Football as a sport and as a business has taken a big hit due to Covid-19, which led to the stoppage of a number of leagues in the world in 2019. While some leagues and tournaments were postponed, others were completely cancelled altogether. For a better part of the year, the only professional leagues that were on were in Belarus and Nicaragua but starting July, top leagues started resuming, with crash programs to conclude their seasons.
Even as they resumed, the leagues continued making losses, with matches played behind closed doors as governments put up measures to stop, or slow the spread. While the game was back at the stadia, the industry still made losses without fans spending on match days.
Currently, a small section of fans is being allowed at the stadia to watch their teams play in what is believed to be the first big step towards the return to normalcy. It is very clear, Covid-19 will be here for a while and it will continue affecting the game but the football leadership around the world has made it clear that the game will be played.
In the Premier League in England, since Project Restart was mooted, the league management set Covid-19 protocols among players and staff interacting. Weekly tests were done and teams asked to stay at designated places as a measure of preventing the spread. Starting earlier last week, home teams were allowed a limited number of fans.
As football resumed in July, a number of leagues allowed for clubs to use up to five substitutions in a game, up to the three normally allowed. However, when the new season began, different leagues set their own rules regarding subs used and whether or not to allow fans at the stadia.
The premier league ruled to return to the three subs per game while UEFA okayed the used of five subs for Champions League and Europa League matches. In the event that the game proceeds to extra time, a sixth sub could be used. This was lauded by most clubs taking part in the European competitions and the fact that matches are played under tight schedules, having more players taking part is good to prevent burnout.
UEFA also allowed teams to go on with their matches as scheduled in their fixtures as long as they have 13 fit players, including a goalkeeper. Meanwhile, a new season of the CAF Champions League is on in Africa and just as it has been the norm, fans have been restricted in the matches as the tournament starts at the preliminary stages.
The past weekend had the preliminary rounds, with fans barred and as the competition heads to the first round, there will still be a restriction on the number of fans to attend matches with respective governments tasked with enforcing the Covid-19 protocols.
While different competitions have been setting rules to guide their operations and prevent the spread, top bookmakers have been coming up with incentives targeted at new and existing users. Among the incentives, are bookies sign up offers (source Wincomparator) and bonuses to get hold of, and keep users at their sites and these have been wide ranging. Some offer welcome bonuses, others free bets, promotions as well as wider markets to bet on events.