President of the Estonian Olympic Committee (EOC) Urmas Sõõrumaa is calling for the government to come to the aid of the sports sector that has taken a heavy blow in the ongoing coronavirus crisis, including by expanding the state's crisis relief measures to all coaches and instructors, as well as the sports facilities in private ownership.
"When the emergency situation is over, not all spheres will recover in a quickly - some sports clubs will not survive the economic downturn. The current measures do not help all clubs and coaches. The people who have committed themselves to promoting public health in Estonia must be preserved with extreme care in today's conditions. Not only by the clubs, but also by the state," the president of EOC said,
"It is one of the specifics of the sports sector that quite often highly esteemed specialists work at several sports clubs and in addition are self employed," Sõõrumaa said. "At the moment, attention has been paid only to helping those who have entered into an employment contract."
The president of EOC said that if Estonia lets the sector lose its credibility and sink into a "grey zone," a lot of time will be needed for the system to be restored. He said the state should compensate people for lost income whose form of work has been other than a regular employment contract.
"Sports clubs give work to nearly 10,000 people, half of whom are coaches and instructors and the remaining half other personnel. The turnover of Estonia's sports clubs last year was approximately €140 million, of which €70 million came from the contributions of individuals and the remainder was support from the state and municipalities and other economic activity. Now the danger exists that the almost half or even more of that will not be received," he said.
Sõõrumaa said that sport as a sector of the economy, which is worth €280 million and accounted for about 1 percent of Estonia's GDP last year, will contract significantly this year.
"We must not be careless and allow things that we have taken great pains to build up to crumble," he said, also pointing out that the tax revenue, mostly labor taxes, received by the state from sports clubs nearly doubled in four years from €20 million in 2016 to €37 million in 2019.
The EOC president said another important point that requires assistance from the state is sports infrastructure. There are 2,961 sports facilities in Estonia, 79 percent of which belong to the state or a municipality. The latter spend an estimated €31 million on the upkeep of the facilities per year, while private owners spend an estimated €8 million.
"These maintenance costs have put private owners in a very difficult situation," Sõõrumaa said, adding that overcoming problems related to that also needs to be addressed in the near future.
Editor: Helen Wright