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Spotlight Asia - Part 2 (Sports Events & Operations)

Pre-COVID-19, projections were that the global sports industry would grow by 4.9% year-on-year to reach $135.3 billion in 2020. Projections have also indicated that just 26,424 of the 48,800 sporting events scheduled prior to COVID-19 will likely go ahead. The way that fans consume sport is changing, and although live sports will stay, consumption across digital platforms will increase exponentially. Leagues like ISL, CSL, J League, Pro Kabaddi League, etc. must use new innovative methods to engage and interact with their followers.

Recent Trends in Sport events

Increased security measures:

  • Location-based social media monitoring for keywords, which will help security staff identify threats before they happen, via real-time alerts.

  • UN's International Atomic Energy Agency loaned sophisticated radiation monitors to Rio for the 2016 Olympics, including portable scanners to detect traces of radioactive material. We can expect such equipment to be used regularly at future events.

  • Anti-drone technology is being introduced to combat the threat posed by unmanned aerial vehicles. Example - Australia-based DroneShield, Anti-Drone from Denmark, etc.


  • IOC's Agenda 2020 - sustainability be integrated into all aspects of planning for Games.

  • Tokyo 2020 - blueprint which sets out water, greenery and biodiversity-related targets to mitigate the impacts on water, atmospheric environment, soil and the ecosystem. Medals awarded to athletes in Tokyo will be made from metals collected from discarded or obsolete electronic devices.

  • University of Colorado’s Folsom Field - one of the USA’s greenest stadia - zero waste, offering recyclable or compostable food and drink containers and utensils.

  • Sacramento Kings’ new Golden 1 Center - 17,500-seat venue powered by solar energy, was constructed from local materials and sources 90 per cent of its food within 150 miles.

Digital ticketing:

  • It enables fans to buy match tickets, food, drinks and merchandise in stadiums through apps.

  • New York Yankees - banned print-at-home tickets for all home games (2016).

  • Benefit of digital ticketing – data: it allows clubs to garner insights about their supporters and their buying habits. The club can target each segment of their audience with offers to increase engagement and future revenue opportunities.

Better spectator services:

  • Stadiums providing Wi-Fi to spectators, club apps giving out information on free parking spaces, traffic, finding their seat, instant replays from multiple angles on their phone screens.

  • In-venue augmented reality services.


Some global events before 2023

World Combat Games 2021

  • Nur-Sultan (Capital of Kazakhstan) will host the World Combat Games 2021.

  • It will be the 3rd edition (after Beijing, 2010 and St. Petersburg, 2013).

  • Nur-Sultan - modern facilities and the country’s passion for combat and martial arts sports.

  • Venues - Martial Arts Palace, Alau Ice Palace and the National Velodrome.

  • Dates could be changed due to the corona virus pandemic, the aim is to host the Games in 2022.

  • Fifteen sports are included in this event.

World Masters Games 2021

  • Postponed to 2022, exact date will be announced shortly.

  • More than 14,000 competitors aged 30 and over had already registered.

  • Many of Japan’s roadways have been built with dedicated bike lanes. Bicycle sheds are common at railways stations and bike repair stations and bike shops are prolific.

FIFA World Cup 2022

  • 22nd edition of the FIFA World Cup.

  • First ever World Cup in the winter.

  • Shortest World Cup in 44 years.

  • World Cup Final - 18 December 2022 (Qatar National Day).

2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics

  • Second time the Olympics will be held in Tokyo.

  • The postponed games are set to cost $15.4 billion (most expensive Olympics ever), $2.8 billion more than initially projected. The updated budget includes $900 million for pandemic countermeasures.

  • First Asian city to host the Summer Olympics twice.


Key global event figures

  • The NFL used TikTok to draw 580 million views of a #GoingPro challenge to engage younger fans. Asian leagues can use similar short-video forms of media to engage their audience. Example - IG Reels

  • F1’s debut eSports Virtual Grand Prix pulled in 3.2 million online viewers across YouTube, Twitch and Facebook.

  • The inaugural ePremier League Invitational netted 150 million viewers.

  • Fortnite hosted a psychedelic virtual Travis Scott concert with 12.3 million people watching it live.

  • ESL Pro League viewership hit a new record of 489,120 concurrent viewers across all platforms. Average audience per minute was 164,494, a 215.5% increase compared with 2019

  • The Premier League’s 2020 social engagement is up 146% despite a reduction in post volume.

  • NBA drawing 119% more engagements across 13% fewer social posts.

  • Recent Bundesliga behind closed doors matches have seen 34x the number of viewers on BT Sport in the UK than average broadcasts.

  • 31% of US adults have been playing video games in the last 30 days and it is already a $139 billion a year (and growing) business: making it bigger than the NFL, NBA, MLB and the NHL combined.

  • ESL Pro League Season 12 Asia (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive)

    • Air time - 22 Hours

    • Hours Watched - 2,49,995

    • Average Concurrent Viewers - 11,194

  • Palestine Olympic Committee announced a virtual taekwondo championship organised by World Taekwondo and Palestine Taekwondo. Held from May 15-20, the competition was in five age categories and required athletes to produce a 10-second action video of their best combination moves, to be assessed by six international judges.


Event Operations

AFC COVID-19 Protocol

Below tables illustrates the AFC match operations protocol to be implemented during COVID-19 pandemic. It is aimed at minimizing the risk of COVID-19 by establishing standardized protocols with a focus on additional measures, which shall be applied to all matches held in the context of the pandemic. It is laid out based on relevant protocols from FIFA, Football confederations and Football Associations across the world as well as International Health Organisations.

  • Stadiums shall be divided into 4 zones to avoid overcrowding and to prevent any uncontrolled contact between the Individuals.

  • 3 to 6 ball persons shall collect and disinfect the balls out of play and place them on the cones. Participating Players will self-serve the balls from the cones, as necessary. (noticed in recent friendlies played by the Indian National Team)

  • The Host Organisation may play recorded audio (e.g. fans cheering, chants, goal celebrations) to create an atmosphere within the Stadium for matches played behind closed doors


How is Tokyo preparing for the Olympics?

The IOC is continuing to consult with the World Health Organization (WHO), to make every effort towards staging safe and secure Games. In that respect, the IOC and its partners have been developing a toolbox of COVID-19 countermeasures, which includes immigration procedures, quarantine measures, testing, personal protective equipment, contact tracing and also vaccinations. The IOC continues to strongly support the priority of vaccinating vulnerable groups, nurses, medical doctors and everyone who is keeping our societies safe.

The IOC calls for Olympic and Paralympic teams to be vaccinated given their role as ambassadors of their NOCs and given the role of sport “to promote safe sport as a contributor to the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities”. Therefore, the IOC will work with the NOCs to encourage and assist their athletes, officials and stakeholders to get vaccinated in their home countries, in line with national immunisation guidelines, before they go to Japan. This is to contribute to the safe environment of the Games, but also out of respect for the Japanese people, who should be confident that everything is being done to protect not only the participants, but also the Japanese people themselves. Athletes will be tested every four days inside the Olympic village. The first playbook of Covid-19 protocols published last month states that anyone who tests positive ‘must isolate in accordance with the instructions of the Japanese health authorities, which may be in a government-approved isolation facility’.

Olympic family members will be barred from the Games village. No overseas spectators will be allowed, also no extra or personal coaches. According to a poll, only 9 percent of respondents said the Games should proceed as scheduled; 32 percent said they should be cancelled. Tokyo 2020 is the most heavily sponsored event in the Games’ history, with $3.1 billion raised from Japanese companies. Among the domestic sponsors are Japan’s five national newspapers: Asahi, Yomiuri, Mainichi, Nikkei and Sankei. Each has its own affiliated broadcasting networks, directly or through subsidiaries. From the construction of state-of-the-art venues and unprecedented ticket sales to coveted broadcast rights, lucrative sponsorships and backdoor politics, years of commercialization — of the International Olympic Committee and of the world economy itself — have raised the stakes for the global sporting event to new heights, making each investment a greater gamble and every marketing opportunity that much more enticing.

Japan's tourism industry has been equally hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced officials to postpone the Summer Olympics in Tokyo to 2021. Japan's total tourism revenue loss of $26.027 billion over the first 10 months of 2020 ranks as the ninth-most of any country in the world. The tourism sector has been highly impacted and it’s difficult to recover all costs. A University of Oxford study says they are the most costly Summer Olympics on record. And its postponement will cost organizers and Japanese taxpayers an extra $2.8 billion.


The Tokyo 2020 "Playbooks"

The International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee along with the Tokyo Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games 2020 have developed a set of "Playbooks" containing guidelines and necessary information for anyone travelling to Japan for the Games. There are 6 different Playbooks:

  1. For Marketing Partners

  2. For International Federations

  3. For the Press

  4. For Broadcasters

  5. For the Athletes and Officials

  6. For the Olympic and Paralympic Family

Everyone travelling to the games has to agree to read and follow all the instructions mentioned in the latest version of their respective Playbook. Some common guidelines for all relevant parties to follow throughout their travel duration, as mentioned in the Playbooks:

  • Keep physical interactions with others to a minimum

  • Keep two metres distance from athletes and one metre's distance from others

  • Avoid enclosed spaces and crowds where possible

  • Use Games transport systems according to your own specific Playbook. Do not use public transport unless given permission

  • Practice good hygiene, including washing your hands regularly and wearing a face mask

  • Be ready to be screened (if required for your role) and tested for COVID-19 at different intervals throughout your journey

  • Make sure you have access to enough face masks to last throughout your stay in Japan

Every person travelling must download, install and register the Contact Confirming App ‘COCOA’ and other mandatory health reporting smartphone applications. If anyone who is a close contact of someone who tests positive for COVID-19 during the games, they will be informed via the COCOA app and/or called for testing by their respective COVID-19 Liaison Officer. They are expected to go for testing immediately after receiving the notification.


Top leagues in Asia

Indian Premier League (IPL)

The key sources of the income of IPL franchises are:

  • Sponsors

  • Ticket revenues

  • Merchandise

  • Advertising

  • Share from Central Revenues

  • Share from Central Media Rights

At the core of IPL's business model is the idea of inviting private firms to own franchises. When the franchise rights were sold at lofty prices, other firms saw value in investing in the tournament, and that is where the money came from. Some of the biggest conglomerates in India fight it out to get the title sponsorship of the tournament. The investors believe that IPL is a sure-fire bet as the entertainment industry will never go into recession and will continue to grow. IPL is a source of entertainment for millions. Besides, the BCCI collects hefty revenue by selling the media rights of IPL. In this revenue distribution model, the BCCI gains revenue from broadcasters and online streamers. It then shares this with the teams after deducting its share. The team which ranks higher at the end of all matches gets the highest amount.


Before the inception of the J.League, the highest level of club football was the Japan Soccer League (JSL), which consisted of amateur clubs. The JSL went into decline in the 1980s, in general line with the deteriorating situation worldwide. To raise the level of play domestically, to attempt to garner more fans, and to strengthen the national team, the Japan Football Association (JFA) decided to form a professional league. During this era, Japanese football investors travelled exclusively to Europe to find a possible model; eventually, the Japanese embraced the model of Germany's Bundesliga to develop its own professional league.

J.League officially kicked off its first season with ten clubs on 15 May 1993, when Verdy Kawasaki hosted Yokohama Marinos at the Tokyo National Stadium. In fiscal year 2019, Japan's top division professional soccer league, J1, generated approximately 89.12 billion Japanese yen in revenue. The annual revenue increased in all three divisions, compared to the previous year.

As of July 2020, the business revenue earned from sponsors in the J. League accounted for 49 percent of the League's total income. Sponsors were the most important source of income for soccer clubs in the J. League, followed by revenue from admission fees.

The Japanese FA started to think long-term and put a plan in place for the national game which involved the ambitious vision of a league consisting of 100 full-time clubs, not to mention the target of winning the World Cup by 2092. This vision was backed-up by implementing a two, and then later, a three-tier league format, which would grow as the nation neared its ambitious objective. Initially, the top tier consisted of 16 clubs and the second had just ten. This would later become 50 teams over three divisions; a clear illustration of how the sport has been embraced by the Japanese people. J1 (Top tier league in Japan) started with 10 teams and now has 20 teams.



AFC. (2021). AFC Match Operations Protocol During COVID-19 Pandemic (Edition 2021).

International Olympic Committee & International Paralympic Committee. (2021, April). Tokyo 2020 Playbooks. Olympics.

(2021, March 25). How money and politics dictate the Tokyo Games. The Japan Times. Retrieved from

MediaCom Sport & Entertainment. (2020, May). The Future of the Sports Industry.

( Sporting Asia, 2020)

(2020, December 11). Tokyo Olympic Games Sponsors pay US$ 3.3bn, but more still needed. Business Standard. Retrieved from

( Future of Global Sport, 2019)

ESL Pro League Season 12 Asia. ESports Charts. Retrieved from

25 years of the J-League: How Japan became Asia’s first football superpower. Football Whispers.

J- League grows audience abroad with English Social Media channels. The Japan Times. Retrieved from

This information has been compiled by Ashish Kothari and Sambit Mishra.

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Nov 30, 2021

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