Sports withdrawal? Here’s how tennis, cricket and F1 keep fans engaged during the COVID-19 lockdown

Sports organisations are trying to ensure that their legions of fans spread across the globe remain positive in these trying times.

Myupchar April 13, 2020 21:27:40 IST
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Sports withdrawal? Here’s how tennis, cricket and F1 keep fans engaged during the COVID-19 lockdown

As countries around the world are under lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, various industries have been hit by the repercussions of the economic downturn the lockdown has caused. International sporting events were brought to a screeching halt, but sports organisations are trying to ensure that their legions of fans spread across the globe remain positive in these trying times.

Measures put into place to practise physical distancing and authorities stepping up their efforts to stop people from gathering in public spaces have been seen as necessary to mitigate the damage caused by the outbreak of the latest coronavirus infection, which originated in China in late 2019 but has since spread all over the world. 

Sports withdrawal Heres how tennis cricket and F1 keep fans engaged during the COVID19 lockdown

Representational image. Image by dawnfu from Pixabay.

Sports and sporting events around the world rely on live games, and the industry has been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, with major international sporting events being either cancelled or indefinitely postponed as governments have announced countrywide lockdowns. As a result, fans of various sports have found unique ways to get their sporting fix, and have been helped to a large extent by either the governing bodies of international sports or individual franchisees and teams.

The National Basketball Association, or the NBA as its fans know it to be around the world, was one of the first casualties of the coronavirus pandemic, as it was forced to suspend its ongoing 2019-2020 season. Wimbledon, one of the four Grand Slam events of world tennis, was forced to cancel its 134th edition of the competition for the first time since World War II.

Eight-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer was seen lending his voice to a short video feature shared by the elite competition on its social media pages, thanking healthcare workers in the UK. "This summer, sadly, we must come together by staying apart," Federer says in the video, highlighting the efforts made by healthcare workers who are "competing for us". 

Sporting bodies, who would usually keep their fans engaged through live-action footage and regular updates in the world of their respective sports, have found unique ways to keep the fan engagement intact. It is of particular importance as fans may experience anxiety and stress due to the absence of watching live sports. Watching sports has been linked to relieving stress in the past.

Sports fandoms have been linked to building a sense of community among people from all walks of life, as they are able to share a common interest. They even inspire people to take up sports to improve their physical and mental health, according to sports medicine and behavioural experts at Bristol Health as well as the University of Utah.

The International Cricket Council, the governing body for world cricket, took a different approach to fan engagement by sharing trivia quizzes and fantasy league posts on their social media, encouraging the sport’s fans to follow all rules of personal hygiene and physical distancing. With international cricket suspended, for now, the ICC also decided to make available 45 years’ worth of comprehensive archive of match footage to all its broadcasting partners around the world.

"We are facing unprecedented times as a sports industry and the need to connect with our fan communities is perhaps greater than ever. With no live cricket to unite our fans around the world we thought the next best thing would be to release our archive to broadcast partners so fans can enjoy some magnificent memories," ICC Chief Executive Manu Sawhney said.

Other sporting bodies have a completely different approach to promoting fan engagement. Esports or the virtual version of actual sports played via video games, has become an extremely popular tool towards fan engagement. Formula One, NASCAR and other championships in the world of motorsports are readying virtual championships, while the NBA and FIFA - the governing body for world football - already boast of some of the highest standards of the game simulation.

From getting elite athletes to engage with their fans live through various social media platforms, giving access to archival footage of historic games and launching virtual competitions, global sports bodies are giving it their all in a bid to keep their fan base engaged and in good spirits. It is also likely that even after the threat of the pandemic has passed, sports fans may well be sceptical about lining up outside stadium arenas just as yet.

For more information, read our article on Mental health tips for people living away from family during a lockdown.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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