Sport

COVID-19 | Leagues brace for financial hit

By Alex Mitchell

Two of the region's football and netball leagues are bracing for the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis.

Murray Football Netball League general manager Dale Norman and Picola District Football Netball League operations manager Shane Railton are waiting to see when the season will start to assess the potential financial damage, but each expected at least some degree of a hit.

“The bottom line will be hugely affected, particularly in terms of sponsorships, they're not getting value for money with no product offered, and they'll be under financial stress themselves,” Norman said.

“The Murray league is renowned for Good Friday football; the clubs that host those games typically have a gate revenue worth four or five home games, so that's gone.

“Revenue-wise our clubs will suffer, as will the local businesses that help the clubs through the season — no-one is immune to this.”

Both leagues will be doing all they can to support their clubs through these troubling times; the Murray league does not charge its clubs an administration fee and instead raises that money through sponsorships and finals, while the Picola league's fees of about $3000 pale in comparison to the near-$8000 given to each club at the end of last season.

But Railton's major focus was not the bottom line, but rather the potential mental health ramifications of sporting club members not being able to gather as a community.

“Football clubs create such an opportunity for people to get support, to have a chat with someone if you need help — and that opportunity is not there at present,” Railton said.

“We've seen through the drought people be really impacted, especially dairy farmers doing it tough. That support isn't there right now and we're really mindful of that.”

Railton said limiting that access to support was part of the league's initial hesitation around a lengthy delay to the season's start.

As for what the delayed season will look like, each league boss awaits more information while hoping the early June start date could be met.

“We're always looking at our options, but in the end it will get back to what our clubs want to do,” Norman said.

“But the goal posts change every day, every time you wake up they've shifted. We'll just keep communication channels open and hope things improve to the point we could start football in early June.”