As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps across the globe, sports, theme parks and events’ organisers are facing the prospect of prolonged shut-downs and the inevitable economic impact of those closures. Empty stadia and deserted theme parks look like becoming the norm for the next few weeks at least, while hundreds of trade shows have also been cancelled. 

IVM’s founding partner Angus Houston said: “This is unprecedented. Full closure of any public, sports or leisure facility does not appear in anyone’s business plan or contingency. The exception of course is in crisis or critical processes but never on a scale which extends for weeks or even months. One of the most significant set of consequences will, as always, be felt on the extended supply chain which switches these juggernaut operations on and off. 

“Temporary, Casual or Contracted, all will feel the same juddering halt to planned (previously) guaranteed activity and commercial returns. Pastoral professional care on a scale never seen before is a must from business owners wanting to move efficiently to remobilise. Look after your people in short, as well as being mindful of your customers. Phased thinking to each area of operations will be crucial to how venues respond and sustain themselves now, and throughout these uncharted waters.”

Sport in lockdown

Sport has been particularly badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic. All sport in Italy has been suspended until at least 3 April because of coronavirus, the country’s prime minister Giuseppe Conte announced. This includes Serie A but not Italian clubs or national teams participating in international competitions. Matches in Spain’s top two divisions will be played behind closed doors for at least the next two weeks because of coronavirus concerns. India has now decided to postpone its IPL Twenty20 cricket tournament until 15 April.

Premier League matches could be postponed

In the UK, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and England and Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi have tested positive for the virus and Arsenal’s Premier League game with Brighton has been postponed. The Chelsea and Arsenal squads are self-isolating. Premier League football club Everton have put their entire first team playing squad and coaching staff into isolation. The UK government is considering banning sporting fixtures and the Premier League is due to meet this morning (Friday) to decide a plan of action; UEFA will discuss the possible postponement of Euro 2020 on Tuesday. In golf, the Players Championship in the US has been cancelled, as has the Australian Grand Prix. In the US, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, the NBA and the NHL have all announced season postponements or pauses. Tennis tournaments across the world have been suspended for six weeks.

Theme parks closed

For theme parks, the threat of closure due to restrictions on mass gatherings presents a huge challenge. Every Disney theme park worldwide will be closed starting this weekend, including Disney World in Florida and the Disneyland Resort in California, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the company said. Disney Cruise Line will also close. Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure — two adjoining, but separately ticketed theme parks in Anaheim, Calif. — will close on Saturday morning until the end of the the month. Disney also said that its four-ship cruise line would suspend new departures beginning Saturday until the end of the month. 

Disney World in Florida will close

Disney said in a statement: “While there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 at Disneyland Resort, after carefully reviewing the guidelines of the Governor of California’s executive order and in the best interest of our guests and employees, we are proceeding with the closure of Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park, beginning the morning of March 14 through the end of the month.” Theme parks in Asia have now been shut for several weeks; Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea, as well as Universal Studios Japan, Legoland Japan and Sanrio Puroland, are closed until March 15/16. Hong Kong Disneyland is closed, and Shanghai Disney Resort has been closed for a number of weeks.

Trade shows hit

More than 500 trade shows have been called off in recent weeks, costing up to €23 billion in lost orders for exhibitors, according to UFI, The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry. 

The figures were released after the association wrote to Ursula Leyden, president of the European Commission, urging action and following the launch of a joint campaign to keep events open, launched initially with the Atlanta-US based SISO (Society of Independent Show Organizers), and now supported by the “G3” alliance of the UFI, the International Association of Convention Centres (AIPC) and International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA).

The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) has cancelled its forthcoming convention and trade show, which was set to take place in San Diego between 18 and 21 March. In a statement, IHRSA said it had made the “difficult decision” following “official declarations” on the threat posed by the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), adding that the event would not be rescheduled for later in the year.

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