Millions of sports enthusiasts have to give up their hobby for weeks for the second time this year and the new lockdown should by no means be over by the end of the month. Popular sport is watching with concern, children and young people and amateur athletes will look to the coming Wednesday, when big politics will also set the corona course for small sports for the next few weeks and months. A permanent lockdown including sports facilities that remain closed cannot be ruled out.
That would not only be an extension of the mental cruelty for the around 27 million club athletes in their around 90,000 clubs nationwide, who have to delete their beloved training hours from the calendar in rows. The pandemic-related economic consequences for the sport as a whole could be far more tangible than the psychological and motoric consequences for “those not engaged in sports”. “We hope for the first time in the first quarter of next year, when the results of a study that we have just started on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Economics, to get valid and more precise statements about the economic effects of the pandemic on German sport,” says Holger Preuss von the Gutenberg University in Mainz. The well-known sports economist makes it clear: The proposed overall analysis is about much more than just adding “red numbers” from the leagues in the individual sports and the losses of clubs and associations in organized sports.
Almost 1.3 million people are employed in the sports sector
Preuss emphasizes that there are innumerable correlations that make up the sports sector as a whole and that must be viewed in their diversity. What a colossus sport is from a macroeconomic point of view was revealed for the first time by a large survey seven years ago. As a result of several coordinated, complex individual studies, a “satellite account” was created which attested that the sports sector in Germany had an economic power on par with the automotive industry. The economic effects achieved by and with sport – calculated conservatively – are estimated at an annual volume of 115.5 billion euros, the researchers found out at the time. Subsequent updates confirmed this enormous importance. According to Preuss, sport with its gross value added is comparable to all passenger and freight traffic. In “normal times” before the pandemic, it ranked ahead of economic calibers such as the chemical industry or the metal industry.
Almost 1.3 million people were employed in the sports industry in 2016. Sports-related consumption alone was over 80 billion euros annually, not forgetting the sales of nine billion in “passive sports” from pay TV subscriptions to sports travel. Out of 100 euros of private consumption, just under five euros went into spending on sports. “This illustrates its economic importance and at the same time shows that it is an extremely heterogeneous structure,” emphasizes the Mainz professor. “Its components are not all affected by the corona pandemic at the same time and equally, but very differently.”
If fewer tickets or no tickets at all are now allowed to be sold to viewers in the arenas, how many additional subscriptions will that lead to the pay-TV channels? Do sports betting providers have to fear betting stakes because of “ghost games”? If there is a total lull in private and organized sports trips, how much does the turnover in clothing and footwear for sporting activities on the doorstep skyrocket? There are countless such correlations and interactions that, when viewed as a whole, make up the sporting business and its economic importance in this country.
There are even winners from the pandemic. Like golf. “Corona is the best marketing campaign for us,” says Stefan Quirmbach, President of the German branch of the Professional Golfers Association (PGA), summarizing the effects on his sport. Two factors would have caused a real boom on the nationwide around 700 courses: On the one hand, limited travel opportunities meant that already active golfers, who otherwise like to putt in the south, play far more often than normal on courses in their home country. In addition, there was the urge from people for risk-free exercise in the fresh air, which brought many new fans to golf. “If new start times are offered on the Internet at midnight, then they are completely booked up in a few minutes,” says a pleased Stefan Quirmbach. “Despite everything, this is a snapshot. We are not naive and do not look ahead without fear. “
Smaller sports clubs with a greater chance of survival
The first complete balance sheet for the sport as an asset is not expected until the spring, but Holger Preuss can already predict the fundamentals: “It tends to appear that normal sports clubs with several hundred members and voluntary management without major personnel costs have and get the fewest problems . At least when their members stick to the bar and remain members of the association. If the fluctuation is within the usual limits, the economic basis of these associations is essentially secured. The typical smaller sports clubs are the least threatened. “
The more commercial the sport, the less favorable
The greatest risk for sports operations in times of pandemic severity is dependency. The more dependent a club, association, team or whole league is on financial sources such as sponsors, merchandising, catering, the sale of tickets and proceeds from TV contracts the economic and existential risk is greater. “The more commercial the sport, the more unfavorable the economic framework,” is the expert’s rule of thumb. “If the income from league operations dwindles or does not materialize, this leads to the collapse of the professional leagues and some of the clubs we have come to love.”
Even essential structural elements such as the associations now see themselves threatened. Two thirds of them fear not to survive the next year, says the latest of the “Corona analysis” commissioned by the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB). A research result that does not surprise the sports economist. «The associations are non-profit organizations with a charitable character. Therefore, they are hardly allowed to build up reserves and cannot exist solely from the contributions of their regional associations and the taxes of their individual members. ” Accordingly, they needed additional sources, income from league operations or championships, for example. If there were no spectators or actions, sponsors would also withdraw.
Then things could get “economically tight even for leading associations”, knows Holger Preuss, but warns of hysteria. It will not be so bad that entities such as fencing, cycling or table tennis associations or other sports associations will never be seen again. But as a result of the financial crisis, they would have to significantly reduce their workforce and thus their ability to work. “From an organizational point of view, that would be a return to the situation that existed perhaps 30 years ago.”