UK sports bosses share grave financial outlooks from Covid-19
By Susan Lingeswaran
Leading UK sports officials today outlined the potential devastating financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic on their organisations after being called to give evidence to the UK's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee.
Speaking via video link, England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive Tom Harrison (pictured) said the impact of the pandemic could cost his organisation £380 million ($473.5 million) if there are no more matches this year.
He said: “That would be the loss of 800 days of cricket across all of our professional clubs and the ECB. If you take all of that revenue and put it at risk, that is that is the worst-case scenario for us this year. Unquestionably, for cricket, it is the most significant financial challenge we’ve ever faced.”
Harrison said while there will be no professional cricket before July, he remains hopeful of fitting in a “significant” number of Test matches.
England are due to play West Indies and Pakistan this summer.
Plans to play behind closed doors are being formulated and Harrison asked for government support in putting on those matches.
He said: “With a following wind hopefully we’ll be able to play a significant number of Test matches this summer which will helps us mitigate those financial losses that we are facing at the moment.
“We are staring at a £100 million plus loss whatever happens.”
The ECB has already been forced to postpone its new short-format competition, The Hundred, to 2021.
Bill Sweeney, Rugby Football Union chief executive, told the DCMS that the governing body will stand to lose £107 million if the autumn internationals are cancelled.
He said RFU has already lost £15 million in revenue due to the crisis, but the cancellation of November’s games would impact them significantly, warning: “If the autumn internationals go ahead in November, which are key for us, we will still lose £32 million in revenue.
“If they go ahead but behind closed doors that is a negative impact of £85 million and if they are cancelled entirely, that will be £107 million on top of the £15 million we have already lost.
“So it is a very significant loss of revenue and we are doing what we can do mitigate it.”
Asked what the impact would be if rugby was not able to restart until 2021, Sweeney replied: “That would be catastrophic, 85 per cent of our income comes from hosting men’s international games at Twickenham.
“If this was to be prolonged and the Six Nations games were impacted, then it would be a catastrophic impact on rugby union in England. We would be looking at some very severe situations.”
The 2020 Six Nations is yet to be completed as the final two rounds coincided with the breakout of the virus in the UK, while impending tours of the southern hemisphere have been cancelled.
Rick Parry, chairman of the EFL, warned that the 72 clubs in English soccer's second-tier face a £200 million financial hole by September.
Asked in a worst-case scenario how many clubs might go out of business, Parry said: “That’s a difficult one to answer. We are heading for a financial hole of about £200 million by the end of September, cash hole, that we need to fill.
“Clubs are stacking up creditors as well. We have a great deal of uncertainty around next season of course, the great undetermined matter being when we’re going to return to play in front of crowds, which for the EFL is absolutely critical.
“We’re much more dependent on revenue and indeed much more dependent on the atmosphere generated by crowds potentially that the Premier League.”
Meanwhile, Greg Clarke, chairman of the FA, soccer's domestic governing body, has revealed plans to cut the annual budget by £75 million to tackle possible losses of £300 million over the next four years due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter to the FA council, Clarke said: “The board has agreed that a sensible cut to the annual budget is £75 million. In a worst-case-scenario, this would be necessary for the next four years to offset a £300 million deficit.
“Clearly that will impact many of our plans as every area of the game will be touched and projects that we all value will be affected. There is no other way and I ask for all of you to help us to build this revised plan.”
Events held at Wembley Stadium in 2018-19 generated income of £70.6 million out of the FA’s total turnover of £467 million.
The FA also had broadcast income from domestic and international rights to the FA Cup and England matches of £262.6 million.
The council is next due to meet on 21 May.
Clarke added all games could be played behind closed doors for the foreseeable future, adding “with social distancing in place for some time to come, we face substantial changes to the football ecosystem.
“It’s hard to foresee fans, who are the lifeblood of the game, returning to matches any time soon.”