Updated: Jul 19, 2020
Yes you read that headline correct and no I haven’t had too many iso beers. The suspension of sport the world over has forced administrators into innovative ways of thinking while us keyboard warriors who love sport and a yarn (usually over a social beer – always tastes better with friends) have had the opportunity to reflect. So here are my 5 reasons why COVID-19 has actually been good for sport.
1. Review of excess overheads
With the mass job losses due to COVID-19, what the NRL demonstrated was an oversupply of staff in head office and in clubs behind the scenes. Retired AFL goal kicking wiz Matthew Lloyd slammed the over excess of coaches when he referenced a photo of the Essendon Bombers, his former club where it was laptop city in the coaches box.
Laptop city, Essendon's coaching staff. (Photo credit: FoxSports)
When you consider there are multiple support staff on game day on the sidelines - trainers, medical, physios, assistant coaches and more, he had a sound argument that clubs had more ‘coaches’ than players in their boxes. The other major issue is more global – hyperinflation of wages and transfer fees. Just look at the football transfer market in Europe. With billionaire’s buying clubs and treating it like fantasy football there are realistically only 2-3 clubs that can win the competition at the start of each year. It costs more to buy a backup left back than it does for a world class striker 15 years ago with inflation out of control. The numbers don’t lie, 19 of the 20 most expensive transfers in the world of football have been in the past decade, the money involved is ridiculous!
2. Chance to reminisce
“I watched a replay on the 1999 Wallabies on the weekend, back when the Wallabies beat the All Blacks, gee it was good”. That is a direct quote of what a work colleague said to me when I asked how his weekend was. Three weeks ago, I found a diamond in the rough – another Manly fan and together we watched a replay of the 1987 Grand Final. He was not even born then! Another friend of mine was also watching replays of Rugby League in the 1980’s and noted the outside backs moves while the hours I wasted watching retro cricket and highlights of the 2005 Ashes and the great feats of Shane Warne, well it was well worth it.
COVID has allowed me to watch endless hours of Shane Warne in the 2005 Ashes, thanks COVID.
(Photo credit: Yahoo Sports Australia)
Finally there was the Holy Grail for us sports tragics – the best ever sports documentary you could imagine in 'The Last Dance'. Seeing the inner sanction of the mighty 1990’s Chicago Bulls, it was spine-tingling stuff and made me enjoy my Monday’s for once. Add to all that the fun I’ve had selecting ‘best side of the last 30 years’ and ‘best team I’ve ever coached’ style activities.
3. Clubs connecting with members with innovation
You may of stopped reading at the mention of me being a Manly fan (we all have our faults), well I’m actually a bit more than a fan – I’m a member despite living 2700km away from the paradise of Sydney’s northern beaches. Manly did a phenomenal job of communicating, innovating and connecting with their members during COVID-19. They admit they run on a shoe-string budget but used player videos, flashback photos and famous Grand Final replays to keep us interested in footy. Well done Manly!
There has been some ‘speculative journalism’ out there along with some stories over Zoom. We cannot watch sport so we think about how could we make things better. Rule changes (e.g. NRL 6 again) along with 'could women’s AFL reduce the size of field' have been two innovations. The conversation about a second Brisbane NRL team also looks to gain some serious momentum as competitions in Australia explore ‘conference systems’ similar to USA - reduces expense of travel and creates potential for more local derbies and in turn, greater tribalism.
5. We’ll appreciate sport more when it’s back
We’ve been waiting so long for sport to return and have had to put up with so much speculation that when it returns we’ll enjoy it even more. Hopefully we’ve utilised the lockdown to connect with old friends or make new ones and so that we can all enjoy those social sport watching beers together!
Live sport is coming back, it’s bloody exciting and yes, to reiterate, I am Manly supporter, get over it!