#YNaijaSportsExtra: Panic in European sports world as coronavirus halts live fan attendance

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus and the necessary lockdown in some parts of the world, the topic of how sports would navigate the new reality has been widely debated.

Not only was the idea of resuming sports met with a lot of scrutiny, but most of the big-name sports administrators who were bold enough to suggest a controlled live crowd attendance were nearly lynched.

Ironically, from the Ultimate fighting Champions (UFC) which took the bold step in resuming its tournaments before any other global league dared to, to the National Basketball Association (NBA) that decided to conclude its season within a monitored environment, a lot of sports associations are doing an exceptional job in holding their sporting events with zero recorded casualties.

The NFL too has found a way to balance the safety of its spectators, while allowing them enjoy the game they love. All across America, the NFL league released guidelines as to what cities are allowed fan attendance and to what capacity.

It is a no-brainer that New York was listed among the cities banned from having any fan in attendance, given the astronomical rate of Covid-19 cases in the state. However, a city like Miami which has recorded an extremely low number in reported Covid-19 cases has allowed up to 20% of its 65,326 crowd capacity with an expected increase in number of attendees as the year goes on.

For the Miami Dolphins, hosting a crowd of well around 13,000 has raised zero concerns in the minds of health experts as they trust the restrictions and guidelines put together by such sports clubs.

But what of Europe, home to the most-watched sports in the world – football. How are they faring putting together football events that have become part of the DNA of the society? Not too great?

While major football leagues like La-Liga, English premier league and UEFA, have been able to host matches, they haven’t been able to do it with an audience in attendance. Fans have been left out of the physical feel of seeing their favourite teams and stars playing.

But, a few weeks ago, there was a glimmer of hope when a number of sporting bodies came to an understanding that they could allow fans in the stadiums but regulate attendance, and announced that fans could watch their teams starting October 1, 2020.

But a recent spike in COVID-19 cases has put an indefinite halt to this plan. This, no doubt, has a number of implications most obvious of which is a deficit in finances.

Running a league of that size is no penny job, and sport commissions need a lot of money to put these games together. The halt in live attendance has put a dent on sporting budget in England, one that is affecting every stakeholder in football.

Leaders of over 100 sport bodies have written the Prime minister of England to ask for emergency funding as a result of the loss of activity brought about by the pandemic.

£200 million has already been handed down to this effect, but sports analysts are afraid that this would not be enough.

According to Richard Masters, premier league chief executive, the lack of crowd attendance for this season is going to cost the EPL somewhere around £700 million in revenue.

This financial constraint also cuts across other sports including Rugby, Cricket and even grassroots sporting events at the community level. and the region is yet to figure out how to tackle this issue.

What does the future hold?

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