In our modern society, we sometimes neglect just how old certain parts of our everyday life really are. So much can be linked back to well over 2,000 years ago. Early forms of government, industry, economy, farming, have been around for much longer than we might realise.
This also, of course, applies to sports. We’re all well aware of the Olympics, which originated in Greece. Events we still see in the Olympics today, such as the long jump, javelin, shot put and running events, actually originated way back then. Then, slightly more recently, sports such as Soccer date back to the 1400s, Baseball to the 1700s, and Ice Hockey to the 1800s. Over time, all of these sports have developed and progressed into what we know today. But arguably, one of the biggest transformations of modern times has been the rise of the internet, and its role in the sports industry, and more specifically on online sportsbooks.
Sorting out the broadcasting rights for sports so that fans could watch games online was a huge step in spreading it worldwide. Now, fans of Real Madrid, the Spanish soccer team (who supposedly have 252 million fans across the globe) are now able to watch all their games, streamed directly to their laptops, tablets or smartphones, no matter where they are located. This sort of thing would have been unthinkable before the internet came into our lives. Not only that, sports teams now upload short clips and highlights of their games to YouTube, so anyone can see all the excitement in bitesize chunks, and easily share it with their friends and family.
Previously, the only place to follow your favourite team was by going in person to watch their games, or maybe if you lived locally, listen to matches on the radio. Then came the invention of television, which opened up teams to a much wider fan base. Now the internet has increased that even more the reach of these teams that they are now global enterprises.
A key part of the internet, and its role within the sports industry that can’t be ignored, is social media. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have become a huge part of our everyday lives, and more specifically how we consume sport and how we interact with other fans of our favourite teams. There really is nothing else in the world, where a person in the US and another person in China can have a shared passion which they can talk to each other instantly about, other than the mutual love of a specific player or team.
Sports franchises have gotten wise to this fact, which is why there are now dedicated social media teams employed by clubs, specifically to engage with fans from all different cultures. Take Manchester United for example, another of the world’s most popular soccer teams. They have official Twitter accounts in English (26.9 million followers) and Spanish (1 million followers), as well as dedicated fan accounts in French, German and Chinese. This ability to connect with fans, via the internet and online social media platforms, has in essence only just begun. While Manchester United claim to have 142 million dedicated fans worldwide, in ten years time it would be no surprise to see that number doubled.
This might all sound like a one direction interaction, but sports social media is not just fans sending messages to players without any kind of response. These famous stars are now incredibly active on social media themselves, posting regular updates about training, keeping people informed about recovery from injuries, or just letting them know what they’re up to in their private life. This sort of access has never been seen before, and it is only growing and growing. Soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo has a staggering 337million followers on Instagram. Virat Kholi, captain of the Indian Cricket team, has 149 million followers. Lebron James, 4 x NBA Finals MVP and Los Angeles Lakers small forward has 96 million followers. This is because fans are just dying to know what their favourite players are up to and are thinking about. Again, while the number of followers seems astronomical now, we expect these numbers to rise even more in the next five to ten years.
Sports betting is another facet of the industry that has seen exponential growth in the last twenty years. Gone are the days when bettors had to visit betting shops, where they could only place bets on sports and matches occurring in their local area. Now, there are literally thousands of online sports betting companies, who will offer odds on anything from horse racing in Hong Kong, to Ice Hockey in Russia. Being able to bet on any competition in any time zone means that teams (and whole sports) that were previously unknown, are now receiving wider recognition, because of the continued rise of the sports industry on the internet.
Obviously, we could have listed hundreds of more reasons for the role the internet has played in the sports industry, but we feel these are some of the key ways the two are so intricately linked.