The world of 2022 looks very different to the one we knew 25 or 30 years ago. The way we work, the things we do to relax, even the way we communicate with one another have all changed dramatically. At least the world of sport remains much the same. The NFL season in the USA, the Premier League in England, Wimbledon tennis, the Ryder Cup – it’s all much as it was in the 1990s.
Except that’s not entirely true. Sure, those traditional leagues and tournaments are still highlights of the sporting calendar. But there are also a growing selection of new sports that are vying for our attention in the busy world of 2022.
By far the biggest disruptor, eSport has challenged our very concept of sport. Its popularity in Asia is on a scale that is hard to comprehend in the west, but the phenomenon is a global one and eSport is gathering new fans across the board. Those who like to bet on sport as well as watch it are well catered for here. Any good betting app will have at least one or two eSports to choose from. The most popular eSport games are battle arena games like CS:GO and DOTA 2. However, virtual versions of real sports are also becoming popular, with events like the FIFA ePremier League attracting TV coverage.
If you are more a do-er than a watcher, you just have to give pickleball a try. A little like a cross between badminton, table tennis and tennis, participation in the sport grew by more than 20 percent in 2020. It’s proving particularly popular among over-50s and is being hailed as the new savior from the world’s obesity epidemic. Whether it quite manages that remains to be seen, but what is clear is that the strong grass roots popularity is rapidly promoting professional pickleball leagues. It might not be a common feature on the sports channels today, but give it a year and it will be.
Traditional motor racing is facing difficult times in this age of carbon neutral sustainability. While F1 does what it can with its hybrid power units, a whole new sport of drone racing is gradually gathering momentum. It’s ideally suited for the tech age, as not just the pilot but anyone spectating can get a driver’s eye view with a feed from the FPV goggles. Fans were touting it as the next big spectator sport five years ago, but back then the technology was still in its infancy. Over the next year or two, expect to hear a lot more about it as the big name sponsors and betting companies start to get involved.
Finally, not a new sport but one that has evolved with tremendous speed. 20 years ago, MMA was seen as one step removed from bare knuckle brawling. Today’s UFC stars are respected athletes, and fight nights generate millions in PPV revenue, while boxing is the combat sport more likely to be seen as archaic and even barbaric. What’s changed here? Absolutely nothing in the sports themselves, but a whole lot in the businesslike way MMA has been marketed over the past 20 years.
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