A bright spot for a small league: social media performance in a football league without a COVID-19 lockdown

Daniel Weimar, Lisa Holthoff, Rui Biscaia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
198 Downloads (Pure)


Research question: Pull effects in attention from smaller leagues towards bigger leagues have been under discussion. Nevertheless, causal empirical evidence on such attention interception is non-existent, and the suspension of sport leagues during the COVID-19 lockdown provides a perfect context for examination. The purpose of this study is to test whether the fan interest towards smaller leagues suffers from the presence of bigger leagues.
Research methods: While COVID-19 suspended top professional football worldwide, the Belarus league remained active. We used daily follower statistics (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube) three month before, during, and three months after the lockdown. Since we have these statistics for Belarus clubs as well as for 847 lockdown-affected football clubs (48 first division leagues, Nmax=142,139), we use a difference-in-differences approach to estimate the effect of the shock caused by the lockdown.
Results and Findings: Results indicate an increase in social media attention (throughout all social media channels) for Belarus clubs after the worldwide lockdown. A decrease was then observed after the revitalization of worldwide professional football leagues. The growth rates slowed down to an almost before COVID-19 level after the restart of other leagues.
Implications: First, keeping a league open during a pandemic boosts consumer/fan attention, which may lead league organizers and club managers to maintain a league open longer than advised by national health authorities. Second, since bigger leagues seem to pull of attention from smaller leagues, they could compensate the smaller leagues (financially or non-financial) for the loss of fan interest.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-442
Number of pages22
JournalEuropean Sport Management Quarterly
Issue number3
Early online date1 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in European Sport Management Quarterly, on 01/04/2021, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/16184742.2021.1903527

Copyright © and Moral Rights are retained by the author(s) and/ or other copyright owners. A copy can be downloaded for personal non-commercial research or study, without prior permission or charge. This item cannot be reproduced or quoted extensively from without first obtaining permission in writing from the copyright holder(s). The content must not be changed in any way or sold commercially in any format or medium without the formal permission of the copyright holders.


  • COVID-19
  • compensation
  • football leagues
  • lockdown
  • sport fans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management
  • Strategy and Management


Dive into the research topics of 'A bright spot for a small league: social media performance in a football league without a COVID-19 lockdown'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this