Sports Talk: Sports, money and Coronavirus.

No one’s surprised that at a certain level, sports is a business. Big business. But did you ever think that the “games people play” around the world is an annual $160 Billion dollar behemoth?

Big numbers, eh?

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So when you shutdown all the North American pro leagues, soccer in Europe, golf, tennis, rugby, cricket, etc., the repercussions are enormous. Support workers, media, players, owners, souvenir shops, delivery drivers, restaurants, bars, hotels, cabs - the list goes on and on - the impact reverberates through many industries.

Here in North America, each pro sports league will be financially harmed in a different way - it really depends on how they generate their dollars.

For example of the four major sports leagues - NHL, MLB, NFL, and NBA - the NHL garners the least amount of TV revenue. They rely a lot on butts in the seat ticket sales to run their business.

What happens when the NHL gets back on the ice? Will people want to sit shoulder to shoulder with 20,000 other possible virus-carrying humans?

There will certainly be an attendance problem early on for the NHL teams. TV revenues cannot carry most teams. Think small market teams like the Jets will be in trouble? You betcha. The collective agreement between the NHLPA and the NHL will probably need to be adjusted.

What about the players’ salaries or the salary cap? The NHL cannot afford to run the league based on bygone years of large attendance figures that will have suddenly disappeared.

Fortunately for the other major sports leagues, they have large TV audiences that generate an enormous guaranteed revenue stream regardless of the number of fans in the stands.

Baseball and basketball have the fewest sell outs, but have proven over the years that they can survive very easily without filling the seats. The NFL, with the largest TV contract of them all, is also used to sell outs in most of their stadiums, a two-headed financial juggernaut.

So let’s say after the Coronavirus does its damage and life gets back to a semi-normal state, and only 50% of their fans decide to watch a game live, the loss will be felt less on the NFL than any other North American pro sport - they can easily weather the virus storm.

The other question will be whether people will spend their limited funds on an overly-priced sporting event. Short term, I can’t see it happening.

So add the losses from the Coronavirus shutdown plus fewer fans attending live games, less concession sales, fewer jerseys purchased and you have one league in deep trouble.

Unfortunately for Canadians, it’s the one sport most North American fans care the least about.   

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