Digital transformation Operations

The impact of the global pandemic on professional sports

Watch the full recorded broadcast above.

As COVID-19 has spread across the world in recent months, professional sports leagues, tournaments, and events have either been radically modified or shut down completely. These unprecedented shutdowns have resulted in a devastating economic and business impact. When will professional sports return and how will the return be managed?

On Thursday, June 18, 2020 The Ivey Academy’s Dave Simpson, MBA '88 was joined by a panel of sports professionals, including Laurence Applebaum, HBA ’94, CEO, Golf Canada; Christine Simpson, Reporter, Sportsnet & Hockey Night in Canada; and Stacey Allaster, MBA ’00, CEO, United States Tennis Association, to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on professional sports from a leadership and media perspective. The panel talked about how cancellations are impacting players, employees, sponsors, and fans; the significance of a return to sport; innovation shown by sports-related businesses during the pandemic; and social justice in sports.

Key webinar content

Core topics

  • The current challenges facing the United States Tennis Association, Golf Canada, sports media, and professional athletes
  • The impact of no longer being able to have fans in attendance during games
  • Forecasting growth in television audience size and the importance of television revenues
  • The significance of the return of sport and what it means to fans and businesses
  • Examples of sports facilities innovating to serve the needs of their customers during the pandemic
  • The responsibility of leagues and sports associations to balance jurisdictional inequities between teams and organizations as we move into a recovery phase
  • Social justice in sports and a rise in athletes speaking out

Memorable quotes

“There’s a real responsibility for the governing bodies of sports to put their best foot forward because the (popularity of the sport) effects a lot of people. After the Bianca Andreescu craze and the Brooke Henderson craze, the number of young women playing tennis and golf has gone through the roof. We need to do everything we can to keep that momentum alive.” – Dave Simpson

“I am determined … we need to speak about (racism in sports), we need to have uncomfortable conversations, but then we need to figure out what actions we need to follow through with. For me personally, and for us as a company, that’s what we’re working on now.” – Christine Simpson

“Part of our jobs as leaders during COVID is to give everyone hope … Sport brings people together and it gives them hope.” – Stacey Allaster

Additional reading

Allaster ready to make history at historic US Open, TSN 
Sharks’ Logan Couture: Speaking up was ‘an easy decision’, Sportsnet 
Sportsnet Coverage: The sports world stands against anti-Black racism, Sportsnet 
Fans Want Sports. Sports Want Fans. But It's Not That Simple., New York Times 
What's it like to play in front of no fans? We asked the guys already doing it, ESPN 
This is how COVID-19 is affecting the world of sports, World Economic Forum 
Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on sports events around the world, Reuters 
Golf Canada COVID-19 updates and resource page, Golf Canada 


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About The Ivey Academy at Ivey Business School
The Ivey Academy at Ivey Business School is the home for executive Learning and Development (L&D) in Canada. It is Canada’s only full-service L&D house, blending Financial Times top-ranked university-based executive education with talent assessment, instructional design and strategy, and behaviour change sustainment. 

Rooted in Ivey Business School’s real-world leadership approach, The Ivey Academy is a place where professionals come to get better, to break old habits and establish new ones, to practice, to change, to obtain coaching and support, and to join a powerful peer network. Follow The Ivey Academy on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.