The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of disruption all over the world, and sports has been one of the worst-hit. Many sports leagues and competitions have had to be suspended, rescheduled or even cancelled due to the virus, with some extremely popular and high-profile tournaments being hit. The Olympics, supposed to be held in Tokyo this year, have been postponed by a year, as has the European Football Championships. Tennis has seen the French Open be postponed to September, while Wimbledon has not taken place at all, for the first time since the Second World War.
However, with some countries beginning to ease restrictions and open up, we are also seeing sports make a tentative return. Football, for example, has made a return across most of the European leagues, as well as in the USA, but there are still quite a few issues and problems being faced by leagues and clubs, especially the smaller ones.
Maltese football is an example where things are not yet back to normal. One of the biggest problems due to the ongoing pandemic has been caused because of the travel restrictions in place. Because of this, Maltese clubs are struggling to bring their new signings into the country. Several Maltese clubs are going to start playing in UEFA competitions in a few weeks, but have been told that foreign players arriving from countries which are not on the safe travel list must spend 14 days in quarantine in one such country before being allowed into Malta.
This is an unfortunate series of events, especially as there has been some advancement in the sports field in Malta during this pandemic. Specifically, INTRALOT has launched its AI-driven betting solution in Malta, through its Maltese subsidiary Malco Lotteries. Malco Lotteries, which also provides online casino live roulette games, has said that this product will include pre-game and in-match markets for tennis and football, along with simulated reality events, powered by SPORTRADAR, which will be AI-driven matches that are simulated by computers and will reflect the ebb and flow of real matches. These simulations will be based on historical data and trends for the teams involved in the simulation, with algorithms determining the results and scores.
Coming back to the actual sport in the country, clubs have proposed that new signings be allowed to complete the quarantine period in Malta in order to reduce delays. This is important, as clubs, especially those taking part in the UEFA competitions, have already started pre-season training and they will face issues in terms of integrating their new signings into their squads due to such delays.
Qualifying rounds for next season’s UEFA Champions League and Europa League are due to begin in mid-August, leaving clubs with very little time to finalize their preparations. Additionally, teams which are looking to sign players from countries still hit by the travel-ban, may have to rapidly change their plans in order to be able to prepare in the best way possible for the forthcoming commitments.