top of page
Soccer Stadium


A Look Into How The Pandemic Impacted Sports

By: Swapneel Mehta

June 19th 2020

March 11th 2020 was a day that I will never forget. It's very rare that a single day can be so memorable in world history, but for myself and many others, March 11th was the day that the COVID crisis really began. While the disease had been ravaging other countries for the better part of the previous two months, many in North America were nothing more than mildly concerned about the viral spread in their own countries. Most were more concerned with the economic fallout of a massive lockdown in China and other east-Asian countries and how those implications would make their way across the Pacific to our own markets. Then came March 11th.

There had been discussion about possibly playing games without fans, an unthinkable thought at the beginning of the year.  Certain regions were banning gatherings of 50 or more people, putting fans in sporting events out of the question. The NBA and NHL, being the two major leagues active at the time, had a big decision to make: keep the fans out of the stands or only play games in regions with more lenient restrictions. All changed on the evening of March 11th. It was a normal NBA pre-game in Oklahoma City where the Thunder were gearing up to play an important inter-conference match-up against the Utah Jazz. Players streamed onto the court taking their warm-ups. Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell joked with the fans about not allowing them to touch the ball as they may be infected. When the game was scheduled to start fans began to applaud as is the norm at Thunder games. But then a delay, followed by a conference of the officials and coaches and an eventual announcement, the game was cancelled. That was the moment that many in the sports world, and soon the entire world, would realize how massive this pandemic was going to be.

Within minutes the first bomb dropped: Jazz center Rudy Gobert had tested positive for COVID-19. Then came the the second one, even bigger than the first: the NBA season would be suspended indefinitely. For me that was the moment that I'll always remember where I was, and from that point forward nothing would be normal. Sporting leagues around the globe were quick to follow the NBA's lead - the NHL, NCAA, Golf, Tennis, Soccer and MLB's Spring Training were all immediately halted. On March 24th the IOC postponed the 2020 Summer Olympics, which were to be held in Tokyo. And for the first time since 9/11, the sporting world stood quiet. 

Sports Timeline.tif

The impacts from the pandemic on the sporting world are unmistakable. Financially, the cancelling of games, loss of ticket, TV, advertising, and concession revenue will be devastating to all sporting leagues. Even those that restarted early, the UFC and NASCAR to name a few, will have one of the worst years financially in their respective histories. Most of the sporting world is planning to return in some form this summer. However, there are still major concerns for professional sports as the pandemic continues and into the following post-pandemic years.


Long-term economic impacts will have a major impact on all aspects of the sporting world. Whether it be owners realizing that they don't have as much to spend on their teams, to fans feeling their wallets impacted and no longer buying team merchandise, sporting organizations will feel the pain long after the pandemic is over. Once fans are allowed back, their safety will be paramount and much of the responsibility will lie with sporting organizations to ensure that fans, players and staff are all kept protected from the virus. One outbreak in an arena, and a whole league could shut down. Finally, even if the safety protocols were put in place, sporting organizations will have to work hard to help fans overcome the fear of gatherings. Many fans will have a sense of apprehension towards large gatherings, and while some may quickly return to stadiums, arenas and ballparks, many will not - at least not for some time.


Sporting organizations have a long road ahead of them. However, with strategic planning and innovation, there are ways that the sporting world can take advantage of the situation ahead of them. In the next article, we will go over how sporting organizations can win in a post-COVID world. If you are interested in receiving a copy of our COVID-19 x Pro Sports report, or if you would like to learn how VantagePoint can help your organization design solutions for the post-COVID world, send us an e-mail and we will begin the conversation on helping your organization move forward.

Interested in learning more about moving forward in the post-COVID world? Let's connect and discuss how VantagePoint can help you. 

bottom of page