Lost Revenues in 2020: How Teams Are Adapting

Lost Revenues in 2020: How Teams Are Adapting

Sports teams, and indeed businesses in general, have seen a massive strain on finances this year due to the global Covid-19 pandemic. We may ask how this relates to college sports? After all college sport is big business, and these essential revenues are factored in for the budget used to run these massive operations. So, we need to look at what impact this will have on the future of the team, the university, and the fans.

Infrastructure & Bubbles: The Issues

For sports all over the world, there has been huge thought and effort went into the process of forming safe infrastructure to allow play to continue. It's as much for the public as it is for the players themselves, having a sport to watch, even if it's only on TV, can be greatly beneficial to the mental health of the nation. Most professional sports have devised methods of keeping squads in bubbles of only personnel related to the teams and their families being allowed to mix to keep exposure to social contact to a minimum. But college sport in the USA is unique in being a high-profile spectator event with young amateur athletes who have other commitments, principally studying. This creates a dilemma with other students returning to campus the opportunity of virus spread is much higher than in professional sports, and the measures being asked of players is more difficult as they are not even being paid.

Cancel the Season

Could we just cancel the whole season? Well, it's something that has been discussed in many sports and happened in a few, the French Soccer Ligue 1 this spring, and Scottish Rugby has canceled the whole 2020/21 season at all levels below the national team. It has not yet been something that has happened in any US sport, but we cannot deny it is possible. The financial hit would be huge, and the developmental setback for many players could be severely detrimental to their careers.


Even with fans being kept away from the stadia there are revenue streams that teams can capitalize on. Merchandise is an easy one to keep going, the physical team store will possibly be closed, but there are always online orders to take. Organizations should be mindful of potential issues such as hockey jersey sizing so that they might minimize the returns they need to deal with.


Whatever direction a team or league decides to take, there is the tricky fact that there is a multitude of contractual commitments that go hand in hand with a college season. Firstly, there is the television rights, as any cancellation or curtailment of the season may be in breach of the media contract, and this could result in costly compensation to the broadcaster. There are also leases on a stadium or training facilities for some teams. These factors all need to be carefully brought into consideration.

Games Without Fans

There was much debate surrounding whether sport could continue without fans? What would the atmosphere be like? Would there be any point? And, most importantly, would it be commercially viable? The issue is that much of the cost of running a game is the same, we need the officials, the team personnel, medical staff, and broadcasters. There are some savings to be made as catering, security, etc. are not required, but this will never replace the lost revenues that fans would have brought. Could there be more money to be made from fans viewing the game online? Perhaps, but this is limited as the TV networks that already have purchased the rights would have something to say about it. You could have a small international audience, but that again is not making up for the lost revenue.

Player Safety

There is a player safety concern as well. We have seen in the professional leagues several athletes choosing to sit out the 2020 season due to Covid-19 exposure. So, what are the risks to athletes in this environment? There is always an injury risk, but this year if you require a trip to the hospital, you would want to avoid either bringing Covid into the hospital or taking it back out.

Associated Industries

It's not just the revenues lost by the college, there is a whole chain of businesses that are affected. The obvious ones being television and radio coverage, catering, and security staff. But others are more obscure such as the sports betting industry.