Sports post Covid-19
June 9, 2019
The third in Covid-19 Helpline India’s webinar week was “Sports: Impact of the Pandemic” which began on 26th June, 2020 at 9:30 P.M(IST). The event was aired live on Zoom and Facebook. Ms Shagun Sachar started the webinar by providing a brief introduction about our guest, Mr Varun Achreja.
Mr Varun has over 10 years of experience in the sports industry, particularly football. He has worked with almost every stakeholder in the Indian Football fraternity such as the Indian Super League, I-Leagues and State Associations amongst others. His repute and credibility is showcased in the projects that he has led and been a part of, some of which focus on partnerships & collaborations, program conceptualization, strategic planning, bidding, youth development & grassroots, community & fan engagement and cost-benefit analysis. He is also an expert on Northeast India and has significantly contributed to the football development in the region. Not only this, but Varun is also the co-founder of Eight Goals One Foundation (8one), a non- profit credited with starting the Young Legends’ League; India’s first structured grassroots initiative for children aged between 5 years and 12 years. YLL is recognized by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and is conducted in Mizoram and Manipur every year. Followed by the introduction, Mr Krishna Prasnna took over and started asking our guest the questions about how things have changed for the sports industry since the pandemic began.
To begin with, he was first asked about how he reacted initially to the lockdown and how his first month of it. He explained that nowhere in the world, he thought that the lockdown would extend for such a long period of time and with no sports going on, it was challenging to accept the changes. But now with everything going digital, things have become a little easy as he believes that working from home has helped others to respect the time boundaries of individuals which was not happening earlier. Though he agrees that not being able to see your closed ones has surely created a void but except for accepting it, nothing else can be done.
When asked about how the multi-billion sports industry has been affected alongwith the job security of the people involved in it, he explained that in India, the sports industry is heavily dependent on sponsorships and other sectors, as are other sectors on it. As the business market has gone down, inflow of funds in the industry has been hard hit which has definitely had a negative impact on the industry. Apart from that, it will be difficult for even the parents to send their children to play sports the way they used to do earlier, which will further affect the level of participation in the industry.
Talking about the physiological and mental health impact on the athletes, he explained that in Europe, players are playing the leagues in their holiday period which is a change different for them. He thinks that due to staying at home, people in general have made it their habit to engage in exercises so athletes would not be impacted much physiologically and even if they do, before sport events are resumed, they will get enough time to get back in shape. Psychologically, lack of audience can impact the players level of motivation as things will be different in the post-covid era. On asking him about how the cancellation of Tokyo Olympics 2020, IPL and Wimbledon 2020 will impact the viewership, he explained that due to no sporting events taking place, a void has been created in the lives of individuals due to which the consumption power of people has increased. So yes, if not in stadiums, but through television and online mediums, people are willing to consume any sport they see,so viewership in general would not be impacted.
He explained that once the world comes to normal there will be a lot of changes which people have to undergo, like social distancing between seats, wearing a mask while being in stadiums and maybe a future plan about how to deal with such situations if a pandemic ever arises again.
After moderator Krishna was done asking questions, moderator Shagun took over and asked Mr Varun questions which were asked by the participants. On asking about the impact of lockdown on grassroot football, he explained that as academies and centers are empty, lack of participation and inflow of funds has been affected. Even after things go back to normal, it will take a lot of time for the parents to send their children. The way schools reopen after all this and how parents react to it will definitely help the sports industry to take similar measures.
He also explained that engaging in any physical activity at home will ensure fitness even after gyms are closed. As a result of pandemic, people will take sports seriously and sports, fitness and immunity go hand in hand which will make the field more competitive.On being asked how much time the sports industry would require to revitalise itself, he explained that it depends completely from sport to sport: spots which are played indoor and require less participants will grow up fast as compared to those which need more players and so on.
He believes that there will be more and more requirements of sports psychologists in the field now as now people have seen how mental health gets impacted.
Ms. Shagun Sachar concluded the session by saying a sincere thank you to Mr Varun for enlightening all of us with his views and knowledge. To conclude, he said to all of the participants “Keep doing things which you did not do earlier. Learn as many new things as possible.”