Member Insights: A Review Of 2019 In Sports Business
December 18, 2019
2019. For the sports business, it was a year of new frontiers and an old ghost, says Tim Crow.
Unprecedented media coverage took the FIFA Women’s World Cup to a new frontier of attention and stature, saw its sponsors for the first time competing for bragging rights about the scale of their activations, and gave Megan Rapinoe a justifiable claim to be the world sports personality of the year. Certainly nothing, and no-one, more powerfully represented the continuing rise of women’s sports worldwide.
The 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan also opened up a new frontier for rugby, with the progress of the home team generating easily the biggest audiences in the sport’s history, and the tournament providing a priceless global platform for Japan and its wonderful people that bodes well for next year’s Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.
In contrast, the World Athletics Championships handed Qatar a bow on the global sporting stage that was nothing less than a PR disaster, owing to the swathes of empty seats for blue riband events, the giant aircon units so at odds with the climate zeitgeist, and the IAAF’s surprising decision to attack the BBC for its editorial coverage.
The year ends with another global event in Qatar, the FIFA Club World Cup, which the host and FIFA will be determined to ensure presents a much more positive image ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, particularly as FIFA is also using it to court investors for its vision of a bigger CWC, book-ending a year in which sport’s courtship of private equity has rarely been out of the headlines. With so many sports having no option but to innovate their distribution and products, but lacking the finances to make it happen, this will inevitably continue into the new year and new decade.
And if you don’t disrupt yourself, you will be disrupted. One event that perhaps more than any other demonstrated this dynamic was the extraordinary Eliud Kipchoge sub two-hour marathon. Privately-financed and ‘unofficial’ it may have been, but it captured the headlines and the imaginations of the world like few events in 2019.
But as sport enters another new decade it does so still haunted by the old ghost of doping, and the ever-present doubt that we cannot believe what we are watching. Personally, I will continue to suspend my disbelief, but I live in hope that the day is coming when I will not need to.