The impact of the current pandemic, and the measures needed to combat it, on the Irish sporting landscape has been highlighted again with Cricket Ireland's projection that their turnover will shrink by a “minimum” 25%, or roughly €2.5m, in 2020.
CEO Warren Deutrom, in an interview with the, revealed the figure a day after the organisation announced temporary 20% pay cuts for 25 staff members and furloughs, in line with the UK government's job retention scheme, for the other half-dozen based in the north.
Contracted players will not be affected as they have already forfeited match fees and are likely to do so again as doubts hang over other upcoming events. The aim is that the organisation can strike a balance between such short-term haircuts and the need to be in a position of sufficient strength in terms of operational abilities to hit the ground running again down the line.
Not an easy task.
“If you go back ten years ago our turnover would have been nothing more really than one or two million,” said Deutrom. “We were due to hit ten million or so this year, and we were at ten million last year, but we are certainly going to shrink by, we estimate, 25% this year.”
Tom Ryan, Director General of the GAA, revealed at the start of this month that the association could lose up to €60m as a result of the coronavirus and the emergency measures introduced on the back of it. IRFU CEO Philip Browne, speaking three weeks ago, estimated that the union had by that point suffered losses of somewhere between €7-10 million.
Nobody is immune from the financial fallout.
Cricket Ireland suffered serious cash flow problems roughly 18 months ago when the first day of their Test match against Pakistan in Malahide was rained out and the general growth and success of the game here through the past decade or so has brought with it a greater accumulation of costs in general.
Key to the game's immediate future here now will be discussions with the International Cricket Council (ICC) next month when the body is due to receive the second tranche of annual funding from their global parent. It remains to be seen if that comes in the form of guarantee or loan.
The pandemic has already wiped series’ against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh from the men’s calendar while the women’s side had a tour to Thailand nixed this month as well. Both sides should have key dates to come this summer but when and where cricket returns is still anyone’s guess.
Every national body will have its own wish list in terms of fixtures and refixtures when the virus is finally contained to what is deemed a sufficient degree but all are united in the wish that the 2020 T20 World Cup, this year’s billboard event and financial cash cow, due for Australia next October can survive the fallout.
“There is six months to go before that is due to start and everyone has their fingers crossed in terms of whether that will or will not be affected,” said Deutrom. “I know there has been some speculation around that but the view the game itself is taking is that it is too early to call.”
Discussions are ongoing throughout the sporting universe as to when athletes might be able to do their thing again but Deutrom summed it up when labelling all this as mere “guesswork” for now. What seems more clear is that 2021 will have a ridiculously heavy load to bear as fixtures are shunted ever further down the track.
As things stand, Ireland’s men are due to face New Zealand here in June and Pakistan in July. The New Zealand CEO has already gone on record by declaring their European trip, which also incorporates stops in Scotland and the Netherlands, to be highly unlikely.
Deutrom feels it is no better than 50-50 with slightly better odds for the later Pakistan visit which is also due to involve a lengthier multi-format schedule in England.
It costs Cricket Ireland in the region of €250,000 to stage ODIs and T20 games in Malahide due to the fact that they have no permanent stadium and temporary facilities are required.
For various logistical and financial reasons, they will need to make a decision on whether both are viable fixtures some time in the next two weeks.
All these short-term issues are challenging enough but Deutrom warned earlier this week that the long-term consequences of the current situation could well outdo the immediate headaches. He is not alone in that assessment.
Among the other sports administrators to raise similar concerns is Keith Pelley, CEO of golf’s European Tour, who has told players that purses will basically drop in accordance with the fall in income from broadcasters and sponsors.
Michael Payne, former head of marketing for the International Olympic Committee, has predicted a “financial revolution” for the industry, starting at the top with an entirely new financial model on the understanding that current costs can no longer be supported.
“It’s crystal ball gazing, isn’t it?” said Deutrom. “The long-term future for sport is merely a microcosm of the long-term future for business. Sport effectively exists through a number of key revenues. It is people in the form of fans and purchasers of broadcast subscriptions for Sky Sports, BT or eir Sports. It is people buying enough from organisations and businesses that means they in turn can then invest in sport.
“If we assume that there is going to be enormous debt among governments then there will be businesses suffering greatly, fewer businesses, others looking firstly at survival and concentrating on the needs of their people and their shareholders. That all comes before investment in their marketing budgets under which sponsorship comes.”