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07/06/2020 Special > Special Important News


How the Coronavirus Has Changed the World of Sports

Fanless games rise as an alternative way to enjoy games


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The coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on a diversity of fields. Maintaining social distance has become an integral part of our everyday routines, and various methods have been introduced to help us minimize contact with others. In the world of sports, matches are being held without audiences as a way to both enjoy sports and remain safe from spreading the disease. Professor Sung-bae Roger Park (Department of Sports Industry) explains how the industry came to adopt this unusual method of conducting sports games.

What are fanless games?

Fanless games are sports matches which do not allow audiences to sit in the arena. In the past, fanless games were held when facilities in an arena were considered unsafe or when the actions of fans were considered too violent to be allowed in the audience seating area. However, he explains how the Coronavirus pandemic has most unusually changed the norm of sports games by having nearly all games played without fans. He said this was an “unfortunate gameplay” method which has resulted in general economic deficits, but more importantly, the deprivation of opportunities for fans to watch the games and their players in real life.
The Hanyang University volleyball team is also conducting fanless games in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
(Photo courtesy of Park)

Advantages and disadvantages of fanless games

Park agrees that fanless games definitely help in prohibiting the spread of the disease. Also, the possibility of fanless games is what has prevented the total cancellation of entire sports leagues around the world by allowing them to continue receiving revenue through broadcasting systems and sponsorships. On top of that, the fanless games have lead to the globalization of national sports leagues. In the case of the KBO League, some of its fanless games were broadcast on ESPN, the American sports channel, consequently raising the league's status and earning a diverse audience.

However, he explained that there are many disadvantages as well. “Fanless games have taken away the revenue gained from selling entrance tickets. This has resulted in tremendous economic deficits for entire leagues and sports clubs,” said Park. Moreover, the absence of audiences have seemed to decrease the morale of the players. “Fans are an integral part of the game. The players stand in concord with the fans in the arena,” said Park, further emphasizing the importance of fans by quoting Lebron James, one of the best basketball players in the world, who said “I’ll never play in an arena without fans.”

Online support

Following Taiwan, South Korea was the second country to open its professional baseball season. As such, America’s major league and Japan’s professional baseball league have been watching the development of the Korean baseball league during the pandemic. In particular, Park says that South Korean fans’ online support for their teams has been at the center of their attention.

Online support from the fans, Park says, retains its roots in having the fans voluntarily and actively be a part of supporting their teams. Various themed programs during which fans create quiz questions and hold virtual events that help them communicate with players more easily are unique ways in which South Korean fans are currently supporting their favorite sports teams.
As a part of their online support, Kakaotalk opened a Professional Baseball-bot channel so that fans can enter an open chat and enjoy the games.
(Photo courtesy of The Asia Business Daily)

Despite these harsh times, sports industries and their fans are finding alternative routes to push through and enjoy their lives while remaining safe. “The fanless games,” Park said, “are the best solution we have and a wise decision for the KBO and the K-League to make.”

Lee Yoon-seo 
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