With pandemic affecting everything around the world, and various governments forcing several restrictions on how to conduct oneself or a business, irreparable financial losses are being faced by businesses. Sports industry is not different. The global value of the sports industry is estimated at US$756 billion annually and COVID-19 has impacted this projection in more ways that one. To safeguard the health of athletes and others involved, most major sporting events at international, regional and national levels have been cancelled or postponed – from marathons to football tournaments, athletics championships to basketball games, handball to ice hockey, rugby, cricket, sailing, skiing, weightlifting to wrestling and more. The Olympics and Paralympics, for the first time in the history of the modern games, have been postponed, and will be held in 2021.
The Sports Industry is a major contributor to social and economic development. Its importance to facilitate coaching for aspiring sportspersons seeking guidance through training and coaching, to nurture budding talent for all their recognition/laurels/achievements is recognised by people and the governments. Community Sports, for instance, present ample opportunities for the general public to have interaction and participation in events with established sportspersons. The training by trained coaches/trainers helps amateurs sharpen their skills and professionals could move on a well guided direction to enhance their ranking.
However, because of COVID-19 all the training and activities at the community sport centres has hit a break. Suddenly, the need to follow law of the land has risen for getting things back in action and re-think community sports in the new normal world around us. In view of the above, number of associated stakeholders, big or small, are facing newer challenges to ensure their ROI considering their legal positions on contracts/agreements (be it land owners or event organizers as none had perceived such situation and the absence of fall-out/termination and force majeure clauses), permissions considering health and safety guidelines, controlling expenditure on existing manpower, training and development, marketing/publicity expensing, cash-flows etc. Therefore, there are much strains and many obstacles on a promoter’s lap that need to be countered to mitigate risks in future.
Like many other natural calamities and pandemics the world has seen in past, cautious measures are required for starting, stabilising and growth in this industry. The focus, henceforth, may largely be on contracts/agreements, all-round training and development of employees, health and safety concerns for all, appropriate insurance to mitigate perceived losses (man, material etc), dos and don’ts in the complexes, detailed standard operating procedures, obligations and responsibilities of all/associated stake holders.
In India and with missing sponsors and media, the private operator’s day revenue is clocked by utilising available facilities on “Pay & Play”, “Training & Coaching” and “Corporate Days/Events” (involving various sports in an arena where multiple sports activities can be conducted). The more organised operators do have live streaming of events on Facebook/Instagram in addition to making photographers and videographers available during the event to derive a marginal added advantage on their price-tags and by seeking a minimum guarantee on attendees. The sponsored events by corporates are few though.
The industry itself may be in new territory with newer paths to follow but with right strategies. With regulatory authorities/Governments freezing activities of contactable sports and permitting few non-contactable sports like Badminton, Table Tennis, Tennis only for single participation and Golf following safety protocols/physical distancing as of today, one may hope to see opening of team sports and contactable sports soon to save the industry from bigger losses.
Sport is a major contributor spelling objectives and consequent advantages. Covid19 pandemic in the world has necessitated physical distancing and other safety protocol measures. The outcome is a disruption in routine life-style and that includes sports and physical activities. Many individuals are not able to actively participate in their regular individual or group sporting or physical activities outside of their homes. Under such conditions, many tend to be less physically active, have longer screen time, irregular sleep patterns as well as worse diets, resulting in weight gain and loss of physical fitness. The idea of sports is to go out in open and play for being physically and mentally active. This cannot be achieved in a closed door atmosphere and/or by use of electronic devices. It is important to maintain physical fitness, maintain endurance to be alert and swift. It is agreed that the concept of adapting to an online training session is prevalent these days but is useless for any aspiring youngster and a professional. This may be good for stretching, meditation, yoga and dance classes.
The transformation, therefore, becomes important aspect in these defied conditions. Following recommendations seek support on safe re-opening of sporting events and conduct tournaments in order to maximize benefits that sport and physical activity can bring in the age of COVID-19 and beyond.
➢ Governments should work with well-regulated Sports Complexes under controls of Sports Authority of India, National Sports Academies and Private Operators.
➢ These may collaborate with health and care services.
➢ All centers must have appropriate and competent staffing for better results.
➢ All schools and civil society organizations representing various social groups should support physical activity at large under the protocols and progress recorded.
➢ The Governments (Center and/or State) should also provide stimulus package and overdraft facilities with long repayment period like being done for Center and State-regulated Sports Complexes/Stadia.
At the end, India needs to progress all-around at this stage. There should be financial build-ups and physical abilities improved in all segments for better outputs. All operators following SOPs/protocols may be recognized, ranking given, allocation of schedules with the expectation of results may be assigned to be progressive. These can be controlled by periodical checks/visits/progress. This is the only way forward to keep the Sports Industry healthy and competitive.
The article has been authored by Karan Bhalla, Director, Sports Maidan