The NFL will stay at home this year, while the Miami Dolphins plan for fewer fans; more private equity is moving into the owner’s box, and ESPN is back to showing live baseball – from Korea.
NFL Decides to Stay Home
Photo Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
When the NFL releases its 2020 schedule, there will be a handful of omissions: the 4 planned international games in London and a fifth matchup Mexico City. The league announced Monday that there would be no games played outside of the U.S. in 2020 because of the coronavirus outbreak, with those games instead being held in home markets.
The NFL has played at least one regular-season game internationally every season since 2007, and the league had previously announced plans to return to Mexico and England in 2021.
The hiatus comes at an inopportune time as teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars have focused efforts on international markets, while NFL execs have talked about expanding the international series to countries like Germany and Canada. The league views global expansion as critical to hitting a $25B annual revenue goal by 2027.
Dolphins Plan For Fewer Fans
Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
As the return of live sports draws closer, teams and leagues are figuring out how to eventually welcome back fans. For the Miami Dolphins that will mean a drastic reduction in stadium capacity and several new guidelines to keep fans safe.
Miami Dolphins President and CEO Tom Garfinkel made an appearance on “Good Morning America” to showcase Hard Rock Stadium’s social distancing guidelines including:
– A maximum of 15,000 fans rather than 65,000
– Different time slots for entry
– A row-by-row exit process
– Fans having to wear masks
– Fans required to order concessions in their seats before picking up in the concourse
The Dolphins plan comes at a time when concerns around potential financial losses of games without fans are growing. Sports Illustrated reported that teams could lose $100M in local revenue if games are played without fans. A team exec told SI that if fans could be in the stands by pushing the season back that it’s “not even a question.”
Fans, however, aren’t as concerned about the team’s finances – an ESPN survey found 65% would prefer to watch televised games without fans rather than waiting for people to return to stadiums.
Fan Engagement From The Sidelines
Don’t lose touch with your fans just because they aren’t currently in your stadium. Use this time of quarantine to get to know your fans even better.
FanThreeSixty created their “Fan Engagement from the Sidelines” guide to provide a collection of the most effective fan engagement tips, trends, and real world examples from the COVID-19 outbreak and beyond. Just remember: “Every day is game day.”
The San Antonio Spurs are reportedly looking to sell a minority stake in the team, according to Sportico. The Holt family currently owns the Spurs, having purchased them in 1996 for $76M, only to see the value rise to $1.8B.
The news of the potential sale follows a trend of various investors expressing interest in ownership stakes, while leagues like MLB are changing rules to allow funds to purchase limited stakes in multiple teams.
One such private equity firm is Arctos Sports Partners, launched by former Madison Square Garden President David O’Conner and Ian Charles. Axios reported Arctos has raised between $1- $1.5B with the intent to invest between $20-$300M in North American sports teams and European soccer clubs.
As Arctos looks for spots to put its money, American investor Joseph DaGrosa is seeking to build a group of soccer teams. Forbes reported DeGrosa believes he can buy in at a 50%-70% discount because of the pandemic’s effect on team finances.
Korean Baseball Leads Sports Return
For fans tuned into ESPN early this morning, something may have caught their eye – live professional baseball. That came courtesy of the KBO League, the highest level of professional baseball in South Korea. The network struck a deal with the league to broadcast six games a week, as well as the entire 144-game season and its postseason.
The KBO was started in 1982 and consists of 10 teams from across South Korea, all owned by some of the country’s biggest corporations like Kia, LG and Samsung. The league is known for its high scoring and passionate fans, who will also be watching from home to start the season.
The start of the KBO season also provides some insight into how pro sports might return in the U.S. Several of the techniques the league has applied will likely be adopted by others, such as strict social distancing guidelines with no fans, temperature checks and hand sanitizer for players. The league also banned the game’s time-honored tradition of spitting.