From Bobbleheads to Buffalo Wings, Supply Chain Chaos Hits Sports

·2 min read

From Chicago Sky championship gear to youth football helmets, pandemic-related effects are continuing to wreak havoc on supply chains more than 18 months after COVID-19 first flipped the sports world upside down.

Tuesday, it was Upper Deck’s turn to bear bad news. The card company announced that it was canceling the releases of two of its NHL products, citing “production and supply chain management” challenges that it didn’t expect to improve until “mid-2022 at the earliest.” As Upper Deck does battle with digital collectibles upstarts, its newest setback is part of the cost of doing business in physical reality.

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MLB started its playoffs without the typical commemorative patches on uniforms for the first time in 10 years, reportedly because the league couldn’t reliably deliver the items to teams in time, nor could it produce them in quantities necessary to sell to fans. In an interview, Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly said that even he wasn’t able to get a Max Scherzer jersey with a playoff patch.

In the stands, fans have been shorted promotional items—like in Atlanta, where the Braves canceled Austin Riley bobblehead night last month—“due to supply chain issues,” of course.

Those issues, experts say, are numerous and globe-spanning. At a high level, they explain, western consumers’ demand for goods has grown faster than other countries’ ability to produce those items. Vietnam, in particular, is facing a so-called factory crisis as COVID-19 spreads. In China, power outages are contributing to delays.

But even once products are made, problems remain. Shipping times are up as lines back up at ports, especially in Southern California. The trucking industry is so short on drivers to pick up the materials once they’re offloaded that Congress is considering letting teen truck drivers take the wheel.

At the final destination, labor shortages add yet more complexity. Before this season, the Denver Broncos’ stadium announced they would be “streamlining menu items” to minimize the impact on fans. Elsewhere, everything from buffalo wings to wine bottles to broadcast equipment has been affected.

With the holiday season around the corner, the expectation is for things to get worse before they get better. Maybe it’s best to just ask for NFTs this year.

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