While many hoped 2021 would be a bounce back year for the sports industry, the new strain of COVID-19 has left football clubs with a number of financial concerns. Match day revenue is very important for football clubs across the industry. The situation is dire with spectators not allowed into grounds. In England’s League Two, over 40% of total revenue for many clubs comes from match day income.
So, will clubs follow many other business and head online? A number of clubs have already ventured into esports and gaming by setting up teams - including Manchester City (FIFA) and Wolves (Rocket League) - or hosting tournaments – who can forget Leyton Orient’s infamous Ultimate QuaranTeam that saw a mixture of professional footballers, supporters, FIFA players and others, representing 128 clubs in an online FIFA tournament.
We have also seen a number of players streaming on Twitch, including Neymar, Mesut Özil, Dele Alli and even Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Similarly, other sports stars, including Sir Chris Hoy, Ben Stokes and Sergio Aguero have taken part in a range of sim racing tournaments.
Could 2021 be the year that football clubs (or other sports organisations) start asking their players and athletes to stream outside of match days? Given the success some players have already found (Aguero has nearly 2.9m followers), it could represent an excellent opportunity for the clubs to deliver a “fan experience” when people are unable to attend matches in person, while also building and maintaining relationships with sponsors amid the difficult financial implications of another lockdown. This model of utilising club “assets” outside of match days has previously been used with some success by clubs in relation to the use of their stadia on non-match days.
With a return of spectators to stadia looking unlikely until a significant portion of the British population have been vaccinated, watch out for sports stars coming to a stream near you.
If you have questions about sports, esports or streaming and the law, feel free to get in touch with Alan Wetterhahn and Joshua Bennett at Fladgate.
Fladgate have a wealth of experience in the sports and esports sectors, delivering commercially focused, practical solutions to a wide range of legal issues. Our clients include sports professionals and teams, organising and governing bodies, and sponsors and agents. We have advised on a number of world games and other major sporting events and have considerable experience of acting for rights holders and hosts in respect of single venues or events with venues in multiple cities or countries