As sports properties around the world take the first steps towards returning to action, it has become clear that convincing local, regional and national authorities that a restart can be carried out safely is a critical step, says Marcus Luer, founder and group CEO, Total Sports Asia and The Sports Entrepreneurs Podcast
So if you are major sports property with ambitions to restart your events any time soon, you should be in close touch with your government. This could be at local, regional or national level, or even all three. At the very least, you should be speaking to your national Ministry of Sports, or the equivalent authority in your jurisdiction.
The sports that have already restarted provide good examples of close collaboration with government. The German Bundesliga, Korea’s K League and the UFC all had events this past weekend or have them coming soon. These properties have reached out to and communicated with the relevant authorities and convinced them that they have a strong plan and can execute a safe event.
Right now, it’s all about proposing an operating procedure which governments can understand and accept.
What that means, how it looks, and how it’s executed might be very different from country to country and from event to event. Your job as a federation, league, event organizer, or other IP owner is to get in touch, start talking and start asking the right questions. Learn what the government or authority is looking for. Find out what they want to see happening before they let you get back up and running.
It is of course easier for a single event in one city to do this, than for a nationwide league, for example, as the latter have to cover more ground. As the English Premier League has shown us, that includes getting your own stakeholders to see eye-to-eye first. But the basic principles apply to all properties.
In most cases, governments will be as keen as you are to bring some normality back to people’s lives. Work with them, understand their agenda and make it happen.
Here are few suggested areas to consider under what looks set to be the new normal, for the time being at least – restarting sport behind closed doors:
- What is your plan for screening athletes and “essential personnel”?
- Who are your “essential personnel”, who needs to be tested and monitored?
- How are you going to get athletes on board with resuming play and testing?
- Do you understand the border regulations and travel restrictions that apply to your athletes and essential personnel?
- Do you have a way to communicate your plan in a simple and clear format for busy government officials to understand and sign off?
- Do you have a clear and well-communicated message for the fans, the broader public, and anyone out there who will have an opinion on social media about your restart plans?
The resumption of live sport is of course critical for keeping at least some broadcast and sponsor revenue flowing, keeping athletes sane and in shape, and keeping fans engaged.
A world where fans will be allowed back into venues unfortunately appears some way down the road. Let’s start with the no-fans environment and execute that well, with full government backing. Then we can start talking about how to bring the fans back safely and get back to sport as we know it.