According to new research, Australians are divided around whether sports competitions will, or should, return.
Only 39 per cent are in favour of seeing sport return, with 61 per cent either against or undecided about a return to competition for the AFL, NRL, A League, Super Netball and Super Rugby in 2020. However, the followers of the affected codes tell us that when they do return their passion will be even stronger.
A Special Report from True North Research with over 1400 Australian sports fans has found that doubt and uncertainty about whether sport will return this year is strong. Prior to yesterday’s announcement from the NRL of the definite return of the competition on the 28thMay, only 43 per cent of Australian sports fans believed this would happen. Even amongst followers of the NRL (those faithful to the code) the level of belief sat at 56 per cent.
We would now expect NRL followers to have certainty that this will happen. However, for the followers of other competitions, the certainty of return is still low: AFL 52 per cent, A League 37 per cent, Super Netball 37 per cent and Super Rugby 25 per cent.
Do sports fans think these codes should return? Nearly two fifths (39 per cent) of Australian sports fans feel that at least one of the AFL, NRL, Super Netball, Super Rugby or the A League should return to competition this year.
However, 61 per cent are either against or unsure. So, it’s a nation divided. Georgie Maynard, director of True North Research, explained: “Australia’s Covid-19 numbers continue to track positively compared to other countries. However, there is still some work to be done to convince all quarters of the supporter base of the merits of a return to competition. From other research, we know 41 per cent of Australians are pessimistic or unsure of their own future over the next 12 months. So, of course there’s a level of doubt or uncertainty about whether sport should return. For many it is a signal of a return to normal life and a much-needed distraction but for others, it’s something that is irresponsible and even irrelevant given their own pressing needs.”
This doesn’t mean passion will diminish over time. In fact, fans will be even more passionate if competitions return to normal in 2021. Across all codes, 88 per cent of followers will be just as passionate or more passionate about these competitions next season. Only seven percent will be less passionate.
Maynard added, “Codes should continue to foster this passion by providing engaging content and keeping the conversation going with fans.”
These results are also important for sponsors and broadcasters to consider. “Certain organisations will have little or no choice about whether to continue their partnership at any level – they will need to put their business and employees first. But for others they will need to consider the reputational implications of their actions,” Maynard said.
She added: “We know sport is about emotion, so regardless of when sports do return, sports fans will remember those who stood by their team and those who didn’t. They’ll forgive some, but not all, for abandoning their league or team. Why is that? Because many sports fans will be experiencing difficulties and hardship through this period and if you walk away from their team when you don’t have to, they will remember. On the flip side, for sponsors looking for value, there is a golden opportunity, even now, to engage fans with their story and message, and when competitions do return, those watching will be paying closer attention.”
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