August 20, 2020
When the Covid-19 pandemic began in March, it was difficult to predict its impact on everyday life, particularly when it came to work, education and live events. Now we know that the spread of the virus affected many major sporting events around the world, including the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, the football Premier League, and the Euro 2020 tournament.
But as lockdown restrictions ease and sporting events resume, what does the impact of the virus look like to date, and how will it impact things moving forward? We’ve taken a look at how many players across the recently resumed National Basketball Association matches and National Baseball League tournament have been affected so far, and what this equates to in lost finances.
The pandemic saw multiple cancellations, delays and cutbacks happening across every aspect of the sports industry, impacting aspiring athletes, tournament organisers and audiences around the world. Sports bodies scrambled to cancel or postpone upcoming events as the virus spread, while competing teams headed into isolation when a player tested positive or reported an infected family member.
The true financial loss of this shift is yet unknown, but we can see that media networks that paid billions of dollars for live sports that didn’t happen have taken a substantial hit, while players are having to sacrifice all or a portion of their annual salary when choosing to opt out of matches for both their safety and the wellbeing of their loved ones. Fans have weathered months of no sport to commentate and bet on, while stakeholders have had to look to alternative revenue sources to keep clubs afloat, including webinars and online advertising.
Search trend analysis reveals that interest in sport remained high during the pandemic, even as most sporting events were paused. In the US, searches for ‘coronavirus MLB’ increased by 25% between June and August, while queries for ‘coronavirus NBA’ jumped by a massive 83.7%. Searches peaked worldwide for both in mid-March as news of player diagnoses broke.
Global searches for ‘coronavirus sports’ have also remained high over the last six months, peaking in late March and rising again in mid April. The highest searches were reported in Ireland, the UK, Uganda and the United States.
Now, as restrictions ease slightly around the world, it’s possible to see the impact of the virus on teams that are gearing up to return to their respective tournaments – primarily the MLB and NBA in the States – as these have been impacted far more than any other sport that has recently restarted its season.
An analysis of released match reports shows that Covid-19 may have cost MLB players a collective $29.3 million due to forfeited salaries and injury time. At least 15 players have taken a salary hit due to injury time for Covid-19, while a further 15 have forfeited their wage by opting out of the current season.
Mike Moustakas, of the Cincinnati Reds, has seen the biggest penalty due to injury time out of the eight named and seven anonymous players who’ve contracted the virus, seeing a drop of $258,064 four his four-day absence – equating to 5.8% of his annual salary.
Although Moustakas’ loss is the biggest in monetary value, the Miami Marlins’ Jorge Alfaro is the player who’s seen the biggest drop compared to his annual income due to the virus, losing 15.9% of his salary – $35,189 – for an 11 day absence. In fact, the actual sum lost by infected MLB players could have been higher, as the names of seven players are currently undisclosed. For example, if they’re all paid the average salary of $3,894,220, that’s a further loss of $27.3 million.
The biggest reason behind the financial impact of the pandemic is the 15 players who have opted out of the season, which is equivalent to $28.1 million in forfeited salaries. However, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly which players are still getting paid and how much. The MLB has dictated that high-risk players who opt out will receive their full salary, while players with high-risk family members may be subject to a reduced wage.
Also in the US, National Basketball Association players who have been impacted by Covid-19 could have lost $84,897,400 collectively due to forfeited salaries and absences. At least three players have taken a salary bit due to injury time for Covid-19, while a further 15 have forfeited their wage by opting out of the current season.
DeAndre Jordan of the Brooklyn Nets has seen the biggest penalty due to injury time out of the three players who have tested positive, losing a large portion of his $9,881,598 salary when he couldn’t travel to the team’s Orlando ‘bubble’ – along with 21 other players.
Although the season resumed on July 30 with players living, practicing and competing in a ‘bubble’ within the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, players who miss games won’t be paid unless they’re declared ‘excused’ or ‘protected’ for health reasons.
That means that the 15 named players who’ve opted out of the resumed season could have lost the majority of their $172,017,297 collective salaries, depending on how many matches they played before the NBA season was suspended in early March. The actual total salary loss across the team could be much higher, as a further 19 unidentified players were deemed unable to travel to the NBA’s Orlando bubble. Based on the NBA average salary of $7.7 million, that equates to a further $146.3 million lost.
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