By Bernd Debusmann Jr
Core Worldwide CEO Don Idrees says that spectatorless sports may be the norm for a year or more
Sports events held without spectators in the stands may take place for a year or more in the region as a result of lingering concerns caused by Covid-19 pandemic, according to Don Idrees, the CEO of Dubai-based Core Worldwide.
Over the last few years, Core has brought a number of sporting events to the Gulf region, including the World’s Ultimate Strongman in Dubai’s Meydan last year. It has also held high-level MMA and boxing events in the region.
The Covid-19 pandemic, however, led to dramatic declines in business as live events and sporting competitions were cancelled.
“Our revenue went to zero. All forms of revenue went to zero within a period of one week,” Idrees said. “By March 15, we were making nothing, and that was a hard day at the office.”
In response, Core turned to spectator-less sports streamed online, including ‘Feats of Strength’, a remotely produced event in which strongmen in various countries attempt to break world records.
According to Idrees, similar events may become a fixture of the world’s sporting calendar for the near-future.
“We’re thinking ahead in terms of spectator-less sports,” he added. “If things go back to normal, or there is a ‘new normal’, we’ve got a new business line.”
Such events may continue for up to several years, depending on whether a vaccine for Covid-19 is found and when authorities deem it is safe to hold mass events.
“It could potentially be another year. I hope not, but it could be another year of made-for-TV only sports,” he said. “Nobody really knows. Nobody alive today has been through something like this.”
Once the pandemic is over, Idrees said that Core plans to re-start expansion plans in the Middle East that have been put on hold, particularly in Saudi Arabia.
“Saudi Arabia is very promising. Combat sports are always going to be interesting to the Average Joe,” he said. “It’s just human nature.
“Is the Saudi public hungry for entertainment? Is His Highness [Mohammed bin Salman] building a new Saudi Arabia? It’s absolutely happening. There’s such big potential for events,” he added. “We are really looking forward to it.”
In early May, Core announced that Core will be putting on a fight between famous strongman Eddie Hall and Haftor Bjornsson, a strongman made famous by his appearance as ‘The Mountain’ on HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’.