SWILA: How Coronavirus has cost sports billions of dollars
- The Coronavirus pandemic spreading across the globe like wildfire has not only caused panic to millions of souls across the world but also destroyed economies with Aviation, Tourism and Sports sectors some of the worst hit.
- On a global scale, the sporting calendar has been thrown into disarray with several sports events being postponed or cancelled altogether as the COVID- 19 virus which was first reported in Wuhan, Hubei, China, in December 2019 claiming its casualties each passing day prompting the World Health Organization to declare the outbreak a pandemic on Wednesday.
Isaac Swila in Nairobi
The Coronavirus pandemic spreading across the globe like wildfire has not only caused panic to millions of souls across the world but also destroyed economies with Aviation, Tourism and Sports sectors some of the worst hit.
On a global scale, the sporting calendar has been thrown into disarray with several sports events being postponed or cancelled altogether as the COVID- 19 virus which was first reported in Wuhan, Hubei in China in December 2019 claiming its casualties each passing day prompting the World Health Organization to declare the outbreak a pandemic on Wednesday.
Top European soccer leagues have been put on hold notably in Spain and Italy and even the world popular English Premier League, which is hugely followed in Kenya has been forced to halt the competition until April 4.
Poignantly, the road to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which is the biggest sports event in this calendar year, appears, at present, a distant one with the spread of the virus impacting across all sports, though the Olympics Committee in Tokyo has put up a brave face confident that the global multi-sport event will continue as planned.
Still on the international scale, the men’s tennis’ ATP Tour announced that no tournaments would take place until after April 20 at the earliest, wiping out the prestigious Miami Open and Monte Carlo Opens as well as tournaments in Houston and Marrakech while earlier this week the Indian Wells tournament was cancelled as the International Tennis Federation postponed the revamped Fed Cup Finals set for Budapest in April.
In football, Spain and the Netherlands became the latest nations to suspend all soccer leagues after Italy, which has been hard hit suspended its football leagues.
Friday evening, EPL together with English FA also announced that all the professional leagues in England remain suspended until April 4.
In Spain, the next two rounds of La Liga fixtures were postponed as Real Madrid put its squad into quarantine after a member of the club’s basketball team tested positive on Thursday.
However, the biggest bombshell in the world of sports came early Friday following the revelation by Arsenal that their manager Mikel Arteta had joined the list of prominent personalities who have contracted the virus. Hours later, as football fans across the globe reeled in shock at the development, another London outfit, Chelsea, announced that their 19-year-old winger Callum Hudson-Odoi had also tested positive for the virus, adding to the prominent list of sports personalities who have been infected. Others are: Juventus centre-back Daniele Rugani and Olympiakos and Nottingham Forest owner Greek Evangelos Marinakis .
Southampton striker Manolo Gabbiadini, now at Sampdoria, has also tested positive for coronavirus.
The spate of infections has definitely left the football world and sports at large staring helplessly unaware of what action to take as no one knows how long it will take scientists, medics and governments to tame the spread of the virus.
Kenya also joined the bandwagon when it reported its first case Friday. Should the Olympics be cancelled, Kenya, like the rest of the countries will feel the pinch as we’re a global powerhouse on matters athletics.
The Olympic Marathon title and record is held by Kenyans in the frame of Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei and this and many more gives us every reason to look forward to the Olympics.
In Rio 2016, no African country posted better performances at the Games than Kenya and that, therefore, means that we are not just giants, but the pride of Africa too!
Kenya is bound to send a large contingent to the Games, with our national women’s volleyball team Malkia Strikers, senior men rugby sevens team Shujaa and women side Lionesses having earned tickets to the showpiece.
Others are boxers Nick Okoth and Christine Ongare and it is expected that once Athletics Kenya hold its much awaited National Trials to give Team Kenya the complete look, it will be all systems go.
Sadly, with the pandemic, everything now hangs in the balance as sports associations and sportsmen are already paying the price. The Ministry of Sport through Principal Secretary Joe Okudo this week banned foreign travel for international sports events meaning Kenyan sportsmen can’t compete in any global events right now – Olympic qualifiers or otherwise – in the wake of this directive.
Athletics Kenya followed suit by cancelling athletes’ clearances for international events.
Though seen as preventive measures, our athletes who earn their daily bread by competing on road races across the globe are bound to feel the pinch in their pockets and so are their immediate families.
Rugby has also not been spared with Kenya Rugby Union suspending all rugby matches indefinitely while the Rugby World 2021 Repechage qualifier between Kenya and Colombia which was set for April 18 in Nairobi has also been postponed over the fear of the virus. The Africa Cross Country Championship which was set for April 6 in Togo has also now been postponed following the directive of the Confederation of Africa Athletics.
But in the wake of it all what does Kenya learn? It is prudent to point out that our Disaster Preparedness hasn’t been top class since time immemorial.
In this regard, sports associations must work closely with the Ministry of Health to put in place water-tight screening measures to arrest any further cases. Suspending the competitions alone is not enough. Proper policy framework coupled with a solid plan of prevention and treatment of confirmed cases is key.
This is not just about the health of our people – it’s our lifeline. Should the virus be allowed to spread it would further hurt the shaky economy of our sports which is still reeling from years of mismanagement and under-funding.
The virus has cost the sports industry billions of dollars in revenues so far with cancelled matches and those played behind closed doors. In the West, for instance, clubs rake in millions of dollars on match days through sale of tickets, merchandise and the lockdown has no doubt hit the industry hardest.
It’s our hope at the Citizen Digital sports desk that a mechanism of taming the virus will soon be reached..
We wish those infected a quick recovery and console with those who’ve lost loved ones in the pandemic.
Passionate about Health and Human Interest stories, the author is a lover of sports and works at RMS as Radio and Citizen Digital sports editor
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