.

Cancellations and postponements

One of the most significant challenges that the pandemic brought to sports was the suspension or cancellation of many events. Many leagues and competitions had to be put on hold, while others were cancelled altogether. The most notable event affected being the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics which was postponed until 2021. One of the few sports to stage a full calendar was Formula One which, they believe, played a large part in its growing popularity, filling a hole in a depleted calendar.

The pandemic also affected sports at the grassroots level, with youth leagues and amateur competitions being suspended. The financial position of many grassroots sports organisations is now critical, and it is not clear that all will survive - potentially impacting health and well-being initiatives.

Fan absence

The absence of fans in stadiums and arenas was keenly felt, a fact most obvious to the casual sports fans in the delayed Tokyo Olympics. Most professional sports leagues resumed their seasons without spectators to minimize the spread of the virus. The lack of crowd noise and energy had a noticeable impact on the players and the overall atmosphere of the game. This drove new developments in how sport was presented to provide the perception of in-stadium experience for both broadcast audiences and the athletes in the stadium; changes and initiatives that will be carried forward for future events.

Once crowds re-appeared post-pandemic, they did so in larger numbers and with greater delight in the overall experience. Even if the results did not go in their favour, fans displayed huge enthusiasm in simply being part of the experience again. There is an opportunity for this to be built upon by teams and franchises to increase engagement with their existing supporters and grow even bigger and more enthusiastic fan bases.

revenues for sports organisations and businesses were severely impacted and many had to re-think elements of their business model

Technology adoption

With the restrictions on travel and in-person events, many sports organisations turned to technology to maintain fan engagement. Virtual fan experiences such as digital cheerleaders and fan cut-outs, became popular. There was also increased use of augmented and virtual reality to enhance the viewing experience. Again, these are features that sports properties can continue to build on to enhance the fan experience (both in and out of venue) as well as engaging new recruits.

Athlete preparation

With gyms and training facilities closed, many athletes had to rely on home workouts and online training programs to prepare for competition. The pandemic also forced many athletes to rethink their approach to nutrition and wellness to maintain peak physical condition. This element energised the sport tech sector with the emergence of an increasing number of tools aimed not only at elite sport but also seeking to provide new experiences and opportunities to community activities.


With events cancelled or postponed, revenues for sports organisations and businesses were severely impacted and many had to re-think elements of their business model, seek new income streams, or implement cost-cutting measures. Some narrowly avoided bankruptcy, others did not. Income enhancement drove changes in sponsorship and advertising strategies, with brands increasing their focus on digital and social media channels to reach fans.

The resilience of sports

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on sports, forcing organisations to adapt and change how they present events, engage with fans, and run their business. Despite the challenges, the resilience and adaptability of the sports industry has shown that, no matter the circumstances, it will always continue to inspire and entertain fans around the world.


While the worst of the pandemic has passed, the world of sport continues to feel the ramifications of the changes brought by it. If your organisation is dealing with the impact of these IPSEM Squared’s commercial, marketing, operational delivery and support services can help you navigate an increasingly complex environment. Contact us to discuss how we can help.

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