R for Resilience in management and operation of sport

So much attention has been focussed on the 'R Number'. This time last year few of us had any comprehension of what an 'R number' was or what it meant.

The Prime Minister has instructed all of us to stay at home in these upcoming winter weeks– an enforced hibernation that most saw coming, but also feared. No doubt the Prime Minister's instruction to try and reduce the 'R number' again will be carefully observed and hopefully, will have the desired effect.

In doing so however businesses and individuals will need to arm themselves with an 'R' of their own: Resilience.

The Prime Minister's statement lasted only a few minutes and whilst there has understandably been a great deal coverage of what he did say, there was plenty of detail that he did not get around to.

One such matter was elite sport.

It had been thought initially that elite sport would not continue during "Lockdown 3" however it is clear from the recently published Government's guidance that elite sport will continue over the coming weeks.

This is good news for many reasons. The supporter benefits from being able to watch 'their' team week in week out; much needed normality (and distraction) in otherwise uncertain times.

The resilience required of grassroots clubs, teams and dedicated staff is obvious.  Keeping treasured local clubs going in tough times where fixtures are impossible is going to be difficult and will require support from many directions.

However, even at elite level, clubs face acute challenges and great resilience will be required.

There is an obvious cost to playing the fixtures: staff to be brought off furlough to ensure matchday safety, the cost of operating the stadium itself against a backdrop of empty stands and non-existent gate receipts.

This makes life difficult for all concerned. 

The task then is to ensure the time that exists between now and the Spring (everyone loves an optimist) is well spent ensuring that protocols are in place that plan for a safe return of spectators across all sports.

I have seen how robust policies and procedures that sensibly and effectively manage the return of spectators can reassure a local authority's Safety Advisory Group ("SAG") and ensure that much needed spectators and revenue return as quickly as possible.

This challenge is not the only one facing professional sport.

Resilience will be required in the world of rugby for example: facing claims for damages for personal injury leading to concussion in the first instance and then persuading people of all ages and the families of the next generation that the sport is a safe one will require articulate and powerful leadership. The decision about the 2021 Lions tour of South Africa in the face of a statement from the Health Secretary that he is "really worried" about a strain of the virus emanating from that same country will require creativity and perseverance.

In our experience sports clubs and professional administrative bodies are strongholds for creativity, perseverance and, ultimately, resilience.  We have seen how clubs have already responded following "Lockdown 1" with clear and detailed measures that provided a high level of re-assurance to their local SAG.

This may now be a time of uncertainty and concern; but this provides an opportunity to reflect and redouble efforts to ensuring a swift return to the 'old normal'.

There will need to be an outpouring of resilience; but in my experience that is something the world of sport has in abundance.