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Sports have access to a larger audience than ever thanks to internet streaming and independent television channels, while smartphones means that fans never have to miss a moment of their favourite game, no matter where in the world they are. This increased coverage also means that fans have a greater say in the sports they want to watch, support and play, and the landscape of competitive sport is changing as a result. From the modernisation of existing sports to the invention of brand new ones, this article looks at how sports are being ‘rebranded’ for a 21st century audience.
Cricket is one of the most popular sports in the world and also one of the most traditional, dating back to 16th century England. The sport is played in various formats, such as ‘first-class cricket’, where teams play two innings each, typically playing for at least six hours a day over a three to five day period. As a result, these matches are very long and attract only the most dedicated spectators.
To bring cricket to a modern audience, the sport needed a makeover, and in 2003 the Twenty20 World Series was born. The shorter, one-day format not only fills seats at the grounds but lends itself to prime-time evening TV coverage. The fast-paced style of play demands a high level of fitness from all players. More so than traditional formats, the Twenty20 World Series is based on excitement and entertainment value: for example, just like in baseball, players wait on benches in full view of the audience to build a sense of anticipation, and matches are often sandwiched between impressive displays of fireworks, cheerleaders and dancers.
Twenty20 has been wildly successful and there has even been talk of making it an Olympic event.
When J. K. Rowling wrote about the magical game of Quidditch in the Harry Potter series, little could she have guessed that it would one day be adopted by muggles! The real-world sport, where teams score goals and dodge ‘bludgers’ from their state-of-the-art broomsticks, has a dedicated international following, with teams across Australia, the United States and Europe. Despite the obvious setback faced by non-magical folk – the inability to fly a broom – that hasn’t stopped players from donning their cloaks and giving it their best shot.
Founded in Vermont in 2005, the sport has developed from a campus kick-about to a globally-recognised sport, which since 2012 has had its own International Quidditch Association (IQA). The IQA had a difficult task on their hands convincing the world that the sport is not just a fad, but they appear to have done a great job: the website describes Quidditch as a ‘co-ed, contact sport played by over 300 teams around the world.’ Contact sports are known for their element of danger, proving that Quidditch is not for the faint hearted!
2012 saw the first Quidditch ‘Olympics’ played in the English city of Oxford, and last year, the sport made it onto TV for the first time, which is a sign that things are just ‘taking off’ for the broom-riding teams.
At first, it is difficult to imagine a professional sport involving a Frisbee – after all, most people associate the plastic discs with beaches and barbecues. But with major tournaments played all over the world and recognition from the International Olympics Committee, Ultimate has proved that it is a sport that deserves to be taken seriously.
Ultimate was developed in the United States in the 1960s and today is governed by the World Flying Disc Association (WFDF). A fun and fast-paced sport, Ultimate is physically demanding, with players taking spectacular dives or ‘laying out’ to catch a wild disc, which many believe would make great TV viewing.
The sport is unusual in that matches are not refereed and rely instead on good sportsmanship to ensure fair play. But while a nod to its hippie heritage, this is also one of the reasons Ultimate has yet to make it to the Olympics, where events must be refereed. For the players it seems the ‘spirit of the game’ is more important than the mainstream sport scene.
In recent years we have seen cricket get a modern update, Quidditch brought to life and the disc throwing become the ‘Ultimate’ sport. These are just some of the sports that have a global base of players and fans, and it will be exciting to see how things develop over the next few years!
About the author
Vicky writes for cricket experts 3dsports.co.uk who are delighted to see Twenty20 bring the sport to a wider audience. As for her own sporting prowess, she enjoys martial arts and yoga, but she has yet to attempt riding a broomstick.
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