Sports-NZ sports among those 'woefully unprepared' for pandemic, TV official says

WELLINGTON, May 30 (Reuters) - Sports bodies were among those “woefully unprepared” for the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the head of New Zealand’s Spark Sport said.

Professional sports leagues went into a virtual global shutdown from March as governments worldwide ordered travel bans and put curbs on public gatherings.

“We were woefully unprepared for this in every sector of society,” Spark Sport chief executive Jeff Latch told Women In Sport Aotearoa’s ‘Leadership in Lockdown’ series.

“All of the individual sports have learned the hard way that they hadn’t prepared very well for this sort of contingency at all.”

Most sports in New Zealand, including the dominant rugby union, have said they were suffering financial pressure from the outbreak as broadcast, commercial, sponsor and ticket revenue all dried up.

Latch said he knew of only one major sports body, the All England Club, having taken out insurance against the possibility of an epidemic disrupting the Wimbledon Grand Slam tennis tournament.

Organisers cancelled this year’s Wimbledon tournament in April.

“I think you will find now that every sport in the world will be looking to take out insurance to protect themselves from this sort of thing,” Latch added.

“The lack of cash in the whole ecosystem when live sports stopped has been the fundamental thing that has caused massive challenges for all the sports organisations and broadcasters around the world.”

With live sports action postponed, broadcasters turned to archive content and showcased electronic sports events, which had been popular, said Latch, whose streaming service is owned by telecommunications provider Spark and launched in April 2019.

“Things like esports can be quite attractive and they are one of the few things that can keep on going,” he said.

“Having some base level of esports content on the platform will mean that you will be better prepared for this sort of eventuality.” (Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)