- The 8th Issue of The SportsThink Weekly Review Newsletter is UP!
- Saudi Arabia Withdraws Bid to Buy Newcastle United (had been tracking this one on the blog over the past couple months)
- More Trouble for MLB; The Cardinals This Time
- Like Something out of The Godfather, A Pig’s Head Left on a Soccer Club’s Doorstep
- NFL Corona Protocol Questions
- Inside Look at the NBA
Yesterday, FIFA announced a major relief effort, a plan to distribute $1.5 billion to its 211 member nations.
Today, the organization is in the news on a less positive note:
A criminal case against FIFA president Gianni Infantino was opened by a Swiss special prosecutor on Thursday, plunging the soccer body into a new scandal and potentially threatening the tenure of the man who was brought in to restore its tarnished reputation.
Infantino was brought on to usher in a new era, to right the wrongs of the systemic corruption that defined the Sepp Blatter years. But it seems that maybe not much has changed. This case is one to keep an eye on and I’ll share some more thoughts on the bailout plan later this week.
Good analysis in this piece from ESPN. I imagine the league is pretty stressed out by the MLB/Marlins situation.
With the country’s COVID situation relatively under control, German soccer is hard at work to get fans back into stadiums, entertaining proposals with a staggered return of various parts of the live experience. Imperfect, but optimistic. From the linked article, via Deutsche Welle:
The main conditions revolve around limiting the number of fans, closing standing sections, stopping the sale of alcohol and providing no away fan allocation. Restrictions on traveling support are expected to remain valid until the end of the calendar year, while October 31 is seen as a potential date to lift restrictions on alcohol and standing sections.
Next Tuesday is decision day for the top 2 tiers of German soccer, will be interesting to see where the clubs land.
But there wasn’t a major economic impact. From a new paper in the Journal of Sports Economics, by Judah Brown and Brandon Sheridan. The full abstract:
The National Football League’s (NFL) television ratings decreased by approximately 8% during the 2016 season, then a further 10% the following season. These declines coincided with league-wide national anthem protests initiated by Colin Kaepernick at the beginning of the 2016 season. Existing research identifies many determinants of demand for sporting events, but athletes’ protests are seldom considered. We use detailed data on players’ protests and television ratings to construct a new, game-level panel for the four NFL seasons between 2014 and 2017. Our results show protests are statistically significantly associated with lower TV ratings, but the economic magnitude is relatively muted.
Article here, but you might need institutional access. It’s also worth noting that viewership declines might be overstated because we don’t really have great data on illegal streaming, an increasingly popular option, especially for younger viewers. Furthermore, other research suggests that while there are fewer people watching football, those who do still watch are consuming more than ever.
MLB returned with much fanfare last week, but it looks like the baseball season is already in trouble, with a dozen positive tests and a cancelled game for the Miami Marlins. I understand that the logistics of baseball made a “bubble” concept rather challenging, but these early returns are pretty damning. Maybe they should have considered a couple bubbles, if one big one was simply too much to handle? I don’t think one outbreak on a team will be enough to cancel the season, but a couple more scenarios like this and it becomes increasingly difficult to imagine how the full (abbreviated) baseball season will be able to continue.
Houston knocked off Chicago 2-0 in a pretty entertaining match, winning their first title. Congrats are also in order to the NWSL for completing the first pandemic “bubble” season in North America. Pending the final round of tests, the league will have pulled off the tournament with 0 positive COVID tests. Well done all around.
Much has been made about the contentious preseasons in MLB and the NFL, as players’ unions, league leadership, and owners negotiated a path toward these most unusual seasons. But boxing is a different beast, where promoters make matches and there are no union protections for fighters. Last month on the blog, Jose Izquierdo celebrated the return of boxing, while noting likely challenges, especially the tension between promoter’s desire for fighters to take big purse cuts (to offset revenue losses from a lack of fans in arenas) and boxers’ expectations that contracts are upheld. This is now playing out with some of the sport’s biggest names, with both Terence Crawford and Canelo Alvarez taking vocal stands against the possibility of taking reduced pay for upcoming bouts. I reached out to Izquierdo for his take on these developments and his chief concern is that there simply might not be enough money in the short-term to make pre-COVID purses viable. TV ratings have been good–but not great–and we’re still a ways off from any meaningful gate receipts. My expectation is that fights will go on for lower-ranked fighters; some money is better is none and they need to keep fighting to stay sharp and move up the ranks. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the bigger names hold out if their demands can’t be met. They can afford to wait and the potential risk of losing a low-money bout might simply be too high.