What’s your sports strategy for managing possible Coronavirus social distancing measures?

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Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan suggested this week that the Coronavirus could be spreading in Australia by April or May and may peak in August based on preliminary modelling. What’s your sport’s strategy then for grassroots clubs impacted by the social distancing measures that may follow?  

Listening-Posts
In working through our options in terms of how we can contribute to tackling this emerging health crisis we’ve decided one of the few things we can do is double-down on what was already a priority for 2020. Mapping and monitoring as much of the clubland social media landscape as we possibly can. From this, we’re planning on building a picture of shifting sentiment within local sports communities about the virus and the impact any social distancing measures may have, if they eventuate. Do you want your sport to be a part of our listening-post? Get in touch at info@shunt.com.au

How is Coronavirus going to play-out?

No one knows. A recent ABC report on early modelling results is a good place to start from a planning perspective.

Treatment

The Australian Government’s Department of Health warns that there are currently no treatments for the virus although medical care can treat most of the symptoms. That’s not to say there won’t be effective treatments in the future – we’re just not there yet.

Vaccine

According to the experts this is at least a year away, possibly 18 months, more realistically two years or more.

Herd Immunity

‘Herd Immunity’ is where a critical mass is achieved within the community of those who are immune to Covid-19 that it limits its spread. This term is often used to describe the effect that vaccines have within a community and why those who choose not to get immunised can put everyone at risk.

What’s the impact on sport?

So far, precautionary social distancing measures are only impacting some major events that have the potential to attract large crowds. At the time of writing there were concerns over the Australian F1 Grand Prix in Melbourne, the AFL has relocated its annual game in China and there are ongoing fears that the Tokyo Olympics may also have to be cancelled or postponed.

What about clubland? Several scenarios spring to mind…..

There are likely to be further disruptions to major sporting events, leagues and championships in the coming weeks and months with cancellations, postponements and empty stadiums on the cards. All of which will be costly and disruptive to the sport in question.

What is equally concerning is how the potential spread of Covid-19 within the community will impact grassroots participation.

1. Sport cancellation must follow school closures

300 Million children worldwide at the time of writing are currently missing school due to the Coronavirus. The logical extension of this is that any club sporting activity within the immediate area of an outbreak must also cease as well.

So what happens if and when school and day-care closures reach Australia? How does sport react?

What crisis management plans need to be in place to help club officials, volunteers and parents work through this?

2. Winter’s almost upon us

Winter is typically the time when we get the sniffles, a cough or sneeze.

For sports officials, volunteers, players and parents how are they going to be able to tell whether they are in close proximity to someone with the common cold or Coronavirus at a sports ground?

3. Local sports ground harbours Coronavirus

It is surely only a matter of time before the source of a Coronavirus infection is traced back to a local playing field. Then what?

What are we doing about it?

As you may have gathered from the tone of this post I’m increasingly concerned with how this situation is unfolding. It’s my sincere hope that I’ve gotten every scenario outlined above completely wrong and I go down as just another Doomsday Prepper with a compulsion for hoarding toilet paper!

What can’t be denied though is that as an industry we’ve never faced anything like this before. We need to put our collective thinking caps on and come up with some plans that balance community concerns against the continued sustainability of participation sport – fast.

For our part, a core focus for Shunt through 2020 before Coronavirus reared its ugly head is a focus on mapping the clubland ecosystem as it relates to social media. This outbreak has galvanised us to double-down on putting as many ‘listening posts’ as we possibly can out into clubland in an effort to better understand community concerns so sports can make more informed decisions.

Having the right communications, in the right place at the right time might be a good starting point in enabling sports to better understand and react to what will be a fast-moving issue over the coming months, possibly even years.

Over to you.

Stu Williams, MD @ Shunt

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