The last 18 months have been tough on us all. The majority of the world has seen people having to spend large portions of time indoors, unable to go outside and spend time with friends or family. It frustrated us all, as getting some fresh air and socialising is a key part of keeping our mental health in check. Instead, our sofas became our new best friends, as with nothing else to do, it forced people to spend more and more time in front of the television.
Streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime saw a huge number of people sign up to their services, to watch shows like Tiger King, The Last Dance and Jack Ryan, often bingeing these shows in a matter of days as there was little else to do. Did these shows make up for not being able to go to a restaurant or a bar with your nearest and dearest? No, but they certainly proved to be a useful distraction during a difficult time.
The world of sport was hit very hard during the pandemic, as pretty much everything was either cancelled or postponed, other than obscure soccer leagues in eastern Europe which, for some reason, were allowed to continue. So when things slowly began to start up again, fans were desperate for any kind of sporting content to consume. The German Bundesliga was the first to begin, with people all over the world suddenly becoming honorary Schalke or Borussia Dortmund fans, so they had a team to cheer on while their own sides were unable to play. Fans and bettors were devouring the best sportsbook online, looking for odds on these teams and players who a few months before they’d never even heard of. It shows the lengths people are willing to go to if they have been denied sport for a long time!
La Liga in Spain slowly began to start up again in June 2020, with matches being played every single day for over a month, before the penultimate round of fixtures, which were held on the 16th and 19th of July. Real Madrid was crowned as champions for a record 34th time, while Mallorca and Espanyol were unfortunately relegated. These games were played out without any fans, so millions tuned in to watch the action unfold.
COVID-19 restrictions were still in place for the whole of the 2020/21 La Liga campaign, meaning fans had no option other than to watch the games on TV. Despite this, it appears that viewing figures for La Liga have actually been down in 2021 when compared to other years. How can this be? Let’s have a look at some of the factors that might be a cause of this drop.
If the pandemic proved anything to sport, it is that crowds and fans are a key part of creating an atmosphere and an enjoyable viewing experience. Without them, the whole thing becomes far more difficult to enjoy. Fans watching at home had two options- watch games with artificial crowd noise, that TV companies had added in, or without any noise at all, leaving every kick of the ball being eerily heard in the empty stadiums. Neither options were ideal; the fake noise sounded very fake indeed, often being several seconds behind the action. The no noise option made every match seem like a training game, and thus not particularly important. This can certainly be seen as a major factor as to why the viewing figures dropped over the past 12 months.
Because there were no fans in the grounds, La Liga and the companies who owned the broadcasting rights decided that it would be a good idea to show as many games as possible live, so that fans weren’t missing out on any of the action. What was meant to have a positive effect actually ended up having the complete opposite- with so much choice, and with games often spread out over the weekend so they were all at different times, it meant people were actually less likely to tune in unless their side were in action.
With no crowds to entertain, it certainly seemed like the players were putting in less effort than usual. It makes perfect sense; when there are thousands of fans cheering your name, you are much more likely to run faster and try harder than if you are surrounded by an eerily quiet stadium. This then had a knock-on effect, with La Liga fans turning off the games as they became far less enjoyable to watch.
There are plenty of other reasons why La Liga viewing figures have been down in 2021. Let’s hope that now the stadiums are pacted, people begin to tune in again like they did pre-pandemic.