Well, that wasn’t your average week! I have spent some of it reflecting on how the entities across the sectors I work in – predominantly sports and what you might call lifestyle business like restaurants and gyms – have been reacting to everything that has been going on.

It takes no rocket scientist to understand that many businesses and bodies in sports, leisure and retails rely on having members of the public on their premises. But what happens when they are forced to close those premises?

Employees and staff are rightly at the forefront of most businesses’ minds. Many entities will be tussling with how best to handle and support their employees and whether to take up the option to “furlough” some of them, having the government reimburse 80% of wages up to a limit of £2,500 a month.

Rents and business rates will be another big concern. Here in the UK, the Chancellor has recently suspended business rates for a year for smaller businesses but rates will still present a formidable challenge for medium sized and larger businesses, especially in the retail, leisure and dining spaces. Many will also be relying on their landlords to take a pragmatic and collaborative approach to rent payments if they are to emerge from this crisis.

For restaurants, there is an opportunity to do some good and plenty of them including the likes of Honest Burgers and Pizza Pilgrims have been sending free meals out to hungry NHS workers. Less obviously perhaps, football clubs have also been helping out with food donations and we have seen the two Manchester clubs combining to donate £100,000 to food banks under the deft hashtag #ACityUnited. Football clubs have been helping in many other ways too: Chelsea FC offered its Millennium Hotel to NHS workers. PSG releasing a limited edition “Tous Unis” shirt to support healthcare professionals.

On the gym front, the likes of Barry’s Bootcamp have been running free online sessions on Instagram and other boutique gyms like Frame are scrambling to get their online offerings of the ground as quickly as they can. Many gyms, including PureGym, have promised their members they will not have to pay while the gyms are shut (echoing moves by the likes of Sky and BT Sport to allow subscribers to suspend payment while there is no sporting action).

Looping back to football, Jürgen Klopp described it a couple of weeks ago as “the most important of the least important things” and in the grand scheme of things the total dearth of live sports content is not the priority. With everyone cooped up, however, there is little doubt that some live sport would go down very nicely. For broadcasters, and therefore clubs and leagues, there are billions at stake if matches do not go ahead and they and the clubs themselves are keen to find a way to get the action back on as soon as it can be done safely. In terms of the top flight football across Europe, any outcome other than a completion of the season would be deeply unsatisfactory and very likely lead to litigation. If the matches do take place, it looks at this stage that they will be behind closed doors. But still the question persists: can it really be done in a way that is safe for the players and other staff? Safety must surely trump all other considerations.

While we hunker down and await the return of true live sporting action, we have seen sports turn to esports and gaming to take up some of the slack. In the US, the awkwardly titled eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series event was broadcast live on Fox Sports and apparently became the highest rated esports TV programme in US history with a viewership of 900,000. Meanwhile, F1 had around 400,000 peak viewers across its streaming platforms for its Virtual Bahrain Grand Prix, featuring the likes of Liam Payne, Sir Chris Hoy and Ian Poulter. There was also a “Not the Aus GP” and “Not the Bah GP” organised by Veloce Esports and featuring Thibaut Courtois and the youngest ever British F1 driver, McLaren’s Lando Norris, all run with the blessing of F1.

Spurs fans like me enjoyed the highlight of our season when Ryan Sessegnon beat West Ham’s Michail Antonio 2-0 at FIFA 20. Meanwhile, a FIFA 20 tournament in Spain featuring representatives of all La Liga teams and endorsed by La Liga itself, raised over €100,000 for charity, Real Madrid’s Marco Asensio emerging victorious. I have no doubt we will see a lot more of this kind of activity over the coming weeks.

To draw the threads together then, the sport, retail and leisure sectors, like so many others, have been hit super hard by COVID-19. They have nonetheless been finding ways of engaging with their fanbases, and serving their communities. The situation will get worse before it gets better but consideration for employees, connection with fans and communities, and a collaborative and understanding approach with other stakeholders will go a long way. Relentless innovation and the will to survive will get us the rest of the way!