UK Govt cash infusion for spectator sports



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England Chancellor unveils funding for spectator sports Image: MJR Group Ltd./Coliseum

UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed in his budget speech recently that major spectator sports in England will be provided with £300m (€347m/$419m) in funding as clubs and governing bodies prepare to reopen stadia.

Gov.UK quoted Sunak as stating, “We’re making available £700 million to support our incredible arts, culture and sporting institutions as they reopen. We are also backing the United Kingdom and Ireland’s joint 2030 World Cup bid.”

The Government has still not come out with a clear picture as to how the support package will be spread across sports but multiple reports earlier this week claimed that cricket would receive the bulk of the funding, with tennis and horse racing also set to benefit.

The SportsBusiness’ stated that the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said in a statement that it welcomed the Government’s announcement to provide a “financial safety net” to cricket and other summer sports. It comes after ECB Chief Executive Tom Harrison revealed in October 2020 that coronavirus would force the organization to cut 62 jobs as the whole sporting calendar had gone helter-skelter.

The £300m package only applies to England, with a further £57m to be distributed to the Governments in Scotland (£29m), Wales (£18m) and Northern Ireland (£10m).

A research conducted by Oakwell Sports Advisory found that county cricket’s financial ecosystem is “not in good shape”, with a cumulative net debt of between £180m and £200m. The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) announced a £61m emergency funding package last March and this was followed by a further £35.7m in June 2020.

Oakwell calculates that the ECB suffered £100m in revenue losses last year, and estimated that horse racing lost over £300m due to the COVID-19 clobber, with the latter relying on gate-related revenue for 50 percent of its income.

The sports consultancy firm also found that the Lawn Tennis Association’s (LTA) income has fallen by 40 percent, or £30m on an annual basis, due to the pandemic.

Gov.UK further stated that the Chancellor’s Budget also included £2.8m to support a UK and Ireland bid to host the 2030 FIFA World Cup. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Government is “very very keen to bring football home” in 2030.

There is also £25m in investment for UK grassroots sports, which will provide around 700 new pitches. An extra £1.2m has also been devoted for next year’s Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Women’s European Championships, which had initially been due to take place this summer.

The £300m allocated for spectator sports is in addition to the £300m Winter Survival Package announced in November last year. The package saw a total of 11 UK spectator sports receive a share of the funding, with rugby union the biggest beneficiary having been allocated £135m.

Cricket did not receive any funding from the Winter Survival Package, although horse racing did receive £40m. The LTA received £5m.

The announcement of the £300m funding for spectator sports comes amid an optimistic climate that events in England will go ahead with a significant number of supporters this summer. Recently, the Government revealed its roadmap for easing COVID-19 restrictions which were put in place as the virus variant led to a huge increase in deaths in the United Kingdom forcing the country to go into a national lockdown. Fans are set to return to venues from May 17th, 2021 before all legal limits on social contact are potentially lifted on June 21st.

England and Scotland are set to host matches during this summer’s rescheduled UEFA European Championships and it may be possible that fans by the horde will be able to grace the sporting extraordinaire. The announcement also raises the possibility of fans being able to attend events such as the Wimbledon Tennis Grand Slam, golf’s Open Championship and Formula 1’s British Grand Prix.

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