The Daily Telegraph - Business : 2020-09-23

Sport Covid Crisis : 13 : 5

Sport Covid Crisis

5 The Daily Telegraph Wednesday 23 September 2020 *** Most can see that they can’t carry on spending on wages and fees while the pyramid collapses when it is safe for partially full stadiums, and then eventually full capacities, there will have to be changes made to that old contract between clubs and their fans, who will have to be coaxed back. Certainly, it feels that ticket prices will have to be revised if grounds are to be close to full again. At the biggest clubs, there will be fewer overseas tourists filling the seats and paying the premium prices. In the meantime, Premier League clubs have been directed to invest heavily in Covid-safe protocols, and there is anger that clubs are not being trusted by government to manage the return of socially distanced, part-full grounds. A study carried out alongside the Sports Grounds Safety Authority estimated the Premier League could get fans back in all 20 stadiums immediatel­y, with an average across all of them of 23 per cent occupancy. That would still represent a loss of £540 million in revenue across the season, as well as added costs of £16 million in implementi­ng safety measures. Elsewhere in Europe, the Premier League clubs see other leagues taking greater strides, especially Germany, where some Bundesliga clubs already have permission from local authoritie­s for fans to return to stadiums in smaller numbers. Meanwhile, English football faces possibly another six months without crowds in stadiums and a reluctance among its wealthy elite to bail out those on the brink while it is prevented from bringing fans back itself. By Ben Coles Match report, P13 Saracens playing a waiting game with threat to second tier to one of stark pessimism. Racing returned to a full fixture list at the start of this month and, although racing was not daft enough to pin all its hopes on crowds coming back on Oct 1, its recovery plan was based on the imminent return of racegoers and this delay will severely impair its funding structure, in some cases irrecovera­bly. While some are forecastin­g an exodus of good horses to France, where the prize money is better, David Armstrong, chief executive of the Racecourse Associatio­n, has predicted 30 per cent of the country’s 1,800 full-time racecourse staff across 59 tracks would lose their jobs when the Government’s furlough scheme ends in October. “Some may feel large racecourse­s are immune,” he said, “but they face the same financial challenges, only the numbers are bigger.” 1,000 people socially distanced and stood around the pitch without sitting in the stands,” he said. “That would help cover the general cost of playing a match. His Coventry counterpar­t, Jon Sharp, added: “We need to make a fundamenta­l decision. Do we say this season is off ? And we just forget it and plan for 2021-22 and beyond?” These are pertinent issues for Saracens as well, who are readying themselves for their new life in England’s second tier. With speculatio­n rife that they might be allowed into an expanded Premiershi­p for the 2021-22 season, if the Championsh­ip does not start, director of rugby Mark McCall admitted the uncertaint­y was “really worrying”. “We had a plan for a mid-December start in the Championsh­ip, but that may have to change,” he said. Armstrong described yesterday’s news as “incredibly disappoint­ing”. “All sports are suffering from zero admissions income and racing is no different. It’s imperative discussion­s continue with Government to highlight the economic impact,” he said. The British Horseracin­g Authority, RCA and Horsemen’s Group put out a joint statement asking the Government for financial support. It said: “Our industry is facing a severe threat. We are the secondmost attended spectator sport in the country. Without the millions who enjoy a day at the races, many people’s jobs are in are at serious risk, as are the businesses they work in.” Nevin Truesdale, acting CEO at the Jockey Club, was more direct, saying: “Now is the time the Government need to step in and provide support, as they did when awarding £1.57 billion to the arts in July.” By Charles Richardson Saracens could be left in limbo next season as several Championsh­ip clubs yesterday warned that they could not afford to start the season without crowds. England’s second tier was preparing for a worst-case of no league rugby until March, with some clubs being forced to lay off players under a force majeure clause. The chairman of Nottingham, Alistair Bow, said he was hopeful his club could show they could have some form of crowd. “We could get

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