A new challenge for the world of sport

Patricio Sánchez, Professor of Financial Economics at the University of Vigo, coordinator of the Master in Business Management in Sport and member of the Research Group GEN and ECOBAS, believes that the sport sector can recover, but it will have to mobilise and look for new opportunities.

The consequences of the crisis for sport will depend on the evolution of health conditions

The economic, social and legal impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is unpredictable at all levels, but even more so in the world of sport, a sector marked by transversality and temporality. In the short term we can see the effects of the crisis on the emergency measures that were initially taken such as the closure of sports facilities, the suspension of competitions and tournaments, or the postponement of sports days. But how will the return to “new normality” be? What consequences will it have for the sector and how will it adapt to the new health measures?

It is too early to know all the consequences of the pandemic on sport and when the sector can begin to recover, but the first official estimates speak of losses in Spanish sport of between 30 and 40% in economic and employment terms. ” The impact of the crisis will be conditioned by the evolution of health conditions. The effect in the sports sector has the particularity of the transversality of the sector, which makes it much more difficult to think of solutions”, commented economist Patricio Sánchez.

Will small clubs be hit hardest?

According to the professor, the effects of the situation will not depend so much on the size of the institution, but other organizational issues will come into play ranging from the sport itself to, more especially, the ways in which clubs are financed. “The recovery of clubs and institutions will go hand in hand with the recovery of sports practice itself. For example, according to a study by the Higher Council of Sports, the drop in sports is estimated at 1.5 million people. This is 15 per cent less than before the pandemic. The return to physical activity of this population segment must be a priority, and to the extent that it is achieved, it will be favouring the entire sports fabric and, therefore, its workers and professionals”, the researcher explains.

“The months of lockdown have served to highlight the importance of health and there sport and physical activity have a lot to say”

Despite the economic losses, sports centers reacted quickly and were able to adapt to the situation and resist it, as well as its users and professional athletes, who have had to use their imagination to continue training. During the quarantine many gyms and clubs have maintained the classes in a telematic way and there have also been multiple videos of famous athletes who have made their home a real professional training center. “Online content can never completely replace face-to-face sport, but it is clear, and these months have shown this, that it can be a perfect complement and a great business opportunity. I am convinced that the whole of the sports ecosystem will be able to show its resilience”, says the economist.

What will the post-COVID sport look like?

“It is still early to glimpse it, as we are still conditioned by strictly sanitary aspects. What I can say for sure is that sports events will be the last to recover. In the case of Galicia, the General Secretariat for Sport is aware of this need and is already assessing the individual protocols presented by the various Federations”. Professor Sánchez also believes that the situation may be an opportunity to launch new strategies to correct past mistakes. “Without wanting to create controversy, but with the experience of many years of study on the economics of sport, in my opinion the main conditioning factor of the Spanish sports network is the predominance of a single sport such as football. I have nothing against this sport, quite the contrary, but dependence at all levels on a single sport is a serious limitation for all other sports”.

Those in charge of the Master in Business Management of Sport have been able to reinvent themselves and seek opportunities

Teachers and students of the master program coordinated by Patricio Sánchez have also suffered the consequences of the pandemic, but they tried to make their best and look for opportunities. One example was the initiative to open up the classes for everyone. “It was a success, and more than 100 outsiders connected to the classrooms being able to enjoy one of our pride: teachers. In addition, all students have shown exemplary behavior. We have pending a farewell (face-to-face, of course) that we hope can be done with the opening of the new course”.