Sport – after 136 days
pressed hope that they would allow 30 per cent of supporters to return.
Surrey’s 1,000 socially distanced fans – which meant using every other row of five blocks and ensuring at least two spare seats between each booking (whether an individual or family of five) – actually equated to only a 21 per cent occupancy of those blocks. That might sound marginal but, as Surrey chief executive Richard Gould explained, sport’s future viability will hinge on such issues.
“It’s a good start and we are delighted to be back, but 30 per cent is not viable [financially] and, if it stayed at that for the next year or two, it would certainly not work,” he said.
Asked what sort of capacity would be needed to make sports viable, Gould said: “You would need to be getting north of 60 per cent. We need to be back to normal next summer. If not, the structure of not just our sport but all sports will need to significantly change. If you go back 120 years, you go back to a time when the chief executive is an unpaid honorary treasurer and the players are paid beer money. We don’t want that to become normal.
“If we don’t get crowds back in at some stage then maybe more clubs will become part-time organisations.” Surrey usually derive 90 per cent of their revenue from people coming through the gates and only 10 per cent from Sky Sports and the ECB. That ratio can be almost reversed for smaller counties but, with non-match day events and conferencing generating around £6million in a normal year, it is clearly critical for counties such as Surrey to reopen their venues as soon as possible.
Gould hopes that the Government might be persuaded to allow 10 to 15 per cent of fans for the forthcoming Bob Willis Trophy, but knows there is also a more intangible imperative. Getting fans back inside the Oval was also about re-establishing routines and connections. It is why Gould, who stressed that it had already been almost a year since most fans could watch live cricket, was always more than happy in the knowledge that just staging this match – with 100 staff for the 1,000 fans – would come at a loss. “People have been really sensible – sports supporters love their club, they want to be here,” he said. “Sports are clubs. They are families. For many people, it will feel as if they have come home.”