Sports officials and organisations are facing anxious and worrying times in the wake of the havoc caused by the Covid-19 coronavirus.
With sporting codes across most of the world having ground to a standstill, officials will at some stage find out that making the decision to halt sport was much easier than deciding what comes next.
Football officials the world over must be hoping that the unlikely occurs and that, by some miracle, competitions such as the Premier League and the Champions League can be completed.
That would at least eradicate some of the issues, like the question of promotion, relegation and qualification for European competitions. But what it would not do is address the question of loss of income, the real possibility of thousands of jobs being lost in the football industry and clubs going bankrupt.
Similar scenarios – though involving much less money – are playing out in many other sports.
Amid the doom and gloom, some positive stories have emerged. On Friday, the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) said it had reached an agreement with players, who were willing to accept short-term pay cuts in the wake of matches being cancelled because of the coronavirus crisis.
“The IRFU and the provinces are facing some daunting financial challenges,” chief Philip Browne said, adding that the players’ body had accepted “a payment deferral model for all employees”.
Earlier in the week, German Bundesliga club Borussia Moenchengladbach said that their players had – without being asked – told the club that they would voluntarily take a pay cut.
The team’s sports director, Max Eberl, said on the club’s website that the players knew what was going on: “They would have informed themselves and thought about it and offered to waive their salary if they can help the club, and thus also the employees.”
Their example has already been followed by the coaching staff, and the managers and directors of the club.
“I am very proud of the boys. This is a clear signal – we stand together for Borussia, in good times and in bad,” Eberl said.
It is estimated that 54 000 jobs in Germany are dependent on professional football, of which the players are just a tiny fraction.
Commenting on the fallout surrounding the uncertainty in sport, Irish Advocate George Burns said this situation was without precedent.
“There has never been anything on this scale, and there are simply so many variables at the moment that it is too early to predict with any certainty what will happen. It is safe to say that, whatever happens, there will be those who feel aggrieved and those who will want to take further steps. But I think, like in any dispute, it is always advisable to try to find a compromise.
“I am sure that there are those who will want to go to court – clubs who might not be promoted if leagues are cancelled, athletes who go to court because the qualification criteria have changed or broadcasters who are in dispute over monies owing.
“One important thing in this scenario, however, is the fact that Covid-19 goes far beyond sport. Anybody going to court arguing that they are owed this or that amid a crisis that has caused so many deaths will not have public perception on their side.
“It was the famous Liverpool coach Bill Shankly who said: ‘Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don’t like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that.’
“I think this virus has shown the world that Liverpool’s current coach, Jürgen Klopp, is more in tune with the world. He said: ‘I’ve always said that football is the most important part of all of the not so important things. At this point, football is not important at all.’”
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