The coronavirus outbreak has left sports schedules in tatters. The NBA, Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, and many other sports leagues have been suspended. Large sporting events like this summer’s Euro 2020 have also been called off. Even the fate of the Olympics in Tokyo at the end of the summer hangs in the balance.
Sports fans have been left with many questions, “will the season ever be finished?” “Will the current league leaders be crowned champions?” or “will this season just be scrapped and we will start again fresh?” We do not even know when the next cricket match, football or basketball games will take place. The number of questions is almost endless and that is before we even get into what will sports fans do instead of going to the game or watching it on TV each week. Even sports news now is almost non-existent.
So just what will you watch and talk about during the outbreak? Luckily, there is one sport that isn’t affected by the outbreak, Esports.
Very simply, Esports is competitive video gaming. Where either individuals or teams compete against each other in organised competitions. The games being played can vary from fantasy titles like Fortnite and League of Legends, first-person shooters like Call of Duty, all the to sports games like Madden and Fifa. In 2018 over 200 million people actively watched or took part in tournaments, 4 times more than in 2014. Making it one of the fastest-growing sports on the planet. In terms of viewers it is more popular than the NFL, and even packs out arenas with 50,000+ fans.
The Last Sport Standing
There was a brief time in which several sports were being played behind closed doors to reduce the spread of the virus, but as high profile sports stars such as NBA star Rudy Gobert (who went around touching reporters microphones before testing positive) came down with the virus, sports fixtures were first postponed and then suspended.
Even though Esports can take place in massive stadiums like football, basketball, and cricket. It is not necessary for the players or the audience. In fact, team members don’t even need to be in the same room to compete. All this means that it is the only sport that can carry on as normal despite the outbreak.
A Big Jump in Viewers
With many people across the globe not just working from home, but being asked to stay at home as much as possible by their governments. This has left a lot of people with a lot more free time at home, especially with no sports fixtures to watch. For this reason, the popular Football Manager game was made available to play for free for one week by its creators, to help people not just pass the time, but replace the real football that is now no longer taking place.
And, it isn’t just game providers that are providing Esports to people, sports stars are too. Real Betis striker Borja Iglesias and Sevilla’s Sergio Reguilon streamed a match between their teams on Fifa 20 to an audience of more than 60,000 on streaming service Twitch. Other famous sportspeople are also playing their sports online too, including Max Verstappen and Lando Norris who took part in a virtual version of the now-cancelled Australian Grand Prix.
Amid the crisis sports players and viewers are turning to Esports in their droves. The sport has seen a huge growth in participants and viewers over the last few years. Can it capitalise on this time to cement itself as one of the world’s major sports? It has a chance, but only time will tell…