I listened to the Law in Sport podcast last week with Sean Cottrell and Dr J Simon Rofe where they discussed the topic of sports diplomacy. Sport is a powerful tool and a means to influence diplomatic, social and political relations. How can we utilise it to bring people together, (not literally of course) during this time of crisis?

Sport is big business, but there is also the social and community side to it. It inspires and excites people. It has a global reach, and impacts all races, genders and ages. With events, tournaments and leagues around the entire world being cancelled or postponed, there is undoubtedly going to be a significant financial impact to the industry, but now is the time to go back to basics and assess where the value lies.

"Sport seems a little bit of a moot point right now, but I think it’s important for the athletes to remember that it’s not and sport is a big deal. I think the only thing we can do is see it as a brilliant opportunity for Olympians and Paralympians to show how strong we are in any way we can and then coming back even stronger next year to put on an amazing show for the world."  (Kim Daybell)

Kim Daybell, is not only a two-time Paralympian in table tennis but he also completed his medical degree alongside his training and is now a fully qualified junior doctor. Kim and other athletes such as Vicky Wright, are utilising their skills and qualifications outside of sport and have stepped up to the plate to help the NHS and the nation as a whole.

Looking ahead, there are opportunities for solidarity. Athletes have the tools to assist and inspire the nation. Everyone knows what a commitment it is to be at the best of your game; there are athletes who have dedicated their whole lives to the sport they love and now their careers are on hold. How can players and athletes use this time away from their respective sports to help people develop their own mental strength and help to shape the way people react under pressure?  They should be encouraged to use their role model status to influence, and use their technical skills to inspire the next generation. These same principles can be applied to coaches, physiotherapists, commentators, managers and other specialised individuals within sport, who's skills can all be utilised elsewhere.

 An example where sport is utilising its facilities to add value is Horse Racing Ireland, who have made it clear that its medical facilities which are usually provided by the Order of Malta will be available for the Irish Government to use if necessary. While budgets are tight, sports clubs and events should be looking to communicate amongst each other to find out where there are common links in order to use resources more sensibly and sustainably. For example, shared training of event staff across different sports in the same geographical area. While it is important for sports to be looking at how they can utilise their resources during this lockdown, it is also important for them to carefully consider any actions in coming out of the lock-down, for example at what point team training can resume, and whether the sport can be played behind closed doors. 

 There is no doubt that sports and spectators alike, are eagerly awaiting the day that live sport will be back in our lives, but sports need to be mindful of the legal, ethical and reputational implications if they jump the gun. Individual athletes and organisations, who are doing the right thing will contribute to society whether or not they have overt diplomatic or political aims.