The global pandemic, Coronavirus, has had an unprecedented effect on sport in 2020, says James Hope-Gill, chief executive of Skateboard GB.
Coronavirus has had an unprecedented effect. We’ve seen this from the grassroots to the elite-end of pretty much every sport globally, with unfinished leagues and competitions, potential disputes around contracts, sponsorship and broadcasting agreements, the mental health of athletes and the postponement or cancelling of events.
The biggest global sports event to be affected is the Olympic Games, due to be held in Tokyo during July and August 2020 and now postponed to the following summer.
The Olympics is only held every four years and is the pinnacle event for the vast majority of the sports and athletes taking part. Postponement is a huge deal.
Organisers have estimated that the postponement could cost an extra $2.7 billion. There are approximately 10,000 people working within the planning and delivery most of whom will have jobs post-September 2020, there are 150,000 contractors ready to do sport information, sport presentation, security, cleaning this summer and approximately 120,000 hotel rooms have been booked.
Will these people and rooms be available next year? The planning and commitment involves a huge amount of relationships with suppliers of a large amount of small but necessary items, and postponement could put many businesses in trouble as they either have stock no longer needed for 12 months or orders cancelled.
Billions of dollars have been invested by sponsors and broadcasters, and Japan and the city of Tokyo has embarked on a huge investment in infrastructure, although you can argue that this is still well spent as the Games will still go ahead in 2021.
The “so what, it’s only the IOC and Olympic Games” question can’t be ignored. The money invested by broadcasters and sponsors into the IOC is an essential part of the global sport ecosystem. Funding from the IOC is distributed to sports taking part in the Games through the International Federations, who then pass on revenue to the National Federations with many sports relying heavily on this funding to support both the elite and grassroots of those sports.
That’s the sport that is played by you and me! So a reduction or delay in that funding could impact us here in Sheffield for those who take part in sports that are part of the Olympic family.
Skateboarding is one of the new sports included in the Olympic Games, due to its youth appeal, accessibility and potential for creating legacy. The appeal of skateboarding is huge, shown by the fact that it is the fourth most watched sport on Instagram.
In the UK there are approximately 750,000 skateboarders, most under the age of 18 and from low social economic groups, giving an amazing opportunity for the sport to engage with hard to reach groups with something that can be a positive influence on their mental and physical wellbeing.
As new organisations, Skateboard GB and Skateboard England are currently heavily reliant on public funding to operate at the grassroots and give our elite skateboarders the best chance of qualifying for the Olympic Games.
The impact of coronavirus on the public purse and the Olympic postponement has put a great deal of uncertainly on our funding as well as us seeing a drop of membership, sponsorship and other commercial revenue, at a time that we need it most. This is in addition to having to cancel the National Championships which is our major annual event and linked to most of our sponsorship income.
However, it would be remiss of us to focus our attention on what ifs. Our current focus is to see the positives and do what we can to move forward.
We now have additional time to prepare and support the GB skateboarders looking to qualify for the 2021 Games.
We have the opportunity to secure additional funding and commercial partnerships and more time to raise the profile of the sport and engage with the skateboarding community.
Coronavirus is having a huge impact on sport, but we must try and find the positives as we deal with the impact and look to the future.