A week into 2021 and the stakes have never been higher for an industry that has laid dormant since March, and facing the grim reality of a second summer severely hampered by the ongoing and relentless effects of the virus.
Whilst many industries have rightly bemoaned the stop start nature of the past nine months, for the sports hospitality industry there has been no re-start. A second summer of bio-secure bubbles and empty stadiums would see twenty months of catastrophic revenue loss for the events, teams and hospitality suppliers that depend on crowds for financial survival.
When faced in March with the prospect of a summer hiatus, the industry gritted its teeth, battened down the hatches and dreamt of Spring 2021. As spring approaches, and the real threat of a second summer of restrictions emerge, the industry sits on a knife edge. Will this be the end of the road for many, or the greatest year of sport that any of us have ever seen?
The postponement of a number of major events from last year means that on paper at least, 2021 will see the greatest collection of major global sporting events to take place in one year. Assuming meaningful crowds by April, consider this for the backbone of a sporting calendar.
The Masters, The Olympics, Joshua v Fury, Champions League knock-out stages, Wimbledon, the Lions in SA, the Open, Euro 2021, Ryder Cup, T20 World Cup and the Ashes.
Combined with the pent up frustration of sports fans around the world, unable to support their teams and heroes, and the potential to rescue the disaster of 2020 is exciting and real.
The flip side however, is disaster. A botched roll-out of the vaccine, a new strain of the virus or an unnecessarily over-cautious government and heavily restricted crowds and the sports hospitality landscape will change forever.
There are many industries that have rightly taken centre stage at different times over the last nine months in the struggle for relief and sympathy. For the sports hospitality industry and the events it depends on, the next three months are crucial.