Sport – af­ter 136 days

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport -

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.”

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