It was an ordinary Friday evening in Paris. People poured into Stade de France to watch an international soccer friendly between France and Germany. Just across the city an American band, EODM, was hosting a concert in the Bataclan Concert Hall. The energy in Paris was high – it was Friday night after all. But the scene in Paris would soon turn from one of excitement to one of terror.
In the aftermath of the Paris Attacks – as the horrific series of events is being named – the entire world has been stunned. Everywhere on social media one can see “#PrayforParis”. Pride and support for the nation is at an all time high, yet so too is the concern for the safety of people everywhere.
The event was a product of ISIS, a militant Islamic terrorist group, who was all to proud to take credit for the events, as well as take the moment to threaten the world with more terrorist attacks – all through Twitter.
This was the first time that a major sports venue had been targeted for a terrorist attack. And with so many major sporting events occurring in stadiums around the world, it leaves the public wondering ‘Could we be next?’.
Changing the Game
The attacks on Paris affect sports in many different ways. Automatically, people become more concerned about their security while attending a sporting event with a huge crowd in a stadium atmosphere.
Since the attack on Paris revolved around Stade de France, everyone who walks into a stadium now will have that concern resonate in the back of his or her mind. Thus the most obvious affect the Paris Attacks will have on sporting events will be increased security.
Secondly, the Paris Attacks will have an affect on sporting attendance. People who would go to games before hand will now think twice about it. Casual fans will be incredibly hard to attract to games given that they were indifferent on attending in the first place. Even the idea of increased security will play a factor in the attendance of games. The inconvenience of going through a full body pat as well as a metal detector will be a major turn off for fans. Rio Ferdinand, a former captain of the English national soccer team said, when talking about the upcoming EURO 2016 tournament, “Next summer France will host the European Championships but it will be a very different tournament. The intense security that will undoubtedly be needed will take away the freedom and joy that these events bring”. The sporting events may suffer attendance as a result.
Thirdly, sporting events lose their “magic” when events like this happen. In an article written by ESPN reporter Eli Saslow on the affect 9/11 had on sporting events in the USA 10 years afterwards, he says:
“We crave the escape of sports more than ever — a decade later, attendance, ticket prices and TV audiences are at or near record highs — but we watch them differently. After 19 hijackers sneaked into our airports and disguised their way onto our planes, we are less likely to accept almost anything at face value. Instead of trusting our games, we watch and we speculate: How? Why? This is the age of skepticism, of outright cynicism, when we are not surprised to learn that our champions needed steroids to succeed or that college athletes are as corrupt as the system under which they must nevertheless abide. We were not naive before 9/11. But there is less belief now, less magic. The once-flimsy barrier between players and fans has hardened. Athletes are on occasion required to carry ID cards to board their own team buses, and many hire their own security details.
Every fan is a potential threat. Every athlete is a potential fraud.”
Even though sporting events, after major catastrophes, can be sources of escaping reality, they still harbor the feelings cultivated in the aftermath. People become more engrossed in the speculation than the reality, and as a result fans become less fanatic and sporting events lose the energy they had – if only for a time.
The Sports Calendar
In 2001 the sports calendar was virtually rearranged following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. According to an article from Sports Media Watch, the NFL completely postponed the games of the following weekend, which caused the 2002 Super Bowl to be played an entire week later. Following suit, the entire college football schedule was postponed a week as well. Other notable sports leagues such as MLB and NASCAR postponed seasons for entire weeks as well, leaving the MLB World Series to be played in November for the first time in history.
Now this may not entirely pertain to the situation following the Paris Attacks, given that no sporting events have (yet) been postponed or changed. The international soccer friendly between France and England was rumored to be cancelled, yet the decision was made to continue with the game as scheduled.
However, the sporting event that will have the biggest impact from the aftermath will be UEFA EURO 2016. The international soccer tournament is scheduled to be played in France during the summer of 2016, an idea which is causing some major concern.
In the Sports Business Journal, the EURO 2016 Organizing Committee President, Jacques Lambert is quoted saying “I’ve said it several times before: security is the biggest thing at stake for Euro 2016.” The article goes on to say “…there is “speculation” that the tournament could “be canceled for safety reasons.” While “acknowledging that ‘anything is possible,’ Lambert was adamant that this should not happen.”
Even the EURO organizers themselves are hesitant that the tournament may take place. If the tournament were to be cancelled it could cost the organization and the sponsors billions of dollars. Going back to the situation after 9/11, when the MLB considered cancelling the Wild Card weekend. This would have cost the league “$70-75M in rights fees if the wild-card weekend is canceled, as each wild-card game is valued at $17-21M.” So if an entire internationally popular soccer tournament was cancelled, it could cost an unfathomable amount of money.
This blog post is written by Samford University student Corey White. You can learn more about Corey White at https://www.linkedin.com/in/corey-white-617a8bb1