No industry or sector has been spared by the COVID-19 pandemic – and that includes sports. When the country started to close and gatherings of more than six were canceled, the sporting industry took a hard hit. From major league games to marathons, the sports industry has seen a severe drop in revenue and countless furloughed and laid-off employees.
Organized endurance sports activities do not just happen – they can take months of planning, permitting, and organizing. In addition to the feeling of accomplishment contestants feel when they cross a finish line, the industry also provides jobs. The endurance sports industry produces $3 billion in annual revenue and employs more than 500,000 people. It holds over 50,000 annual events, attended by more than 30 million participants each year and raises over $500 million for charity annually.
While other industries have the option to pivot to online sales or delivery service to mitigate some of the economic hardships caused by COVID-19, the endurance sports industry does not have that option. With 52 percent of endurance sports event employees already laid off, Lonnie Somers, owner and president of Hal Sports, said it best: “Obviously there’s a lot of industries that are suffering but we don’t even have the ability to offer curbside pick-up and have no way to bring in income in any normal, traditional sense.” Somers also noted the industry will be one of the last to reopen and is experiencing a steep learning curve as organizers enter unfamiliar terrain, like how to support endurance sports events virtually.
The jobs and livelihoods that currently rely on the industry could vanish even as other industries reopen at reduced capacity. Currently, 90 percent of industry jobs are expected to be lost and 80 percent of event operators are expected to go out of business. According to the Endurance Sports Coalition: “ Many events with long and proud histories do not have the resources to weather this storm and will not be able to ramp up again next year.” In fact, a survey of nearly 400 endurance sports businesses found that 95 percent of all events lack the confidence that mass gatherings will occur this year.
If Congress does not act, hundreds of thousands of Americans will lose their jobs and countless charity organizations will lose a large percentage of their annual funding. “The Boston Marathon was canceled for the first time in its 124-year history and we had to cancel another Tough Mudder event in Colorado. Without additional support from the federal government, we anticipate overwhelming industry contraction,” said Kyle McLaughlin, CEO of Tough Mudder and coordinator of the Endurance Sports Coalition.
Endurance sports benefit public health, create jobs, bring people together, and drive economic impact, which is why Congress must act by creating America’s Recovery Fund to help the industry before the days of grueling physical activity to support a cause will be gone forever.