Advancement in science and technology has helped to bridge the gap between physical and digital realms, with the metaverse being one such creative platform that offers completely immersive, virtual, and augmented reality experiences. Despite being a relatively new concept, the metaverse is likely to gain popularity in the coming years, alongside similar three-dimensional virtual technologies such as Sandbox, Decentraland, Somnium Space. These platforms are increasingly popular among gamers, due to their ability to integrate different technologies to offer users the ultimate immersive virtual experience.
Despite this increasing popularity, the applicability of such platforms in sporting events is yet to be fully understood. Unlike gaming, large sporting events are competitions that have typically been held physically at a specified location and time based on agreed rules and standards. Such events are associated with economic development in the hosting nation which underlines the interest of countries to host them.
With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, however, sporting activities and events were disrupted globally, leading to a loss of revenue for organizing committees and other stakeholders. Due to these disruptions, technologies such as virtual and augmented reality that were already common among gamers slowly gained popularity within the sporting domain and the metaverse became an important platform for sports, such as the introduction of e-sports through the FIFA 20 video game by the Premier League.
Although the potential for sports revenue generation can be much higher in the metaverse than when viewed physically, there are substantial challenges for the metaverse of sports such as the lack of privacy and transparency in contractual agreements and their jurisdiction.
This article aims to explore the prospect of the metaverse platform in the sporting arena, arguing that although the market size of the metaverse is predicted to grow exponentially over the next few years, effective adoption, and utilization of metaverse platforms for sporting events will require addressing unique challenges.
Main Advantages to Hosting Sorting Events in the Metaverse
- Increasing the number of viewers, as no limitation is placed on the number of people who can attend virtual events. For example, La Liga’s FIFA 20 video game tournament was watched by approximately 170,000 people.
- Increasing and diversifying revenue by reaching more fans. According to Bloomberg Intelligence, the metaverse may generate USD 200 billion through live concerts and sporting events by 2024.
- Enhancing fans’ experience by adapting virtual venues’ structure and design depending on the event as well as allowing spectators to engage in other activities while watching sporting events through the metaverse, such as listening to music, shopping, and interacting with friends and players.
Main Challenges to Hosting Sporting Events in the Metaverse
- Determining jurisdiction and creating sustainable regulations. One major challenge revolves around determining contractual agreements, who owns them in the metaverse and how they can be resolved whenever there are problems.
- Ensuring interoperability and scalability of the different technologies necessary for the metaverse, as Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLT) are numerous and all are their infancy, making it more challenging to ensure that they can communicate despite the variations in formats, types, and forms.
- Lack of privacy. Technologies used in the metaverse, such as extended reality (XR), equipped with sensors will collect and use biometric data to determine sensitive information.
- Lack of inclusivity. People with fewer means may not be able to afford the technologies that allow access to the metaverse, such as headsets for augmented reality and virtual reality. Thus, the metaverse may exacerbate existing inequality along the racial and gender lines.
Despite the challenges, the metaverse has a promising future. The authors of this paper have the view that as the world goes Meta, it is only a matter of time before sporting events follow, culminating in its application in the context of mega sporting events, such as the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup.