Sport is a central pillar of British society.
Not just in terms of shared experience and associated culture but also in taking part and the numerous benefits it brings through exercise and social engagements. The lockdown has been particularly tough for sports enthusiasts.
Economically, like every other sector of the UK economy, sport has taken a big hit. We’ve previously written extensively about sport and insolvency but the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown have acted as an accelerant.
More than a game?
Not for the first time, football and it’s response to the predicament has split it down the middle. Fans, players, managers, CEOs, broadcasters, medical staff and government all have a vested interest in how the sport responds and so far it has been a little of everything.
Non-league football up to and including the National League have declared their seasons over as has League Two in the EFL. They have completed their season using a points per game formula to obtain a final league table and have accordingly promoted the top four teams.
League One are deciding how they will proceed but seem like they will vote to finish in a similar style while the Championship and Premier League are pushing ahead to play on and complete their seasons behind closed doors.
The government has given them permission to begin modified and social distanced compliant training this week with an expected resumption date to be June 12th under the aptly named “Project Restart”.
Playing in front of empty stadiums will be a new experience and not necessarily a positive one. The German Bundesliga restarted this week and the experience was described as sterile and unsettling.
Crowds are the scenery, backdrop and special effects at matches and without them the experience might not be as compelling as the authorities are hoping it will be for viewers and broadcasters.
Finishing the season and maintaining sporting integrity are just two of the issues facing football. The financial outlook for teams in an extended offseason is another.
Swindon Town Chairman Lee Power estimates that without immediate financial support from the government or higher up in the football food chain then 30/40% of clubs in League One and Two will be at risk of insolvency.
This is in addition to many lower league footballers contracts running out at the end of June and some teams such as Oldham Athletic and Macclesfield Town already struggling to pay staff on time.
Even if the season is completed in this truncated format, there will still be restrictions placed on crowds when the following season is due to start and fans might not be allowed into stadiums until at least 2021.
Football finance expert and insolvency practitioner, Gerald Krasner who has been involved with several football administrations underlines the financial imperative for restarting football at a time when less high profile industries are still locked down.
He said: “The reality is that people have managed without football for more than a month now and there’s a real danger that unless the momentum can be regained and fans can begin to watch matches on TV again, the impetus will be lost and the draw of football will be diminished in the long term.
“Unfortunately those clubs with wealthy foreign owners may not necessarily be immune from disaster either. If that was to happen, the television money would soon desert the game too.
“Overseas owners will be forced to respond to the effects of the global pandemic on their own finances and business interests, and for some that could mean that ownership of an English football club is simply no longer viable.”
And this, regardless of health and safety, is the prime consideration for the elite of English football.
Any “one” for Tennis?
Other sports, while not taking a direct lead from football, will be at least watching closely to see how any solutions play out.
Rugby and Cricket are looking to hold some kind of competition to avoid their 2020 seasons being written-off and Silverstone have announced that they are hoping to stage two Formula One races albeit in front of empty grandstands.
Golf and Tennis appear to be faring better at least in terms of participation as they were also allowed to restart in the first wave of recreational reopenings recently.
David Rickman, Executive Director of Governance with the R&A said: “We’re fortunate that golf lends itself to social distancing, so by making a few relatively small changes to the rules and the environment in which we play, we can make it safe for golfers.”
Of course most golf clubs will be operating at a minimal level initially as their bars, restaurants, golf shops and practice facilities will all remain closed.
Additionally, a majority of staff including green keepers remain furloughed so playing will be even more of a challenge for some although the clubs themselves will welcome any influx of income.
Now unlimited exercise is allowed, the demand for facilities will be as large as it is immediate.
Playgrounds, outdoor gyms and ticketed outdoor leisure venues will still remain closed but one-on-one sports such as tennis, basketball or even batting and bowling in cricket nets is now permissible as long as social distancing rules are observed.
All of these changes are based on the latest best practice and advice based on the Covid-19 infection rate continuing to fall. Any second wave of infections, or worse any that could be directly attributable to a sporting event, might mean a second lockdown and further restrictions throwing any further plans into doubt.
One of the key tenets of sporting faith is hope. There’s always another match or season. Always the chance to start again and win this time if you’ve suffered a defeat.
In business, administration can offer a similar hopefulness and route to redemption. A lot of otherwise good and profitable companies are finding themselves in terminal circumstances because of the Covid-19 pandemic but there could be a way for them or any business in difficulty to dust themselves down and start again on a level playing field when it’s time to go again.
If this sounds appealing or you’d like to know more than you can get in touch with us here.
We’ll arrange a convenient and free initial consultation with one of our expert team of advisors who can begin our dialogue.
Once we have a clearer view of your business, it’s financial situation and immediate circumstances, we can help you plan out an effective and efficient way forward for you and your business.