28 July 2020 – COVID-19 has not only left an indelible mark on football and the sporting world in general but on all aspects of everyday life. While there are more important things to life than sport and football, the impact of the corona virus on these aspects will have far reaching effects on greater humanity.

The one positive is that football has resumed and various leagues have been or will be completed in the near future.

However, what impact has the virus actually had on the footballing and sporting world at large and what will the knock-on effects be in the aftermath of COVID-19?

The first aspect that comes immediately to mind is that football is widely regarded as the most popular sport on the planet. The lack of action has affected fans mentally, not only due to the entertainment factor being lost (be it live or on television and even radio) but also because of the hypnotic aspect that football brings to the table. From heartbreak to excitement and everything in between, these have been lost in the midst of COVID-19.

Secondly, the financial aspect is one burden that was completely unplanned for. The loss of ticket sales has resulted in billions being lost in revenue for clubs and this will in turn have a domino effect on player salaries, contracts, transfer fees, support staff employment, infrastructure, daily running costs, stadium upgrades, sponsorship deals, families of players and staff, communities and much more. Even football agents will take a hit.

Factor in the sudden extra costs for sanitization and special equipment and the ledgers will logically be out of proportion. Not to mention broadcast revenue and contractual implications. Footballing bodies have been forced to offer financial relief packages for lower various divisions, as well as contributing to health schemes and this was also unplanned for. Only time will tell what effect this has in the long term as well but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that it could be devastating, particularly for small, struggling clubs.

The virus has also forced authorities such as FIFA, UEFA, various federations, governing bodies and administrators to shift calendars around to re-adjust fixtures, tournaments and events. National bodies and associations, clubs and players will now have to also get used to the changes and plan accordingly. The Tokyo Olympic Games and Euro 2020 were notable casualties this year.

The virus has also shone the spotlight on health and fitness. During lockdown players were forced to come up with personal routines and schedules just to keep fit. Many players (and coaches) succumbed to infection and had to take the long road back to full health before the resumption of action. Most are still concerned about contracting the virus during games, with football being a contact sport.

Various laws and regulations in football as well as insurance agreements have also been changed or amended. This is bound to add to complex issues down the line due to this unprecedented and unforeseen crisis.

These are merely some of the major aspects highlighted and the consequences for football (and sport in general) could be far reaching. Some say it could take football ten years to get back to where it was a few months ago. The gap between big and small clubs will get wider and more external investment will be required to sustain certain teams.

With health the main priority, getting used to the “new normal” will be the order of the day.

By: Dhirshan Gobind