Research question: Pull effects in attention from smaller leagues towards bigger leagues have been under discussion. Nevertheless, causal empirical evidence on such attention interception is non-existent, and the suspension of sport leagues during the COVID-19 lockdown provides a perfect context for examination. The purpose of this study is to test whether the fan interest towards smaller leagues suffers from the presence of bigger leagues.
Research methods: While COVID-19 suspended top professional football worldwide, the Belarus league remained active. We used daily follower statistics (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube) three month before, during, and three months after the lockdown. Since we have these statistics for Belarus clubs as well as for 847 lockdown-affected football clubs (48 first division leagues, N max= 142,139), we use a difference-in-differences approach to estimate the effect of the shock caused by the lockdown.
Results and findings: Results indicate an increase in social media attention (throughout all social media channels) for Belarus clubs after the worldwide lockdown. A decrease was then observed after the revitalization of worldwide professional football leagues. The growth rates slowed down to an almost before COVID-19 level after the restart of other leagues.
Implications: First, keeping a league open during a pandemic boosts consumer/fan attention, which may lead league organizers and club managers to maintain a league open longer than advised by national health authorities. Second, since bigger leagues seem to pull of attention from smaller leagues, they could compensate the smaller leagues (financially or non-financial) for the loss of fan interest.
- football leagues
- sport fans
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management
- Strategy and Management