Uncertainty around the return of sport looms over the sport industry with revenue being affected in all areas from the sale of club merchandise to player endorsements and sponsorship appearance fees.

With revenue concerns on the rise, the return of sport is highly anticipated. This however also comes with concerns for player safety. The return is therefore dependent on how quickly the world is able to flatten the curve of infections.

These concerns arose from a discussion on the implications of Covid-19 for sport, which was hosted by the director of the Wits Institute for Sport and Health (WISH), Professor Jon Patricios and other panelists on Tuesday, April 14. .

When looking at the loss of revenue experienced by the sporting industry, Dr Jerome Mampane, a sports physician and a doctor for the Springboks, said, “Match revenues are affected, sale of food and beverages are affected, including the various vendors and industry players that are involved in this.”

Mampane also emphasized the hit that clubs have taken financially through sales of merchandise and memorabilia as well as hospitality packages. “Clubs may be finding themselves now with costs that are suddenly not being met with because they don’t have any revenue.”

He went on to give the account of an athlete affected by sponsorship and competition revenue loss. “He mentioned that the funding he would receive would be about R15000 from the IOC (International Olympic Committee) as a potential Olympian. And then the other funds that he would make are from sponsorship appearance fees and also they’ll be competition appearance fees and winning bonuses… In the current climate we’re in, especially in South Africa, those kinds of things now have just gone out the window,” Mampane said.

“Continuing professional sports ‘behind closed doors’ is a very probable possibility at this point and possibly a safer approach as lockdown restrictions are relieved,” said Dr Lervason Pillay, a sports physician. This essentially means that all sports will be televised with no in-person spectators.

Pillay, who is also a member of the PSL Covid task team, said that when looking at the return of sports, safety precautions and protocols need to be taken into account. “Most importantly, we are ensuring that there are safety processes and protocols in place for teams, ambulance services, players, technical staff, and referees.”

On top of all of this, athlete’s fitness will also take a knock as Pillay stated that home workouts are at a 60% lower training level during the lockdown compared to their regular training. This is due to the risk of lowering the immune system and increasing the risk of infection with high intensity and strenuous exercise.

“At the moment, our lockdown is sitting on five weeks. So to return to your previous sport, you are probably looking at about a four to five week period to return to that same kind of level of activity.”

FEATURED IMAGE: The sports industry is highly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic with uncertainty about its return and revenue losses experienced amongst all areas of sport. Photo: Zainab Patel