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How the UAE sports sector is adapting to COVID-19

How the UAE sports sector is adapting to COVID-19
Wednesday, 12 August 2020 By Steve Bainbridge, Ujjwal Ashok

The world before covid-19 seems a long time ago[1].  Any way you choose to look at the global sports and events sector, as we have just passed the halfway mark, 2020 has already been a year of monumental disruption[2].  Competitions in most major professional sports have been topped, tailed, trimmed or truncated[3], while major events from the Tokyo summer Olympics[4] to Wimbledon and many points in between have been subject to postponements, cancellations and calendar re-shuffles[5]

Quite apart from the human costs of the pandemic[6], the economic impact in terms of devastating job losses, lost broadcasting revenues, gate receipts, sponsorship funding and vital footfall for travel, tour, hospitality and other symbiotic sectors has left event rights-holders and venues amongst those scrambling to plot a course forward. The previously booming sports industry has suffered a significant dent in global revenue[7] as a result of the coronavirus triggered shutdown starting in March 2020, when the coronavirus was declared a pandemic.

This article examines how the UAE’s sports sector has been affected by the pandemic and the key elements required for a speedy recovery. Specifically, it looks at:

  • The impact on UAE sports & events
  • Lessons from sports and events that have successfully pivoted
  • How shutdown dynamics work
  • Classifying and addressing the risks
  • Return to sport guidelines – logistics
  • A way forward

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Written by

Steve Bainbridge

Steve Bainbridge

Steve Bainbridge is a partner in the Squire Patton Boggs Dubai office. 

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Ujjwal Ashok

Ujjwal Ashok

Ujjwal Ashok holds an LLM. in International Sports Law from the Instituto Superior de Derecho Y Economia, Madrid (2019-2020).

He has worked for over two years in the Sports Law and Events Management Practice of Al Tamimi & Company, supporting the team across a broad range of matters, including preparing legal submissions before international sports adjudicating authorities, drafting commercial contracts, advising on commercial issues pertaining to sponsorship agreements, service agreements, license agreements, naming rights agreements, force majeure processes, esports related issues and contractual issues in connection with sports and events ranging from UCI cycling events to World Athletics sanctioned half marathons and FIA sanctioned motor racing events.

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