The impact of COVID-19 on the sports industry and how to return stronger

As we move into Q4 of 2020, the impact of the COVID-19 crisis continues. The sports industry has been hit particularly hard and every element of sport has been affected – from the athletes themselves, to ground staff, hospitality, sponsors, venues and leagues across the world. 

So, what can the sports industry learn from this crisis? What does the way back look like and how can clubs return to be stronger than ever?.

We thought it would be timely to look at a report produced by Deloitte COVID-19 outlook for the US sports industry published in May. The report cites the main issues sporting organisations must consider, to not only recover but to thrive in the ‘new normal’.

The experience so far

The return of fans to stadiums

The return for teams and fans to sport depends largely on the country’s government – we can see the approach differs across the world. In the US we’re seeing stadiums starting to open to a reduced number of fans, the Bundesliga in Germany has welcomed a much reduced capacity of homeside football fans, whilst in the UK, all stadiums will be closed to fans until 2021.

However, once fans are allowed to return – the big question is will they? Research indicates that many are unwilling to return until there is a vaccine available. So what can sports organisations do to reassure fans that they are making their venues as safe as possible? The Deloitte report states that:

‘Venues will likely take confidence-building measures to support public health and enforce possible social distancing requirements.’

At Tappit, we are helping a number of partner organisations as they look to make their stadiums and event spaces COVID-safe. These businesses are embracing the move to ‘cashless’ – using our mobile pay solution integrated with their own app, or RFID wristbands – both solutions remove physical contact and enable social distancing as queues and crowd bottlenecks are reduced and transactions can be made without any contact and indeed through perspex.

Multichannel fan engagement

The crisis has highlighted what has been a major challenge for the sports industry for some time – how to keep fans engaged beyond game day and outside of the stadium.  As a result, some teams have refocused and adopted more of a multichannel approach. Digital platforms have been leveraged, athletes have been engaging directly with their fans through esports and teams have found that they’re moving to a more balanced, 360 way to engage with their fans as a result.

Data insights

The value of having a comprehensive data-driven strategy for fan engagement has never been more pertinent. Fans are no longer in stands, so how can sports businesses connect with them? Here at Tappit, we provide our partners with rich data – and actionable insights which allow businesses to understand who their fans are, what they buy, when and where. This empowers sports clubs to get closer to their fans like never before, so they can provide them with a personalised offering. The report highlights that:

‘A holistic, data driven strategy and a portfolio of digital channels can reinforce fan engagement throughout the year while building more resilience against future disruptions.’

As we look to move forward through the COVID crisis, the sports industry must question the established way of doing things, and have a renewed focus on fan engagement, and to future proof their businesses against further turmoil. So how should the industry recover and be stronger than ever before? The report’s recommendations are:


  • Embrace digital to stay connected to fans
  • Develop premium mobile experiences
  • Become a multichannel media producer


The opportunity to thrive, let alone survive for many sports organisations may seem some way off, however plans need to be put in place to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for fans to return. There is a need to enhance the one-to-one relationship that clubs and teams can have with their fans.  Deloitte cites three key areas the Sports industry needs to focus on in order to thrive in the post-COVID world.

1. Re-establish trust and safety at venues

The move to cashless venues and in-app ordering serve to minimise contact points, reduce queues and enable crowd management in real time. Businesses should consider all these options available to foster confidence with their fans returning to stadiums.

2. Use data to develop deeper fan relationships

The crisis has highlighted the need for businesses to have a robust digital strategy and to be data driven. When the fans left the stadiums, organisations struggled to both find them and re-engage them due to a lack of data.

3. Transform the industry

No small feat! This crisis has created so many challenges for the sports industry, it has highlighted many areas where it’s currently lacking, but the innovative and often organic responses of clubs and individual athletes has allowed us to learn so much about fan engagement that we must take these learnings into the future and build on them. As the report summarises:

‘The shock of this crisis has shaken the foundations of most industries, challenging attachments while creating great opportunities for real change.’

If you want to know more about how Tappit is helping businesses to thrive in the ‘new normal’  – whether that be through providing different cashless solutions or through the robust granular data insights we can offer on every one of your fans – just get in touch with us to discuss your needs.


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