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Onside Research Finds that Sports Venues Unlikely to Return to Full Capacity Until 2022

Pictured: John Trainor, Founder and CEO of ONSIDE

As sports events including the Guinness 6 Nations and GAA Championships shape up for a return to play next month, 46% of the Irish sports industry believe major sports events will  proceed with reduced capacity of up to 25% attendees across the remainder of 2020, according to new research by ONSIDE.

The third wave of the ONSIDE COVID-19 Sports Impact Monitor survey of sponsors, rights holders, broadcasters and agency members of the Sport for Business industry group found that 7 in 10 sports industry stakeholders expect major sports events to be hosting 26-50% attendees by the first half of 2021, albeit just 1 in 4 expect venues to be more than 75% full before 2022 unless a vaccine is available.

Commenting on the impact of Covid-19 on the Irish sports sponsorship market to date, John Trainor, Founder and CEO of sponsorship analysts ONSIDE notes: “While 8% of sponsors say they have already dropped out of an existing sports sponsorship as a result of Covid-19, and a further 17% are considering stepping back from their current deals, encouragingly a similar 17% have already entered into new sponsorships since Covid-19 began.”

Trainor added: “Sponsors have been increasingly looking to renegotiate a revised fee as the impact of empty stadia becomes more evident. The numbers of industry practitioners considering fee adjustment approaches to sponsorship arrangements that are affected by Covid-19 have jumped from 27% in June up to 43% in September. All sides are sensitive to the unique nuances and evolving nature of the situation and the importance of managing an approach to this challenge that recognises the established and long term relationships required to make the sponsorships work effectively in the recovery phase and beyond.”

Several opportunities were uncovered by the ONSIDE industry research as potentially valuable parts of rebooted sports presentation in the short term, with rights including pitch-side grass branding and empty seat covers highly favored by sponsors.  In-venue apps that allow for pre-order food at half time scored highly as an opportunity by 67% surveyed about how sponsors can support future safety measures.

Rob Hartnett, CEO at industry group Sport for Business, noted: “On the field, the majority of the sports industry surveyed by ONSIDE are optimistic that most scheduled events in Q4 2020 will conclude, and also encouraging was the significant 35% of sports sponsors that claim their organisation is likely to invest in cause-related sports initiatives and women’s sports in the next 12 months.”

The industry research found AIB & Musgrave’s GAA partnerships and Bank of Ireland and Vodafone’s most recent Rugby initiatives as the stand-out sponsorships in action over the past 2 months, with 2 in 3 stand-out sponsorships called out by the latest ONSIDE research being originated ‘locally’ in Ireland.

Looking beyond 2020, levels of optimism for recovery in the sports industry remain strong, with 7 in 10 industry practitioners expecting good recovery in sport in Ireland in the next 1-2 years. Concerns among sports industry practitioners for the wider Irish economy, however, are at their most fragile since the pandemic began, with just 4 in 10 optimistic about the wider landscape, and approval for how the government is handling the Covid-19 crisis dropping a significant 13% since June.


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