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Impact of COVID-19 on the sports sector

Sporting events around the world are being postponed or cancelled by governing bodies in a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Several governing bodies have taken action: the Football Association has suspended the 2019-2020 professional football season, UEFA has delayed Euro 2020 until the summer of 2021 and Formula 1 has postponed a number of races with a view to announcing new race dates later on in the 2020 season. Similarly, The Championships, Wimbledon have been cancelled for the first time since 1945 and the International Olympics Committee has decided to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games to the summer of 2021.

This will have a profound impact on sports governing bodies and their respective participants, in particular as the measures remove matchday revenues (such as ticketing, food and beverage, car parking and VIP/corporate hospitality revenues) and adversely affect commercial and broadcasting revenues as some broadcasters elect not to pay their broadcasting rights instalments. There are some estimates that UEFA will suffer a loss of EUR300 million as a result of postponing Euro 2020, and the Premier League recently warned that the league could lose as much as GBP1 billion in revenue because of the indefinite postponement to the season. Similarly, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) is facing estimated revenue losses in the region of GBP45 million to 50 million as a result of the disruption from COVID-19, and losses in horseracing are estimated at GBP50 million a month as a result of unexpected falls in the Levy – racing’s central funding system.

The effects of COVID-19 are likely to have a more profound impact on sports clubs that are heavily reliant on matchday revenues as their main source of income. Unless those clubs use government support, employee wages will continue to be a significant expenditure and they may face financial difficulties. It is of critical importance for these clubs to understand how to act and the options that are available to them.

This note sets out the position as at the date of publication, and we continue to monitor the situation and the evolving measures implemented by the government, sports regulators and clubs. Read our report on the impact of coronavirus on the sports sector at