COVID-19’s Lasting Impact on the Sports Industry: Financial, Legal, and Innovation

39 Pages Posted: 21 Jul 2020 Last revised: 17 May 2021

See all articles by Maureen A. Weston

Maureen A. Weston

Pepperdine University - Rick J. Caruso School of Law

Date Written: 2020


The COVID-19 pandemic has wrought unprecedented havoc across the globe. Every sector of society has been impacted and forced to change business as usual, to re-evaluate priorities and systems, and to innovate amid the unknown and possible lasting impacts of this threat to public health and commerce. Sport worldwide is also profoundly impacted. Since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020, nearly all competitive sports have been suspended, postponed, or cancelled, raising significant questions about how to deal with the severe financial impacts, legal issues, and when and how to resume play safely amid continued uncertainty. Like other sectors, the impact on sports is likely to far outlast the pandemic. Sports has been, and will continue to be, forced to pivot, innovate, and remain vigilant to survive as an industry and to ensure player, personnel, and spectator health, safety, and security. Recognizing that the crisis is not yet over and the impact of COVID-19 on the global sports industry is in the nascent stage, this article nonetheless seeks to examine the impact of COVID-19 on major competitive sports, from a financial, legal, and problem-solving perspective. The article contends that, while many financial, legal, and practical outcomes remain pending and unresolved, the rules for operating sports as we knew it have changed. To survive, sport must put safety first, anticipate and plan for this and future crises, innovate, and find common ground, despite technical force majeure rights that could pose a disparate impact on one party, to preserve industry and the very sports we adore. The challenges and lessons that can be learned from this crisis will have a lasting impact on and throughout the sport industry.

Keywords: COVID-19, coronavirus, sports, sports law, force majuere, NBA, NCAA, NHL, Olympics, Olympic Games

Suggested Citation

Weston, Maureen A, COVID-19’s Lasting Impact on the Sports Industry: Financial, Legal, and Innovation (2020). 61 Santa Clara Law Review 121, Pepperdine University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2020/21, Available at SSRN:

Maureen A Weston (Contact Author)

Pepperdine University - Rick J. Caruso School of Law ( email )

24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90263
United States

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics