COVID-19 | Clubs in financial limbo

By Alex Mitchell

SPORTING clubs across the Goulburn Valley are coming to terms with what could be a huge financial hit as the coronavirus crisis threatens to cancel entire seasons.

Reliant on gate takings and sponsorship to pay the bills, football and netball clubs look set for a barren winter even if matches should return in early June as is the current aim — but play at that point would appear to be a long-shot.

At least two district councils have waived facility rent fees — with more expected to follow suit — and clubs will not need to pay players with no games taking place, but Echuca president Ash Byrne said some costs continue regardless.

“There's always continuing costs whether you're playing or not,” Byrne said.

“There's council fees, insurance, the costs for your coaches and running a football department whether you're playing or not. I think a lot of people look at it and think if you're not playing there's no costs, but there are some fixed costs there.”

Byrne said his club, like the majority of clubs at present, would communicate with sponsors to try and find a mutually beneficial outcome with no games on the horizon.

“A lot of our sponsors had committed and paid, so we're working through whether we're refunding all of them, or if we're waiting and seeing if we play half a season, and maybe doing a pro-rata deal,” he said.

“The major thing right now is sponsors, and working out what would be the best result for both them and the club. And the key part is finding a way to look after them, a lot of ours are long-term partners we want to do the right thing by.

“It's an unknown at this point, if it's a nine-game season or something like that we'll work from there, but we're a little bit away from fully knowing that.”

Longwood president Ricki Shiner said there was certainly a degree of worry about his club's financial future with no income for at least the next two months.

“I don't think it's just clubs like Longwood, it's everywhere,” Shiner said.

“But for us, at the moment it really hurts because we had some momentum in a club sense, our books were back in check and we had momentum in terms of raising revenue.

“A stop has obviously been put to that and it makes it hard because once we start again you've got to get that momentum going again.”

Katamatite president Max Wright was optimistic his club's sponsors would stand by the club when it needed them most.

“It's a little bit early still, but most of our outgoings are not there,” Wright said.

“We won't be earning much, but we shouldn't be spending much either. It just depends what we have to pay, depends how much the league still needs us to pay.

“Especially if our sponsors stick with us, we feel we should be able to cover the costs we would have while not playing. I haven't spoken with the sponsors individually, but most of these people are very community-minded and I imagine would want to stick with the club.”