Sports Sees Losses Across the Board

Sports Sees Losses Across the Board

ILLUSTRATION BY TONY HEALEY

Chris Price is an award-winning journalist and public relations principal. When he’s not writing, he’s avid about music, the outdoors, and Saints, Ole Miss and Chelsea football. Price also authors the Friday Sports Column at BizNewOrleans.com.


 

BILLIONS. THAT’S WHAT ECONOMISTS AND sports executives across the country are saying the losses will total when asked about the suspension and cancellation of sporting events and seasons across the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With just the loss of winter and spring sports so far, it’s difficult to precisely determine how devastating the effect will be. If fall sports are impacted, the losses — especially in a city like New Orleans where Monday morning moods hinge on the outcome of the Saints game the day before — will grow exponentially greater.

“The economic impact will be devastating. No other way to say it,” said University of South Carolina associate professor of sport and entertainment management Tom Regan.

Across the world, the number of canceled or postponed sporting events is at its highest since World War II. From the major leagues to little leagues, it’s uncertain when sports seasons and calendars will return to normal.

The NCAA’s cancellation of the remaining winter and spring sports, including the Women’s Final Four, has already affected New Orleans.

“We estimated that the 2020 Final Four would have generated more than $50 million in economic impact, which is probably conservative,” said Sam Joffray, the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation’s senior vice president of communications.

“We can really only account for the loss of hosting the Final Four at this point,” he said, “since the NBA, college, high school and amateur sporting event cancellations are abundant and ongoing, and we have no mechanism for estimating a total impact to date, or what impacts we will see moving forward.”

College athletic programs across the state are dealing with the economic fallout, however, athletics directors say that is not their focus right now.

“While we are working proactively on the financial impact this may have, it is not our primary concern,” said LSU Athletic Director Scott Woodward. “We won’t know the full extent of that impact for some time. Our focus right now is on the health and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and our communities. We will work through and address the financial issues at the appropriate time.”

Uptown, Tulane Athletics Director Troy Dannen said the shutdown of intercollegiate athletics has had a significant economic impact.

“Impacts from the loss of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, American Athletic Conference events and elimination of games on our campus combine to make the impact particularly significant,” Dannen said. “The economic impact for the future still remains unclear, and we continue to plan contingencies based on every possible scenario.”

While some athletic departments are facing cutting sports because of the economic slowdown, Dannen said he’s confident that Tulane “is prepared to navigate these uncertain times through our risk management strategies.”

A study by Forbes noted the sidelining of major leagues and events into June could mean the loss of $5 billion in revenue through lost ticket sales, concessions, sponsorships and TV rights fees, with Major League Baseball losing more than $2 billion, the NBA missing $1.2 billion, the NCAA about $1 billion, and the NHL, NASCAR and MLS losing a combined $900 million. If the NBA and NHL cancel the rest of the season and the start of the 2020 baseball season is delayed until July, that figure could rise to $10 billion.

Fall sports are being planned as if they would go on as usual, but physicians still know very little about the novel coronvirus, including how long it could continue to spread, and how soon it could be under control. In interviews and press conferences, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said it’s impossible to predict when that will happen.

“The virus itself determines that timetable,” he said. “It’s such a moving target that you could so easily be wrong and mislead people.”

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