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Financial strife awaits sports properties after further Covid-19 measures

The most recent restrictions spelled out by the UK government, amid the rise in Covid-19 infections, is set to have a profound impact on sports organisations and clubs.

Plans for the phased return of spectators to sports events has been halted as part of the tighter measures in place to suppress the coronavirus upsurge. With the latest restrictions set to be in place for six months, the sports industry will unquestionably require government support. A multitude of clubs, organisations and jobs face real danger of collapsing.

The lockdown implemented in March cost Premier League clubs a combined revenue loss of around £1 billion. According to Deloitte’s analysis, £500 million of the revenue loss is permanent, primarily due to match-day revenues and rebates on commercial contracts.

However, it is the lower league and non-league football clubs that will suffer the most. The National League, due to begin on October 3, is set to have its start date pushed back with clubs heavily reliant on gate receipts and match-day income.

MP Steve Brine, member of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee said that the government will not support Premier League clubs, however will have to provide a support package for clubs lower down in the pyramid.

“Of course there was a possibility of getting some fans back and in big football stadiums you can socially distance quite well with your best season ticket holders, but it is not about that. It is about getting to the ground and all the different services around. It is the social interaction which as much as we may love it, is not essential.

“I guess it was always inevitable there was going to be a pause on this given the virus stats going in the wrong direction, but there is no question the government needs to think about helping lower league football clubs to save themselves and they are going to have to step in.”

The income losses are not limited to football. Chief Executive of the Rugby Football Union (RFU), Bill Sweeney, laid out the stark reality for his sport.

“Premiership and Championship clubs will face significant financial hardship. Our community rugby clubs, many of which run grounds at the heart of their communities, are under threat.

“From the outset we have been clear that an autumn without crowds would leave us with little choice but to approach the government for financial help.

“Unfortunately, we are now in that position. Without support we are in danger of clubs at the heart of communities across England, as well as players and volunteers, disappearing forever.”

A similar outlook awaits Cricket, having already suffered a £100 million loss as a result of the health crisis, it is thought that figure will double with further disruption in 2021. In a statement, The England and Wales Cricket Board said: “The impact of having to stage cricket behind closed doors again next year would be very severe.”

DCMS Secretary of State, Oliver Dowden issued a promise to work with sports to limit the damage. He tweeted: “I’ve just held a meeting with major spectator sports to discuss today’s decision to help contain the virus through winter. We agreed to work together to help them through this period.”

Author: Charlie Farmer