The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted trade industries, healthcare systems, and educational institutions across the world. Trading companies have faced a stark demise in production and distribution of non-essential goods, and healthcare workers have catapulted to the forefront of news headlines as the heroes of this unprecedented time.
A global call to #stayhome in order to flatten Covid-19’s rapid infection rate has taken its toll on amateur and professional sport sectors, too. In recent weeks, major and minor sport events set across different continents and professions have either been cancelled or postponed due to the required practice of social distancing.
Rugby matches and soccer games played in stadiums are often accompanied by a host of spectators, but crowd gatherings are no longer feasible in this time. It puts both the spectators and athletes at risk of contracting the virus.
The sporting events cancelled have ranged from swimming or cycling contests to marathon running and soccer leagues. In certain countries like South Africa, lockdown restrictions have even prohibited citizens from going to a gym or exercising outside. In South Africa’s case, both professional and amateur fitness enthusiasts have had to find other means to stay active. At-home exercises and no-equipment workout routines have therefore become the norm for most of these individuals.
Covid-19 and sport: the loss of endorsements and stakeholders
Speaking to CNBC Africa, sports analyst Sharon Allela stated that the greatest impact of the pandemic has been the postponement and cancellation of large sporting events. According to Sharon, these cancellations and postponements affects every tier of the industry. Some of the impacted tiers include the loss of spectator experience, stakeholders and their loss of investments, as well as the fact that certain events can’t be rescheduled for later this year. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics, for example, has been postponed until 2021.
The ripple effect of social distancing has uniquely implicated all of the persons involved in crafting, competing in, and producing a sporting event. In many instances, these events are recorded for television. This has turned sport into a form of entertainment that contributes to the TV and media industry at a global scale. Event organisers, sport channels on TV, and insurance companies are subsequently all subject to the financial repercussions of event cancellations.
Sharon states that cancelled events inevitably equals cancelled endorsements, which especially affects athletes as endorsements often serve as their source of income. Broadcasters, advertising, and sponsorships all rely on sporting events for income and exposure. The match day revenue through ticket sales will particularly plummet now as well.
Although the uncertainty of the future of sport makes it difficult to predict further financial repercussions, Sharon believes that this cumulative loss of revenue will ultimately amount to billions of dollars.
Notable sport events that have either been postponed or cancelled due to Covid-19:
- The postponement of the 2020 EUFA European Football Championship by a year.
- The cancellation of the season-opening of the Australian Grand Prix.
- The postponement of cycling’s first Grand Tour of the season, the Giro d’Italia.
- The postponement of the French Open tennis tournament, or Roland-Garros. The two-week tournament would have started in May. It will now begin in late September.
- The cancellation of the first four races of the MotoGP season in Qatar, Thailand, Argentina, and the United States. The latter three races have since been postponed, but the Qatar race still remains cancelled.
- The postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. It will now take place in 2021.
- The National Basketball Association (NBA) suspended all forthcoming matches of the 2019/2020 season indefinitely.
The notion of training for months ahead of an athletic event that will no longer take place is a demoralising concept to grapple with, too. Sportswomen and sportsmen are currently facing this debacle as they reassess their training. Most athletes agree that the decision to cancel or postpone events is the safer choice. But will the sport industry be able to bounce back from the low morale surrounding event cancellations?
To dive a little deeper into the cause, w&h reached out to South African ultramarathon champion, Gerda Steyn, to ask about her thoughts and fears on the matter. Gerda highlights how the pandemic has disrupted the training schedules of many athletes around the globe. She explains that some athletes are also concerned about whether they’ll still qualify for a postponed race precisely because of the disruption in their training.
Gerda believes maintaining a positive attitude is one of the most important things sportswomen and sportsmen can do in these highly uncertain times. She insists that if you’re staying at home and keeping up with social distancing practices, then you’re doing your part to #flattenthecurve.
View this post on Instagram
“The true warrior understands and seizes that moment by giving an effort so intense and so intuitive that it could only be called one from the heart.” – Pat Riley. We are in awe of the new RECORD BREAKING winner of – what is known as – the world’s toughest race, the @comradesmarathon. @gerdarun, you are a true inspiration and a phenomenal athlete. Being the first woman in history to run the tough up-run in under 6 hours is exceptional. With a finishing time of 5:58:53, you are a true inspiration and an example of the saying – hard work ALWAYS pays off. Congratulations, you are indeed a warrior! #comrades2019 📷: @galloimages #2oceansmarathon @2oceansmarathon
Professional athlete Gerda Steyn talks to w&h about Covid-19’s global impact on sport…
As a professional athlete, do you have any initial thoughts on the Covid-19 pandemic and its rise as a global crisis?
It has been a surreal first half of 2020. I don’t think anyone could have predicted this and it is still at a very serious point in many countries around the world. The virus has affected everyone — from small business owners to athletes. What started as a viral outbreak in Wuhan, China has gone on to cause world-wide disruption.
As an athlete, staying at home does hinder our training. But besides training, Covid-19 has also disrupted most racing events.
Do you feel postponing or cancelling events has been the right thing to do?
It is certainly not what myself and other athletes wanted, but I do believe that it is the right thing to do in this situation. Sport is something that brings people together and unfortunately this is not a time to surround ourselves with large groups of people, be it fellow competitors or enthusiastic supporters.
Very little is known about the virus, so we should follow the advice set out for all.
Are athletes like yourself worried about the future of their sporting career because of Covid-19?
There is definitely a degree of concern amongst athletes. But, most importantly, we need to get more clarity on when races will take place again.
Athletes rely on prize money and appearance fees through endorsements to earn a living. Sponsorships subsequently play a large roll in our income streams. The financial effect the virus currently has on companies is also making potential sponsors reluctant to invest. Without this investment, athletes lose their income, too.
Was there an event you were looking forward to participating in?
Yes, I was going to compete in the World Half Marathon Championship in Gdynia, the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon, and the Tokyo Olympics. All of these events have now been postponed or cancelled. The 2020 Comrades Marathon has yet to announce a postponement date, but I am hopeful I’ll still be able to compete if it goes ahead.
How does the postponement of these events affect a competitor’s training?
It affects everything from training, preparation and planning to my future racing calendar. It’s impossible for an athlete to compete in too many races within a short period of time. So the postponement of races might not be a simple answer to the issue at hand.
How are you staying active while social distancing?
I’ve been staying very active during lockdown. I’ve not been able to train outside, but I’ve done home workouts and many hours on my indoor training bike.
Staying focused has been the biggest battle, but virtual rides with friends and challenges via social media have been very helpful. I’ve been training an average of four hours per day and it has helped me maintain my fitness. But I am really excited to run outside again. Now, I’ll never take the freedom of being outdoors for granted!
What’s your advice on maintaining a positive attitude during this time?
Remember that every single person, whether you’re healthy or ill, is going through this difficult time together. Try to remain strong and make it pleasant for those around you. Our immediate families are all that we’ve got right now.
If the going gets tough, just remind yourself that you’re saving the lives of everyone else out there. This includes your own family and friends. We’ll all see each other again very soon, and we’ll have so many stories to share from this experience!
By Features Writer Marike Watson
Main Image by Kena Betancur/VIEWpress