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Post-lockdown sports diplomacy : what critical mass ?


Is sports diplomacy only feasible when the level of return on investment is high enough to interest private investors ? Does it depend on a critical mass in response to market logic, or does it also have a future where the yield is low ?




Member of the Sport and Citizenship Think Tank’s Scientific Committee



It is a question worth asking, since the return to competitions after the lockdown (Covid-19/Coronavirus) will definitely mean a reduction in the number of spectators present. We do not actually know whether transcontinental travel linked to sport will be back to what it was before, even though a reduction would seem to be better for the environment. Where the relevant stakeholders recognised the usefulness of sport as soft power, will their commitment to diplomacy survive a drop in this source of revenue?

First of all, we need to remember that the importance of ticket sales has declined compared to the financial weight of associated rights, including, above all, broadcasting rights. Twelve years ago, Wladimir Andreff highlighted the fact that the traditional SSSL business model (Spectators, Subsidies, Sponsors, Local) had been replaced by the MCMMG model (Media, Corporations, Merchandising, Markets, Global). And yet every sports brand depends – also – on the presence of spectators visible in stadium stands, arenas, ice-rinks and race-courses. If a fall in the number of spectators present led to a fall in revenues, would sports diplomacy still be so important ?

“How can the public be involved ?”

Although it is effective, the place of sport in diplomacy has only recently been recognised, perhaps because of the vital role played by international sporting bodies. Sports diplomacy remains a vulnerable, contested terrain, the target of accusations of diplomatic collusion – risks which will not be forgotten by private investors. It may be that the public powers have a role to play precisely where the market actors hesitate.

Sport et citoyenneté