Sydney Kings owner Paul Smith believes sports fans will be more selective about what events to attend again after being ignored and disrespected in the past.
- Most sport in Australia was shut down earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic
- Rugby league has resumed behind closed doors, and the AFL will resume games on June 11
- Some leagues like the NRL are looking to bring fans back as early as July
The NRL resumed on Thursday behind closed doors and rival codes face a similar scenario when they start up again in the coming weeks and months after being delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
While it’s hoped at least some spectators will be allowed to return sooner rather than later, Smith suggested sports shouldn’t take it for granted that fans starved of live action will automatically return in huge numbers.
“We’re still yet to understand the propensity of the fans to return, in any sport,” Smith said.
“There’s not a great understanding right now, we haven’t seen a test case or a demonstration of fans saying ‘all right, I’m coming back’.
“We’ve got to work through a lot of things before we know where we stand.
Smith said that the key question — as yet unanswered — was what circumstances would lead fans to want to come back to live sport.
“That’s going to be a bit of a twister for all sports, understanding [on] what basis fans will return to buildings to be with us.”
Smith emphasised that the new world of sport was going to give fans a lot of power.
“I think this is going to impact on on the way people are treated in buildings and the prices they are charged for concessions and things like that and the quality of what they get,” Smith said.
“People are going to be a little bit more discerning.”
Basketball is one sport heavily dependent on fan attendance to keep its clubs financially viable.
The NBL on Friday said its season would not start until after the AFL and NRL had finished, meaning they were looking at probably commencing in November, rather than their usual October date of recent years.
That would also give them more time for the health situation to improve sufficiently for governments to sanction crowds at indoor sports venues.
“The lifeblood of the NBL is its fans and basketball is a product for live fan entertainment,” NBL owner and executive chairman Larry Kestelman said.
“We will be doing everything possible to start our season in front of our much loved fans.”