Sports and betting businesses are set for a big weekend as elite level sports will, in a small way, return.
The eyes of the world – or at least the world’s sports fans and gamblers – will be on Germany’s Bundesliga fixtures this weekend, as it becomes the first major sports league to restart following the coronavirus (COVID-19) suspension.
Nine ‘behind closed doors’ fixtures are scheduled with games on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Dortmund vs Schalke and Werder Bremen vs Leverkusen are among the best match ups, while league leader Bayern Munich is away to Union Berlin.
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Bayern Munich chief executive, this week told German media that as the only major live sport being broadcast he believes the Bundesliga will see “an audience of billions” tune in.
The restart of sporting competition remains controversial and largely driven by the financial needs of clubs, leagues, and broadcasters.
Among the big beneficiaries as live sport returns will be London-listed betting firms like Flutter Entertainment PLC (LON:FLTR), William Hill PLC (LON:WMH), GVC Holdings Plc (LON:GVC), and 888 Holdings Plc (LON:888).
The world’s largest bookkeepers are expected to see significant interest in the Bundesliga fixtures, as in the past two months there has only been virtual or simulated markets (and, in case you missed it, Belarus Premier League soccer).
This weekend’s action will be the initial salvo for live sport.
Future weeks are scheduled to bring more games and, in due course, subject to health and safety, other sports leagues may also return.
Sports betting tipped to bolster US state taxes
The Bundesliga weekender comes a week after the chief executive of a leading US bookie claimed a full opening up of sports betting across America could help bolster state taxes amid lockdown and snowballing unemployment.
A week ago, Penn National Gaming chief executive Jay Snowden, in an interview, said he expected an acceleration in US states legalising online sports betting.
Presently eighteen states - including Nevada and New York – have opened up their market for legal sports betting, another five states have passed bills and twenty five have introduced bills that have not yet been passed.
Sports getting back up and running and states opening further to legal betting is predicted to drive revenues for companies and the US tax man alike.
“We think that this legalization process that is happening at the state level stands to accelerate,” Snowden said.
This followed similar comments from Jason Robins, chief executive of cash-prize fantasy sports firm DraftKings, who in April suggested that in time there would be “more openness”.
“I think once the pandemic is under control, and maybe some of the economic impacts that result from it become problematic for state budgets, you could see more focus on things that will generate tax revenues,” Robins said in an interview.
“That’s not now.
“There’s a time and place for that later, but I do think there might be an opportunity to engage with states that previously have been on the fence about passing legislation.”
Restarting sport in a pandemic
‘Momentum’ is reportedly growing in the United States for a restart in the NBA, with a group of players holding a conference call in recent days to discuss health and safety concerns and separately franchise owners are said to be “increasingly positive” about resuming the season.
The potential timelines and possible limitations remain unclear.
Back in Europe, Bundesliga matches will played behind closed doors, with strictly controlled and staggered access in and around stadiums.
A maximum of 322 people (including players) can be in or around the stadiums – no more than 98 including players, coaches and referees are allowed on the pitch and touchline area, and, no more than 115 people including media and emergency services staff are allowed in the stands.
In the dressing rooms, around the stadium and during training the players are maintaining social distancing to 1.5 metres.
Handshakes have been forbidden along with pre-match team presentations and photos.
Balls will disinfected before kick-off and continually by the ball boys throughout the match.
Players are being tested for COVID-19 twice a week and will need a negative test result before they can travel to stadiums having already been in isolation training camps for seven days.
Quite how feasible the restart and completion of competitions will be, remains a point of debate.
Indeed, two players at Dynamo Dresden this week tested positive and the club’s other players have entered into a two-week quarantine.
Sports leagues, promoters and administrators around the world will keenly eye the Bundesliga restart over the coming weeks as many seek to restart their own competitions.
England’s Premier League has yet to confirm details or timelines for its restart, though following the UK government’s commentary on the lockdown exit earlier this week it is widely speculated that they will target a mid-June restart.
Italy’s Serie A yesterday confirmed it wants to resume competition from 13 June, subject to government approval.
Last weekend, the UFC held its first event since lockdown with a fight card behind closed doors.
It is plainly still very early days, nonetheless, this weekend’s live football will be the closest betting firm’s will have had to a dead cert in months.