Opinion | Sport will never look the same after March 2020 and the coronavirus

Herschel Jantjies of the Stormers during the 2019 Super Rugby game between the Stormers and the Lions at Newlands Stadium in Cape Town on 23 February 2019.
Herschel Jantjies of the Stormers during the 2019 Super Rugby game between the Stormers and the Lions at Newlands Stadium in Cape Town on 23 February 2019.
Image: © Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Those who played sport during the despicable apartheid era know all about “no abnormal sport in an abnormal society”. If there are citizens who are old enough to have lived through World War 2‚ they’ll know all about how normal life ceasing to function in the face of a global conflict.

War generally puts a stop to everything from a sporting perspective as able-bodied citizens are required for national duty. What the past three weeks have shown is that the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) is far more brutal than any war in terms of halting anything and everything that is sporting activity.

In the time of war‚ sport is a necessary outlet that serves as a reminder of normalcy. That one can still compete and forget about the travails of conflict‚ bloodshed and death; the bedfellows of war.

The biological phenomenon that is Covid-19 is asking searching questions that the sporting world has never been exposed to. Without broadcasting revenue where will money come from? How will sponsors get bang for their buck without their products being on TV? What’s live sport without the hordes of fans who bring the unique atmospheres to the various arenas?

In a state of wars‚ these questions get swallowed up by the fervour of nationalism. Covid-19 is a silent‚ yet even bigger threat and not only just to lives and medical health systems‚ but to pockets.

In the wake of the virus stopping sports‚ pay cuts are starting to swallow up various sports. There have been pockets of resistance‚ but for how long? No one knows how to effectively stem the spread of the virus and certainly‚ no one knows when the global curve will be flattened.

With these unknown unknowns‚ sport and the money that props it up faces a black hole. The cancellations and postponements have been unprecedented. The cancellation of this year’s Wimbledon tennis tournament a good two months before it even starts has rammed this home.

Only the World Wars have shelved the famous SW19 grass court tournaments while the Olympics that have been postponed until next year‚ also felt the wrath of the great conflict.

The virus doesn’t hold a gun‚ but with its attacking of the respiratory system‚ it’s holding the human race hostage through the necessary gaseous exchange of breathing.

It’s surreal‚ but that’s the world that faces us. A new normal where the preservation of life trumps the need to come together and compete in a friendly or professional environment.

What sport will look like when the virus eventually dissipates will be unknown. The pressure that sports personalities find themselves under in the heat of competition will be defined differently.

People who work in sport are finding themselves out of work‚ unable to feed their families.

Professionals will have to take pay cuts to sustain those who remain at work. Will broadcasters and sponsors have enough money to throw into the various sports remains to be seen? Will fans deem it safe to be at stadiums? That’s a question the world post the coronavirus can answer.

What we do know is that the world‚ the sporting one that is‚ will be far removed from the one we knew at the start of March 2020.