As society adjusted to the pandemic’s effects, the sports event industry was not among the industries that fared well. Low ticket sales and a lack of supplemental revenue from concessions and on-site merchandise sales have had a severe impact on a number of sporting events, teams, and even leagues and series. The two main sources of revenue for sports organizations were found to be ticket sales and sponsorships, but these were also the areas where lockdowns hurt the most.
After the COVID-19 outbreak, it was expected that demand for sporting event tickets would increase. Airports have reopened, mask regulations have been abolished, and previously postponed events have resumed now that the majority of individuals have had their vaccinations. Are these predictions confirmed by Australians, or is the situation more complicated? Let’s examine some of the most well-liked Australian sports and how they have fared after the lockdowns were lifted.
Australian Football League
After spending $76 million to keep its events going during the pandemic, the AFL has meticulously planned the 2022 schedule to ensure maximum attendance at games now that restrictions on big gatherings have been lifted. AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan stated that “We want our supporters to know that they can plan this year to come to games, buy their tickets, get organized and come to the footy and enjoy it with their family and friends”. The signs thus far suggest that this will be more complicated. Many factors, including the price of tickets and their availability, have contributed to the lowest average attendance for Australian Football League games in over 25 years. The annual poll conducted by the AFL Fans Association found that 26% of respondents preferred watching games at home.
Speaking of cricket, the records indicate that attendance for the Ashes series was lower than usual. Given that Test matches are ingrained in Australian society, COVID is most likely responsible for this. However, the Big Bash League, which has been having issues because the season was extended, was also down. Only 11,350 spectators attended each game of the five-game T20 international series between Australia and Sri Lanka in Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra. Tickets usually sold out very quickly.
It seems now that Australians, at least when it comes to cricket, have gotten a taste of the benefits of home viewing. The cost of attendance is less restrictive, the couch is cozier than a stadium chair, and with proper wi-fi access, it’s easier to check your phone or place some bets on the action as it happens on screen.
The 2021 season of Formula One was one of the most exciting in recent memory, and it drew record-breaking numbers of spectators across the world, tuning in from home. The 2022 Australian Grand Prix attracted a fresh host of devoted spectators after the pandemic. In addition to the current following that has been without a Grand Prix for the greater part of three years, this is likely the main reason the 2022 race is totally sold out. According to Australian Grand Prix Corporation CEO Andrew Westacott, “Ticket sales are massively up by about 25 percent.” And his reasoning behind this is “Think about your favorite rock band who haven’t toured for three or four years, and you want to get along to see them”.
Research shows that although attendance at several of Australia’s athletic codes has dropped this year due to the pandemic, netball has made a strong comeback. According to data compiled by Gemba, there has been an increase in the number of spectators attending professional matches in this Super Netball season compared to the last couple of years, when the epidemic first started.
In a poll conducted in Australia in 2019, 17% of fans reported having attended a live netball game. Over the following two years, when lockdowns were at their worst and the Super Netball league was forced to play several of its matches in hubs or without fans, attendance decreased to roughly 15%. In 2022, however, when a complete home and away season has begun, that figure rises to 31% during the course of the winter and spring months of January through April.
With the increased cost of living, unprecedented levels of inflation worldwide, and increased demands on our time, sport can no longer take its preeminence for granted. In today’s digital era, it is imperative that outdated infrastructure at sporting stadiums be modernized and upgraded. While attendance is increasing, not everyone is willing to leave the comfort of their own home if the venue cannot match the amenities they enjoy at home.
Although sports continue to draw large crowds, a successful business model will need to gain insight into fans’ preferred methods of engagement and offer them a better deal than they’re getting at home.