British Cycling and UK Athletics turn to furlough as Covid-19 hits income | Sport

Two of Britain’s biggest Olympic sports have become the latest to announce plans to furlough staff because of the coronavirus crisis. British Cycling is to avail of the government’s job retention scheme to cover 80% of the wages of 90 staff – approximately one third of its workforce – in April and May as it faces a drop in income of around £4m. UK Athletics also plans to furlough up to 12 of its head office staff as it also braces itself for a significant loss of revenue.

Joanna Coates, installed as UKA’s new chief executive a week ago, said that while senior staff and the rest of the workforce are not yet taking pay cuts it is her belief this first round of furloughing was “the start of a series of measures that we’ll probably have to undertake”. Julia Harrington, her counterpart at British Cycling, has announced that she and other members of her leadership team will take a 10% pay cut in May and June.

Harrington also stressed her intention to return staff placed on furlough to the British Cycling fold at the earliest opportunity once the global pandemic has abated. “Employees who are being furloughed are among those we will rely on to ensure our sport can return with strength and, while they cannot work for British Cycling during this period, they are still part of our team,” she said.

Speaking on a conference call organised by UKA, Coates said that while the dozen or so employees being placed on furlough did not seem like a lot, they constituted nearly a quarter of her head office staff. “When it comes to anyone from the performance side that’s a little more tricky with it actually being public funds and lottery money,” she said. “So we’re not looking at that side of the business just yet.”

With UKA rumoured to be sitting on cash reserves of just £2m, a figure Coates did not confirm or deny, they will lose out on a potentially huge amount of income if they are unable to stage events such as the Anniversary Games, the British Athletics Championships and Grand Prix Gateshead, scheduled to take place in July and August.

“We have had really good conversations with our [commercial] partners and at the moment they’re very supportive of us and they’re not looking to cap any money,” she said, when asked if UKA was in danger of going bankrupt. “Our reserve position needs to be much stronger, but no, we’re not in a position where we need to be worried about bankruptcy.”

HSBC UK, the main sponsor of British Cycling, will also continue to lend its support to the organisation through what Harrington called “difficult times”, although their deal is set to end in December.

The World Athletics Championships have been moved back 11 months to July 2022 to avoid clashing with the Tokyo Olympics, which have themselves been delayed by the coronavirus outbreak, the sport’s governing body said on Wednesday.

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