Written by Ivana Katsarova,

Social distancing icon sport.People running.Keep Safe Distance to protect from COVID-19 coronavirus concept.
© Preeyanuch / Adobe Stock

Nearly a year after its initial outbreak, the deadly strain of the coronavirus, Covid-19, is still raging across the world and the sports ecosystem has not been spared. Whilst countries’ responses have varied widely, the global response prompted the almost total shutdown of competitions at all levels, including multiple postponements of mega sports events such as the Olympic Games and the European Football Championship. Estimates show that nearly a million sports-related jobs have been impacted in the EU, not only for sports professionals but also for those in related retail and sporting services such as travel, tourism, infrastructure, transportation, catering and media broadcasting, to name but a few. Additionally, Covid-related measures are estimated to have caused the loss of some €50 million in GDP across the EU-27.

The results of a 2020 survey among European national Olympic committees show that over 93 % have had to significantly review their work-related practices, and over two thirds (67 %) reported their elite athletes were unable to use training facilities. While larger clubs in major sports are likely to have the financial resources to cope with a temporary loss of income, the same is not true for grassroots sports facilities that rely on self-employed coaches and volunteers and face a greater risk of shutting down.

Even though its role in the area of sport is limited to ‘soft’ policy instruments, the EU has responded promptly to limit the spread of the virus and help EU countries to withstand its social and economic impact. In addition to the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative (CRII) and the CRII+, both approved by the European Parliament and the Council of the EU in record time, the European Commission has set up a temporary framework allowing EU countries to derogate from State aid rules, and proposed a European instrument for temporary support (SURE) to help protect jobs and workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

To keep their players and fans engaged, traditional sports have had to adapt their models by blurring the lines between traditional sports and Esports. However, research reveals that Covid-19-related restrictions have only increased the appeal of outdoor activities and made initiatives such as the European Week of Sport more necessary than ever.

Read the complete briefing on ‘How coronavirus infected sport‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.