At the drive in
Conversations about how professional sport might return are growing more serious in several territories and there already some creative ideas about how to get supporters involved. That said, the next innovation will have to go some to improve on that of Danish soccer club FC Midtjylland.
The Superliga leaders have floated a scheme that will allow them to convert the car park at their MCH Arena into a free drive-in cinema. Up to 2,000 vehicles will be able to watch one of two big screens showing live action, with TV commentary piped into car radios and live footage of the car park relayed in the stadium itself.
There will be a section for away fans and prizes for the best use of team colours. Fans can have food delivered to their cars and a protocol is being developed for those who need to make an additional stop.
“We hope, of course, that this will be done from home,” said Midtjylland marketing director Preben Rokkjaer in an interview with Danish newspaper BT, “but if you are going to the toilet, you have to flash the lights, then a guard will come and pick you up and make sure the toilet is cleaned afterwards.”
Denmark’s top flight is aiming for a 17th May restart. Restrictions on some business operations have begun to lift in the country over the past week.
Making themselves heard
Not every ground in the world has access to a venue-adjacent lot, of course, so Toronto-based startup ChampTrax wants to bring in a supporter soundtrack from further afield. Its HearMeCheer app would aggregate input from microphones in participating fans’ smartphones, tablets and computers and convert them into commingled crowd sounds using ‘low-latency algorithms’.
The idea, as 19-year-old founder Elias Andersen told SportTechie, is to play the audio during games behind closed doors. A beta version of HearMeCheer has been trialled during Chinese Professional Baseball League games in Taiwan, and Andersen says he has spoken to several broadcasters and two of the four US major leagues.
Some live sports are better suited than others to the rigours of social distancing. The Professional Darts Corporation – led by on-the-mend promotional impresario Barry Hearn, happily recovering well from a mild heart attack earlier this month – has come up with an inventive way of getting competition going again. As the name suggests, the ongoing Darts At Home series will see the world’s leading players in action across 32 nights, with all the games held at, and streamed from, each individual participant’s house.
Logistically, with no one forced out of isolation, it provides a solution to the problem of staging live events right now, but it does present a few quandaries of its own. One is that darts owes much of its extraordinary recent success to its raucous big-night-out atmosphere, its presentation, and the theatre of the two players’ interactions. With all that gone, it’s back to basics – very, very basics – as a viewing experience for the time being.
Other drawbacks have been a little more mundane, but very much of our time. In a double career first, two-time world champion Garry Anderson and former World Grand Prix winner Daryl Gurney were forced out of the championship with insufficient or unreliable Wi-Fi connections.
Wear something, but not that
In most sectors, rules for teleconferencing attire have not yet progressed much beyond ‘smart casual top half, hopefully something bottom half’. But when the NFL welcomes its newest players this Thursday to Saturday for its first virtual draft, its restrictions on what players wear will be a little more specific. ESPN vice president of production Seth Markman has described the draft as one of the most exacting broadcasts he has worked on – a mock version on Monday ran into an early glitch when, brilliantly, not enough of the 32 team GMs were on mute on a Microsoft Teams call – but the dress code is almost as exacting.
A 15-point document seen by NBC’s Pro Football Talk details the league’s expectations for those popping up on webcams as commissioner Roger Goodell reads their names out from his basement. Some of these protect the rights of sponsors – item one prohibits the wearing of ‘third-party logos other than those of NFL Official Licensed Partners; Nike, Adidas, UnderArmour, and New Era’, while item three says the same of ‘non-NFL sports organisations or leagues’.
Garments bearing ‘racial, religious or ethnic slurs’ – a pretty bold choice of attire for any new recruit, it has to be said – are also out, along with those carrying ‘obscene’, ‘pornographic’, ‘violent’ or ‘sexual imagery’ or language. References to alcohol, tobacco, ‘illicit substances or activities’ and gambling are also targeted, as are libel, hate speech and ‘political statements’. There must be no promotion of ‘pharmaceuticals’ or ‘dietary and/or nutritional substances and products commonly referred to as “energy drinks”’.
Clothing cannot carry ‘derogatory statements’ about or ‘depictions of’ the NFL or its partners, or any ‘explicit language’, ‘libel or hate speech’ or ‘references to movies, video games, and other media that contains or promotes objectionable material or subject matter’.
Or to put it another way, it might be best to stick with ‘smart casual top half, hopefully something bottom half’.
Former Chicago resident of the week
One-time University of Chicago Law professor Barack Obama reminisces about the Bulls’ historic 90s NBA run in Netflix and ESPN’s documentary series The Last Dance.
Not all athlete-led content can be as polished as this TikTok dance entry from Australian cricketer David Warner.
Reality check of the week
Only 53 per cent of the 49,803 major sports events originally scheduled for 2020 – those with expected crowds over 5,000 – are likely to take place this calendar year, according to projections by Two Circles. The data-driven agency has dramatically revised its estimates for global industry revenue in 2020 – saying overall incomes will now hit just US$73.7 billion rather than US$135.3 billion, which would have marked a 4.9 per cent rise on 2019.
Value hunt of the week
Consultancy and valuation group IEG estimates that $10 billion in sponsorship value will need to be recovered in the US due to the sports and entertainment shutdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. According to its IEG Outlook 2020 survey, 64 per cent of sellers believe they will make up all lost exposure but only 45 per cent of sponsors agree.
Alarming scientific stance of the week
Personally, I am opposed to vaccination, and I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel. But if it becomes compulsory, what will happen? I will have to make a decision. I have my own thoughts about the matter, and whether those thoughts will change at some point, I don’t know.
World men’s number one tennis player Novak Djokovic makes an eyebrow-raising revelation during a conversation with several other Serbian athletes on Facebook on Sunday.