We Are Looking At A World Without Sport And It's Bleak
The news is coming faster than anyone can process it.
Soccer is being played without fans (if at all), the NBA season has been suspended, and now the Australian Grand Prix has been shown the chequered flag before even getting started.
Fans everywhere are left to wonder: "Well, what now?".
Sport -- especially live sport - is the one thing that is supposed to bring us together. Now we are told to avoid it, lest we contribute to the spread of a deadly pandemic.
Australia's one-day cricket series against New Zealand, starting Friday, will be played behind closed doors at the SCG and at Blundstone Arena -- the first major sporting event in Australia to make the call to do so.
AFL boss Gillon McLachlan has said games could go ahead behind closed doors when the season starts next week, after Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews warned gatherings of more than 1,000 people could be banned.
Meanwhile, the NRL season kicked off on Thursday night, and aside from players being told to avoid handshakes and contact with fans, there has been little word on closed-door games.
Likewise, the NBL Grand Final series is expected to go ahead as planned -- despite the fact that the Perth Wildcats travelled on the same plane as a confirmed coronavirus case.
The A-League and W-League is continuing to play in front of crowds -- an interesting move considering a number of the men's teams have had their Asian Champions League campaigns put on hold.
Overseas, however, the situation has become more dire.
In America, the NBA was one of the first major leagues to suspend its season, with the MLS following suit soon after. Top-tier tennis competition Indian Wells was cancelled by organisers earlier this week, and the ATP Tour has been shut down for six weeks. And the extremely lucrative NCAA March Madness collegiate tournament has also been cancelled.
European football leagues valiantly tried to continue behind closed doors, but this approach is slowly being abandoned after a number of players tested positive to the virus. La Liga (Spain), Eredivisie (Netherlands) and Primeira Liga (Portugal) have all been suspended. Champions League and Euro 2020 could follow suit.
The flow on effects of cancelled events could be felt for years to come.
For example, Asian World Cup qualifiers for Qatar 2022 have been postponed and the South American football federation, CONMEBOL, is also calling for a postponement of its qualifiers.
It may seem absurd to be concerned about a tournament two years away, but with jam-packed schedules for teams and players in all sports, it could be difficult to make sure they have a decent preparation heading into future competitions.
Olympic organisers have conceded the Tokyo Games, meant to begin on July 24, could be delayed for up to two years. And if they were to go ahead, would they too be held behind closed doors?
The best athletes on the planet will have trained their entire lives for a chance to compete on the grandest of sporting stages in silent, empty arenas, a far cry from the global gathering the Games are meant to be.
If Australian sport does go the same way as overseas competitions and continues behind closed doors, those who have purchased tickets, particularly those with season tickets, are not getting the product they have paid for.
Season-ticket holders for English football clubs will reportedly be able to stream the matches free of charge if they are played behind closed doors. It is expected that fans will also be banned from watching the games in pubs.
So we will be watching sport from the confinement of our own home.
The winner? Whatever subscription service you are paying.
The loser? The clubs who may be forced to pay back the fans for tickets. The very tickets that pay for staff wages, community programs and facilities.
And what is sport without the fans? There is nothing like the rush of adrenaline and excitement in a stadium urging their team on. Instead we will be forced to listen to commentators (of which I am one on local radio) droning on without the ambient noise to drown them out.
And if they are cancelled, armchair fans who record podcasts about their favourite sports (of which I am also one) will have nothing to talk about. (Now how am I going to listen to the sound of my own voice?)
On the plus side, we no longer have to hear about how sports are dying because crowd attendances are too low. The A-League only getting 5,000 at a match? No longer news!
Australia, while we still have sport to watch, we also need to keep an eye on our European friends. How are they filling in their time? Have they taken up a new hobby? Should I pick up knitting? Is this the year I finally learn how to play the piano?
Do I watch Darren Albert score the match-winning try for the Knights in the '97 Grand Final for the 115th time?
Football legend Bill Shankly once said, "Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it's much more serious than that".
We are now at a point where this is being tested. Controlling the spread of coronavirus from the most vulnerable is a matter of life and death. And as much as we are a sport-loving nation, an empty stadium or cancelled match is not the end of our lives, but it could save someone else's.
So, my fellow sport enthusiasts, use this time to get some sleep because we're going to have a lot to catch up on when normality resumes.
Featured Image: Getty