When North American sports resume, most stadiums and arenas are expected to be empty. The global pandemic has all but wiped out spectator sports worldwide. The consequences are spooky – games played without fans in virtual silence.
How might these post-COVID dynamics impact sports? More precisely, will the void of fans and the excitement they normally create in a live atmosphere affect sports gambling?
At first glance, the answer seems obvious – yes. Players won't be inspired by the roar of a crowd and the release of Endorphins triggered by the rush of adrenaline.
"He shoots! He scores!"
It seems so-called home-field advantage will be a non entity for a while. Without the natural stimulus of family, friends, and fans in the stands watching, players will be playing on neutral sites, at least in terms of emotion.
But let's not discount home-away disparities that won't be impacted. Home teams always enjoy a more familiar environment. There's also the elimination of travel for the host team and the comfort of staying at home. Visitors will still be required to travel and stay in hotels. With strict COVID restrictions in place in many cities, travel will probably be more difficult than usual. Hence, home-field advantages might continue to be worthy of a few points to the spread.
There's some talk that leagues might play some games at neutral sites. This too, changes the dynamics of the game, should it be implemented. The NHL, NBA, and MLB all discussed neutral sites as a possibility. But now, it appears that option is off the table.
The sign of what's to come for North American sports is probably what's happening right now with the professional soccer leagues in Europe. England, Spain, Italy, Germany, and elsewhere have resumed games in empty stadiums. While television viewers might accept this "solution" and may not even know the difference between before versus after, critics have been vicious in attacking league officials who have no good options.
Consider the Euro Champions League, set to resume play in August with a "mini-tournament" which will take place in Portugal. Unsurprisingly, rabid European soccer fans are livid at the prospect, calling the proposed spectacle "like playing in a tin can."
One suspects that fans of Canadian and American sports will grumble a bit. We may not like the changes to games. We might view the entire spectacle as awkward.
That said, sports are still sports, and gambling is gambling.
We'll watch. We'll cheer. We'll bitch and moan. We'll share bad beat stories.
A live ticket is still a live ticket, especially when it's the only game in town.
Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated
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