THE COMEBACK KIDS
Sports leagues rally amidst the Covid-19 pandemic
Since the Covid-19 pandemic precipitated various states of shutdown all over the world, international sports and events were canceled outright or postponed indefinitely, leaving the near-term future of the industry murky. But at the time of publication, some countries are easing earlier quarantine restrictions and attempting to restart sports leagues (editor's note: the NBA also just approved a 22-team format to restart its 2019-2020 season at the end of July). Read on to see how various countries and entities in this industry are still engendering socially-distant and safe sports entertainment for fans.
TAIWAN - CPBL'S ROBOT FANS
Taiwan’s proactive measures against Covid-19 have made it possible for the country not just to host the world’s first competitive pro baseball games since the global pandemic outbreak erupted, but even allow fans back in the stands. At the beginning of May, the Chinese Professional Baseball League began allowing up to 1,000 people to enter ballparks in Taiwan. What’s more, in Taoyuan, reigning Chinese Professional Baseball League champions the Rakuten Monkeys added robot ‘fans' to stadiums as well, while also encouraging human fans to stream games virtually and contribute to online game commentary to keep this fan base engaged.
THE U.S. - MLB: THE SHOW
In an effort to keep America’s favorite pastime going during the shutdown, 30 Major League Baseball players switched to their gaming consoles to "continue” their seasons via PlayStation back in April. One player from each team was selected to play a regular season on MLB: The Show, which viewers could stream on Twitch or YouTube, complete with commentary from MLB Network host Robert Flores. This virtual continuation of the MLB season was a team effort between Major League Baseball, the players’ association, and Sony Interactive Entertainment. The 29-game season ran through April and the top eight teams went on to a postseason tournament. Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Blake Snell won the first Players League Championship over White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito in three straight wins.
SOUTH KOREA - SELLING THE RIGHTS TO AIR K-LEAGUE SOCCER
Since the novel coronavirus has forced many sports seasons to come to a halt, sports broadcasters have had to get creative. South Korea has since controlled an early coronavirus outbreak, allowing the country’s soccer and baseball seasons to resume—albeit behind closed doors—back in May. In the absence of other global sports resuming, 10 foreign broadcasters from countries like China and Croatia have already purchased the rights to air the country’s 2020 K-League soccer season, while countries including the U.S., France, Italy, and Germany have inquired about purchasing broadcast rights as well.