More than half of sports industry stakeholders, 53%, believe that holding major events behind closed doors is the way to go for the remainder of 2020, according to the ONSIDE Covid-19 Sports Impact Monitor.
Only 35% feel that events should accommodate reduced capacities which is interesting given that the sector badly needs the influx of income from gate receipts as it seeks to rebound from the pandemic and the subsequent shutdown.
IRFU CEO Philip Brown has warned repeatedly that the union faces severe financial repercussions if it cannot begin to play test games in front of full houses in the coming months and the GAA has already braced itself for major economic reverberations because of its empty stadia.
So, caution clearly remains a watchword for now and it can be argued that this is no bad thing given the experiences of the last three months and the warning by dozens of leading Irish scientists this week that the re-opening of society is progressing too quickly.
This particular survey, conducted over ten days between the end of May and start of June, sought feedback from over a hundred sports organisations and also included other stakeholders such as sponsors, rights holders and agencies.
Among the findings there was a clear note of optimism with two-thirds of industry practitioners expecting a “good recovery” in sport in the next one or two years and that is backed up with the fact that only 7% of sponsors are considering cutting their ties with the sector due to the impact of Covid-19.
That said, the uncertainty is having an effect.
One in four sports rights holders fear losing a commercial partner due to the pandemic and there have been plenty of examples around the industry in recent months of organisations and individuals grappling with the consequences.
Rowing Ireland CEO Michelle Carpenter
Brendan Doyle, who is aiming to qualify in the skeleton for the 2022 Winter Olympics, has also expressed concern over the difficulties that lie ahead in finding sponsors given the downturn so this will be a climate that brings chills for everyone.
Budget constraints, up 4% to 82%, are viewed as the greatest challenge for organisations within the sector while another concern is the difficulty in managing relationships with sponsorship partners, which is now an issue for 59% of the sector versus 38% in April.
Adaptability and innovation will be key going forward.
“There are several opportunities being rebooted for next generation sports presentation as the Covid-19 grip eases somewhat,” said John Trainor, founder and CEO of ONSIDE. “Livestreaming is increasingly seen as a leading activation opportunity for 60% of sports industry insiders, up 16% in appeal since April.
“This is in part being driven by early learnings from overseas, with the Bundesliga and the National Rugby League in Australia returning to action and both excelling in viewership and online engagement. Additionally, the recent launch of a global streaming service by FC Barcelona also shows the growing potential of sports streaming worldwide”.