Covid-19: El mundo del deporte está en shock

Por Leandro Shara (Chile) – leandro.shara@gmail.com-​

SANTIAGO, Chile, 6 de abril de 2020.- Efectivamente, el mundo del deporte está en shock, y ¿cómo no?, si por primera vez no se tiene el control de “meter a la fuerza” la mayor cantidad de partidos posibles para una competencia, en mi opinión, un error en lo que significa la concepción pura de la competencia.

El tema es que, en cuanto a los formatos, el negocio ha sido llenar el calendario hasta más no poder, sin considerar que más del 75% de los encuentros de liga no tienen valor comercial, considerando que son de baja importancia para el público, y que en definitivamente no definen nada. Entonces, cuando la “máquina del diseño de formatos” es solo más y más partidos, y por alguna fuerza mayor se deben suspender una o más fechas, viene el descalabro. Es más, muchos organizadores siguen pensando hasta la fecha de esta publicación que, “al abrir las puertas de nuestras casas”, los atletas ingresarán al recinto deportivo a correr, luchar, nadar, lanzar contra un objetivo, saltar o perseguir el balón (dependiendo de cuál sea la especialidad) de manera inmediata. Pues no, cuando la puerta se abra, no será para competir, será para cumplir con las normas mínimas de seguridad sanitaria que implicará salir a la calle, luego de eso, y recién en ese momento, comenzar una nueva pretemporada, en lugares que deberán cumplir con exigencias excepcionales de higiene y sanitización, y hacer el duelo, sí, efectivamente, hacer el duelo de quienes han partido, o partirán en este proceso tan doloroso, para no volver. Será duro, muy duro, por lo que no solo se procederá a abrir la puerta, todo este proceso deberá venir acompañado de mil factores, que el mundo del deporte no ve, no entiende, o simplemente no sabe, porque nunca ha abierto la puerta después de una situación como esta.

En situaciones normales, el formato define los parámetros que influyen en toda competencia, tal como: Calendario, cantidad de fechas, días de competencia, días de descanso, cantidad de atletas y partidos, árbitros, sedes de competencia, traslados, hoteles, participantes, etcétera, etcétera.

Eso sin considerar que también implica la planificación del presupuesto de gastos, ingresos, negociaciones, tipos de sponsors, tipos de contratos, abogados, autoridades del lugar o lugares donde será la competencia, y un sin número de otras consideraciones. Agregar o reducir dos de los competidores ya es un problema, y si no me cree, pregúntele a FIFA por qué no fue capaz de llevar 36 equipos al mundial de Alemania 2006, y 20 años después pretende llevar 48, haciendo crecer todos los parámetros de manera exponencial. Una locura, y simplemente porque NO saben cómo hacerlo. La misma FIFA salió a declarar que era imposible, por temas de formato, incrementar en 4 el número de participantes. Lo mismo sucede con reducciones de participantes, y sí, hoy se necesitará reducir competiciones, pero el mundo del deporte aún está en shock, y esto no lo ha entendido, o simplemente se niega a aceptarlo. Esto último es una de las etapas en las que estamos envueltos en este proceso del Coronavirus y sus efectos en el deporte.

En mi opinión, al menos son 7 las etapas que se atraviesan en este tipo de situaciones críticas, y estas son:

  1. La declaración por parte de la OMS del COVID-19
  2. Al interior del mundo del deporte, entender que estamos en Pandemia
  3. Reaccionar para parar las competencias – aquí se entra a la etapa del shock
  4. Entender que los torneos en curso, no podrán continuar – aún no se avanza a esta etapa
  5. Tomar decisiones políticas para los diferentes posibles escenarios
  6. Planificar junto con expertos, autoridades y sponsors la Continuidad del Negocio
  7. Abrir la Puerta con el Plan Preparado, independiente de la Fecha de salida a la calle

Aún estamos en la etapa 3, sí, más cerca de la 3 que de la 4. Los grandes organizadores aún no reaccionan, están en shock.

Por eso, desde mi experiencia, invito a los sponsors a que hagan valer sus esfuerzos monetarios, misiones, visiones y valores, en el sostenimiento de la competencia, pues son ustedes, junto con el público, los que financian la actividad, y por lo mismo, deben sentarse a la mesa virtual, de quienes deben liderar estas decisiones. Hoy no solo el “encargado de competencias” debe hacer el calendario, es mucho más profundo lo que viene, es mucho más intenso, y para esto se necesitan expertos que sepan poner sobre la mesa, evaluaciones de riesgos de negocios, planes de continuidad, y sobretodo, formatos innovadores.

ENGLISH:

Covid-19: The World of Sports in Shock

By Leandro Shara (Chile) – leandro.shara@gmail.com-​

SANTIAGO, Chile, April 6, 2020.- Effectively, the world of sports is in shock. And why shouldn’t be? For the first time, sports events organizers are not in control for making happen the highest possible number of matches at their tournaments; which in my view, there exists a misperception on what the essence of a competition truly means.

The key issue, with respect to competition formats and calendars is that a key business paradigm has been to fill calendars with matches as much as possible, without paying much attention to a fact most leagues and federations are aware of: some +75% of league competitions have minimum competitive and commercial value, thus contenders play little or nothing. Consequently, such matches tend to be unattractive for the public.

Then, when the intrinsic power of the design of formats focuses on securing and more matches and due to force majeure reasons, a number of match-days has to be cancelled, breakdown situation arises. Moreover, as of today, a large number of organizers thinks that when the pandemic control measures ease, teams and players will immediately go back to their clubs and venues to run, fight, swim, throw, or shoot out, jump or chase the ball –depending on what their sport specialty is. But that will not happen… When sports facilities reopen, they will hardly aim to resume competitions. Their first priority will be to secure accomplishing high sanitary standards and, having that, they will likely arrange pre-season competitions across venues which will be required to fulfil strict hygienic requirements.

And, from the social climate standpoint, people and organizations will doubtlessly be mourning losses of their beloved and respected people around them who already passed away or will be passing away. Going back to normal will not be immediate and will likely be hard, facing the combination of lots of factors that the world of sports can hardly understand, simply because they never face a reality like this before.

Under normal circumstances, tournament formats determine the parameters which define an entire competition: calendars, match days, rest days, number of participant teams or players, quantity of venues, quantity of referees, travel and accommodation requirements, and so on.

And in addition to the latter, critical aspects include budget planning – with revenues and expenses –, diverse types of negotiations, sponsorship arrangements, regulatory compliance issues among a large number of administrative, managerial and strategic implications. For instance, either adding or subtracting two contender teams is a complicated problem. If the reader does not believe so, let’s consider FIFA´s never resolved dilemma on how to bring in 36 participant teams to the 2006 World Cup in Germany; and 20 years later, FIFA unsuccessfully attempted to take 48 teams to the 2026 World Cup, struggling on how to handle exponential growth across all the competition parameters. It became unmanageable, simply because FIFA was unable to design and adopt an appropriate forma solution. FIFA itself declared that it was mathematically impossible, to come up with a solution for bringing in, even, 4 additional teams. The same phenomena happen on attempting to reduce the number of teams / participants.

And, were nowadays sports organizers required to shrink competitions, such will pose an enormous challenge, especially themselves being in shock. Situation which they might not realize or, simply, would deny. The fact is that the latter is one of the stages which we are all experiencing now with the Coronavirus pandemic and its effects across sports.

From my own analysis, there are, at least, 7 stages which societies go through under the type of crisis which we are all experiencing.

1.​ ​ ​ ​ ​ The WHO declaration of the COVID-19 threat.

2.​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ Within the world of sports, understand that we are in ad affected from a pandemic reality.

​ 3. ​ React and suspend competitions: and experiencing a state of shock

4.​ ​ ​ Understand that existing ongoing and unfinished tournaments are unable to continue and highly likely to be completed as originally planned. No progress has been made at this stage.

5.​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ Take high level decisions for the possible diverse scenarios.

6.​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ To plan, in conjunction with experts, authorities and sponsors the continuation of the sports operations and business

7.​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ Communicate the continuity plan, independently from the date from which implementation will take place.

We are at stage 3 and yet, closer to stage 3 than stage 4. Sports organizers, namely federations and leagues, are in shock.

For such reason, in my experience, sponsors who invest in teams, events and players, must have a substantial say on how their monies, resources, mission statements and values are all effectively sustaining their sports competitions and bringing value to them and the public. It means that it is the time for sponsors to participate and have a say across the virtual /digital meeting rooms of sports organizers on what decisions will be taken for completing current sports competitions. Ultimately, sponsors and the public supply the most of the financing for sports.

Decisions on tournament formats and calendars, which largely determine how attractive and profitable sports events will turn out, are mostly defined by individuals or groups “in charge of so” within federations and confederations. Nevertheless, under the current state of shock and the upcoming challenges, solutions are far beyond accommodating calendars. Intense new realities and likely profound changes, require the support of experts prepared to bringing in professional business risk analysis, continuity plans and especially, innovative effective format solutions.


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 About the author: Leandro Shara is President and CEO of MatchVision, a company engaged in developing, modelling, assessing,and testing innovative competition formats for sports events. Contact: leandro.shara@matchvision.net