TAYLOR COUNTY—Now that COVID-19 has forced the suspension and/or cancellation of thousands of sporting events around the world, an analysis conducted for ESPN by Patrick Rishe, the St. Louis-based Washington University’s sports business program leader, has estimated that $12 billion dollars in financial losses and hundreds of thousands of jobs will be suffered as a result of the recent pandemic.
The analysis also stated that total revenue losses would more than double if the NCAA and NFL seasons are canceled this fall.
According to Rishe, each NFL regular-season game is worth nearly $24 million in revenue from TV rights alone, a figure larger than the budget for some Hollywood films. Altogether, the 65 college football programs in the Power 5 conferences make approximately $4 billion in revenue, money that comprises nearly half of all athletic department budgets.
College football’s regular season doesn’t begin until August, although schools have already canceled their spring games because of the pandemic. The NFL regular season is scheduled to begin on
September 10th, and the league is holding a voluntary virtual offseason program for all of its 32 teams.
In regards to the original $12 million dollar figure, $3.25 billion would come from money that fans would have spent on pro sports, $2.4 billion would come from tourism related to youth sports, at least $2.2 billion of that would come from national television revenue, and approximately $371 million of that in wages for various stadium and arena employees who have lost (or will lose) their jobs as a result.
Rishe’s analysis relied on the assumptions that appear more likely with each passing day, such as the ability of Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer to salvage at least half their seasons with fans in attendance. The analysis also assumed that the NBA and NHL will cancel the rest of their regular seasons, and the playoffs will take place without fans. In addition, the assumption that youth sports resume by July was also taken into account.
According to ESPN, industry sources explained that most major sports leagues didn’t have insurance policies for a pandemic because the loss of entire seasons was regarded as unthinkable.
“It’s like hell began freezing over,” one sports executive said.
Major League Baseball officials are cautiously optimistic about playing a season of at least 100 games, which would start sometime between late June and early July.
The meltdown is just a fraction of the crisis spreading across the country, but it is nonetheless a historic event, touching every locality of the $100 billion United States sports industry.