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 Pandemics and sport simply don’t mix.                                                        By Tim Mottram


                                                                                       on sport

 hat makes   top, representing the absolute   With the closing down of   Players within the hub were   fold in 2021. Another reason   being applied across the world.
 sport so great   pinnacle. At the base are   most leagues in early 2020,   tested regularly and had   why these smaller clubs cannot   The ‘Survive, Revive, Thrive’
 - the coming   the grassroots clubs, where   the first of these was cut off at   to follow a strict hygiene   absorb the blow is because   program is pointedly focused
 Wtogether   millions of people around the   a stroke. And with no matches   procedure. This enabled rugby   they do not have their own   on the wellbeing and health of
 in communities, the huge   world meet on the weekend.   to broadcast, there was only so   league to handle the crisis   facilities and rely on rental   the members of small clubs,
 spectacles and atmosphere,   Each of these layers has an   long the companies involved   more effectively than AFL, for   agreements which take cash   will prop up existing clubs
 the team building aspects   economic imperative which   could keep paying. Advertisers   example.   reserves they can no longer   and will also create a system
 - all had to go the minute   has been severely affected by   would obviously back away   The overall effect of the crisis   muster.   whereby they can start to
 people started getting sick   Covid.   with no matches televised.   means that if many sports are   A major reason why this   accumulate their own facilities.
 back in early 2020. Apart   Therefore, most of the global   to survive this unprecedented   development is so troubling   Australia’s NSW government
 from the health toll that   The true health,   elite level leagues had to get   event, they will need assistance   is the impact that sport has   anticipated the re-opening of
 Covid has had, sport at all   social and financial   underway soon after the initial   from governments. Europe has   on mental and physical   sports last year with a fund
 levels has reeled, taking   cost of the pandemic   stages of the various global   done much to help sporting   wellbeing, especially in youth.   called the Grassroots Sports
 loss after financial loss, as   will not be known for   lockdowns, because they   entities from the richest to the   Britain signals that 2.3% fewer   Fund, where a one-off payment
 accommodations have been   years to come  effectively had no other option.   smallest. Aware of the social   young people are engaging   was made to each of the 12,500
 made and contingencies   Crowds were naturally not   importance of sport, many   in youth sport since the   eligible clubs across the state.
 sought.   permitted to congregate which   governments have created   start of the crisis, though the   Further grants were made
 The true health, social   The global value of sport   led to the somewhat eerie   staggered or tax free periods   number up until the easing of   to bigger organisations to
 and financial cost of the   rose in successive years until   experience of hearing the yells   for many clubs. For example,   lockdown was much higher.   ensure that people could still
 pandemic will not be clear for   2018, where it was estimated   of players and coach echoing   in The Netherlands clubs were   As participation rates drop, it is   participate.
 years to come. As clubs and   to be valued at US$471 billion.   into vast silence. Eventually,   supported for three months   expected that levels of obesity   There have been a series of
 competitions from the elite   This plateaued according to   crowd noise was piped through   in 2020, while Sweden and   and depression will rise.  lessons meted out over the last
 super clubs down to grassroot   some experts, where rising   to viewers to “enhance” their   Ireland granted millions to   16 months. Covid has shown
 teams reel from their own   ticket prices and better access   experience, but this was   offset the lack of income from   Covid has shown   organisers and fans that sport
 particular challenges, the   to televised matches took   merely an augmentation for   normal revenues. These funds   organisers and   is actually rather vulnerable,
 impact on members and fans   the heat out of the rise, but   the people at home and the   have been shared amongst all   fans that sport is   at both ends of the financial
 has been immense.   it can be safely assumed   grounds stayed silent.   sporting organisations, from   actually rather   spectrum. Changes need to be
 Sport provides social   that the upward trend would   In order for sport to be   the top down.   made to ensure that all levels
 cohesion. In a way, the wellness   have continued indefinitely.   played, some competitions did   Grassroots sport across the   vulnerable, at   can be made more durable
 aspect is a side benefit. Sport   The bulk of this cash is of   better than others. Australia’s   world is in crisis because of the   both ends of   against the risks of future
 provides an instant shortcut to   course situated at the top of   NRL gained plenty of credit   lockdowns. Most of these are   the financial   pandemics or disasters. Simply
 community. It is so ingrained   the pyramid, where each of   with the hubs system, which   funded by their own members   spectrum.   living hand-to-mouth has been
 in all aspects of society that   the elite sporting federations   was brought in with player   and through community-based   the standard approach for too
 any shut down could never be   deals in huge amounts. They   safety foremost. This system   initiatives, such as raffles and   The English Football   long. It is time sport thinks
 long-term.   receive this money from three   created six safe areas where   events. These of course require   Association has promised to   about the future in terms other
 Essentially, sport is   sources: match-day revenue,   several teams shared a home   participation, so are off limits.   channel £180 million back into   than the next home match or
 a pyramid where the   broadcasting rights and   ground and where a form of   In the UK, it is estimated that   grassroots clubs over the next   shirt deal.
 international federations sit on   commercial sponsorships.   exposure bubble was created.   25% of all grassroots clubs will   four years, in a program that is

 8  |  TOUCHLINEMAGAZINE.COM                                                     TOUCHLINEMAGAZINE.COM  |  9
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