Coronavirus makes the biggest global sports events disruption

Cvetanka Cvetanovska | Published 13 Mar 2020, 3:13 p.m.

Sports leagues, events and conferences across the world are responding to the coronavirus outbreak by postponing seasons and cancelling events. On the same day, the NCAA announced that March Madness league will be played to empty arenas. In the meantime, an NBA player tested positive for COVID-19 put the season and sports betting activities on hold.

NCAA cancels March Madness tournaments

The NCAA advised that events should not be open to the public, as this refers to all the sports that it governs. As a result of this, the March Madness competition would not be played in front of an audience. Attendance will be restricted to staff members and their family only. This decision will definitely tackle the sports betting industry in many countries, including Michigan’s recent fresh start on these activities. 
The decision is in the best interest for the public health and wellbeing, including that of coaches and student-athletes. The move came shortly after the Athletic Coast Conference suspended all games, practices and other involved activities.


While March Madness would still be held, the breaking news came today when the Utah Jazz Center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus. Not only was the game postponed, and fans were sent home confused, but the entire NBA season has been put on hold. Earlier in the day, it was reported that the league considered to continue the games with no fans in attendance, as the decision from NCAA. However, not suspending the games would put the entire league at risk.

The Baseball Major league has not made any decision about postponing their season. But, since Washington State and San Francisco banned large public gatherings, the league would consider relocating the games. The English Premier League games will continue the games for now, but without any fanbase on the stadiums. Streaming the games in pubs and public places will be strictly forbidden.


The NHL which is approaching the end of its regular season confirmed it will also cancel its events, with COVID-19 spreading across US and Canada.

The NHL is attempting to follow the mandates of health experts and local authorities. At the same time, they will prepare for any possible outcome without taking unnecessary measures. However, following last night’s news that an NBA player has tested positive for the virus, it is not recommended to continue playing tournaments at this time.

How will it affect the UK and betting industry

As the virus spreads across Europe, governments and sporting bodies are taking action to limit the pandemic’s impact. In Italy, the lack of an action plan led to a country lockdown. The Prime Minister of Italy imposed a “stay at home” policy in which travel is allowed for family or work emergencies.

This measure had a significant impact on Italy’s gaming industry. Many providers were forced to close betting shops and cafes, following the government’s policy. At this moment, the UK has 590 confirmed cases of COVID-19. If the situation escalates, could we see a similar impact on the UK’s betting industry?

UK retail betting is already experiencing some difficulties after last April’s reduction of maximum stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals to £2. Most publicly traded UK gambling companies face many challenges these days. Even those that mainly operate online notice a significant uptick in the online gambling activities.

William Hill’s revenue fell 13% for the year 2019, to £1.2bn. In today’s trading alone, this operator took the worst hit with a 24.2% drop to £92.5. Playtech’s stock dropped 15% to £176 and GVC Holdings’s stock holds onto £526 with a drop of 17%.  It is important to note that these are the daily drops. This underlines how big the price drops are between these providers, putting thousand job positions at risk.

As we move into April, the chances of major sports events being cancelled will get bigger. With a summer of planned sports events ahead of us, such as the Summer Olympics in Tokyo and European Football Championship across Europe, things are very uncertain. However, fans are crossing fingers and hoping that the situation will alleviate soon. In the meantime, follow the issued Government policies and global WHO recommendations on the current situation.