The Daily Telegraph - Business : 2020-09-23

Sport Covid Crisis : 12 : 4

Sport Covid Crisis

4 The Daily Telegraph Wednesday 23 September 2020 *** Sport FCoovtibda­clrlisis Sam Wallace parts of all industry sectors are not being asked to administer financial rescue packages as the Premier League is in football. Even the most venal Premier League club executives, however, can see that they cannot carry on as usual, spending on wages and fees while the rest of the football pyramid collapses beneath them. In the rougher seas of the English Football League, the pandemic has already picked off Macclesfie­ld Town, a catastroph­e before the Covid era and finally liquidated last week having been relegated from League Two last season, when the EFL successful­ly appealed against the suspension of a four-point sanction. That ruling saved Stevenage, a well-run community club who did much for the people of the Hertfordsh­ire town once lockdown struck – but what now? The financial oblivion facing the EFL can be laid clear at Stevenage, who survived relegation to non-League by the skin of their teeth last season, only to face life without supporters in their Lamex Stadium until perhaps next year. “It is going to be tough,” says Stevenage chairman Phil Wallace, contemplat­ing yesterday’s news. “I don’t think a lot of clubs can survive until next year.” Stevenage have played two league games this season, and it was at the opening home match against Oldham on Saturday that the situation can be laid out in its starkest terms. Season ticket sales for 2020-21 are already down between £75,000 and £100,000 from what the club would have budgeted for. On Saturday, they would have expected to make £30,000 on walk-up tickets for this game alone. The club’s takings at the bar and food would have brought in another £5,000 to £7,000. All that was wiped out. Instead the club received just £7,000 from the EFL’s iFollow streaming service. Wallace estimates the club’s losses this year at anything from £750,000 to £1million. Stevenage live within their means and do what they can to use their stadium for events – another business that has been killed by Covid – but without a bailout they and many others will struggle to survive. How many fans will return even when it is safe to do so? The habit of a lifetime has been broken. Even Chief Football Writer Folly to assume fans will rescue game from abyss Clubs facing financial oblivion have a job to coax supporters back when it is safe for stadiums to reopen turnstiles click again? Perhaps many fans have already seen their last game at a beloved old stadium in a familiar seat or spot on the terrace, not knowing back then in those pre-Covid days that a terrible reckoning was coming for the club they followed. The Government’s decision to delay indefinite­ly the Oct 1 return of fans to sporting events has put intolerabl­e strain on clubs famous and not so famous across all sports, and never more so than at those where the chief source of revenue is people through the turnstiles. The Premier League clubs do not want to contemplat­e bailing out the English Football League until they have an assurance from government that they will be able to start admitting fans again. Within football, Sean Dyche is not alone in asking why the wealthiest A question begs itself: how many clubs in League One and League Two will be left by the time the gates open and the Behind closed doors Key events spectators are set to miss in next six months Curbs put paid to indoor team sports for winter Mood is heavy as hope of racegoers’ return is dashed extended to all adult indoor team sports. Indoor elite sports and leagues, however, are expected to receive special dispensati­on to continue, in keeping with their early return from previous lockdown restrictio­ns. That means that the Netball Superleagu­e and the British Basketball League can theoretica­lly resume without crowds, as can children’s indoor team sports and individual indoor sports. Recreation­al netball leagues had been due to start next week and with five-a-side football, volleyball and basketball also affected it means some of the most popular recreation­al sports now face being curtailed for the winter. Sports, however, are expected to consider how they could adapt games to six or fewer people and could present proposals to the Government. Some traditiona­lly indoor activities could continue outdoors, although concerns over injuries, lack of facilities and bad weather would be certain to impact hugely on a sport’s capacity to attract regular participan­ts. Crucially, Johnson did not announce the wider closure of gyms, leisure centres, swimming pools, exercise classes or individual indoor sports such as badminton, trampolini­ng or table tennis. The sport and leisure sector has returned in a limited form since July according to strict protocols in relationsh­ip to hygiene and social distancing, and believes that it has shown that it can sufficient­ly mitigate risk. Huw Edwards, the chief executive of Ukactive, the national body which represents public and private leisure centres and gyms, said that “the Government needs to ensure any changes are based on the evidence provided on the safety of the sector and a full understand­ing of the implicatio­ns to the sector”. The restrictio­ns and loss of some of the most popular activities will also affect the usage of leisure facilities, which are already in a perilous financial situation and have asked for a “comprehens­ive support package”. According to Edwards, they are now “staring down the barrel” and have sought interventi­ons that combine investment, tax incentives and regulatory reform. An £800million request to sustain public sector gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools to next March was also made last month. Almost half of all community leisure facilities are at risk of closure, including 1,300 by the end of the year. By Jeremy Wilson By Marcus Armytage CHIEF SPORTS REPORTER RACING CORRESPOND­ENT Running behind closed doors meetings has been a successful model in terms of allowing racing to continue during the Covid-19 pandemic, but it is financiall­y unsustaina­ble for a business which relies on spectators for 50 per cent of its income. Official confirmati­on that crowds would not be allowed back on Oct 1 and a reference to that taking “up to six months” has changed the mood of optimism among racing’s rulers Mass participat­ion indoor team sports, including netball, basketball, five-a-side football and volleyball, will be unable to fully return as part of new measures to slow the spread of Covid-19. In what is a major blow to millions of recreation­al players, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that it was “time to tighten up the rule of six” and that a maximum six-person gathering would be

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