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Government Guidance

COVID-19 has put sport and events on hold. In response, the Government has set out a series of support measures and issued guidance on managing the impact of COVID-19. It is critical that sports and related organisations react quickly and responsibly to take advantage of government support packages and prepare for the rescheduling of delayed events. 

We have summarised the key elements here, so you can quickly find the information you need. We continue to update these pages regularly to reflect any emerging questions in the sports and events sector. For a quick online assessment for financial support schemes applicable to your organisation then please follow this link.

While measures evolve over time, the key elements applicable to your organisation are listed below:


All organisations

General Employer Guidance
Business Rates Relief 
Supporting the self-employed
Furloughing staff
Statutory Sick Pay 
Annual leave deferment 

Small organisations

Direct business grants
Bounce back loan

Mid-sized organisations

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)
Coronavirus Future Fund

Large organisations

Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS)
COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility

In addition, we note that banks are generally reported as being considerate towards customers, understanding the pressures on caused by loss of income and deterioration in asset values.

We explain some of the ways internal audit has added value and supported organisations in managing through COVID-19. Read more here.

If you’d like more information on how your sports business can respond to COVID-19, please contact Greg Rubins


General employer guidance

Businesses and workplaces should make every possible effort to enable working from home as a first option. Where working from home is not possible, workplaces should make every effort to comply with the social distancing guidelines set out by the Government as well as ensure office facilities are appropriately cleaned and maintained.The Government continues to update the guidance with specific citations included for certain sectors and premises. See here for latest government guidance

We have included links below to specific guidance related to the use of sporting and recreational facilities and the phased return of clubs and sporting pursuits.

Guidance for Managing Playgrounds and Outdoor Gyms

This guidance provides the owners and operators of playgrounds and outdoor gyms with information on conducting a COVID-19 risk assessment and examples of measures that may be taken to facilitate their use while minimising COVID-19 transmission risk.

Guidance on the phased return of sport

Guidance for the public, providers of outdoor sport facilities, elite athletes, personal trainers and coaches on the phased return of sport and recreation.

Members of staff who are vulnerable or extremely vulnerable, as well as individuals whom they live with, should be supported as they follow the recommendations set out in guidance on social distancing and shielding respectively. 

Where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full in relation to a particular activity, organisations should consider whether that activity needs to continue for them to operate, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of virus transmission between their staff.  

Staff may be feeling anxious about coming to work and also about impacts on livelihood. Workplaces should ensure staff are fully briefed and appropriately supported at this time. Staff who are unwell with symptoms of COVID-19 should not travel to or attend the workplace. 

Any member of staff who develops symptoms of COVID-19 (a new, continuous cough and/or a high temperature) should be sent home and stay at home for seven days from onset of symptoms. If the member of staff lives in a household where someone else is unwell with symptoms of COVID-19, then they must stay at home in line with the stay at home guidance

Employees should be reminded to wash their hands for 20 seconds more frequently and catch coughs and sneezes in tissues. 

Those who follow advice to stay at home will be eligible for statutory sick pay (SSP) from the first day of their absence from work. Employers should use their discretion concerning the need for medical evidence for certification for employees who are unwell. This will allow GPs to focus on their patients. If evidence is required by an employer, those with symptoms of COVID-19 can obtain an isolation note from NHS 111 online. Individuals living with someone who has symptoms can obtain a note from the NHS website

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Business rates relief

The Chancellor extended the package of business rates relief in his announcement on 17 March. Retail businesses in England with a rateable value below £51,000 will pay no business rates for the year to 31 March 2021. This is expected to apply to up to 90% of independent shops, pubs, restaurants and other qualifying businesses.

For businesses in the hospitality, leisure and retail sectors that use premises with a higher rateable value, there will be full business rate exemption for the year to 31 March 2021. The Government has also stated that hospitality businesses should be able to claim on their business continuity insurance as a result of government guidance to the public: as always, businesses should check their insurance cover and contact their insurer about the extent of their cover. 

Local authorities will be fully compensated for these business rates measures. Relief will be processed by local authorities, so organisations should not have to apply for this relief. If the relief is not given automatically, organisations should contact their local authority. See here for latest government guidance

Check your eligibility here


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Supporting the self-employed

On 26 March 2020, the Chancellor announced initial details of a Self-Employed Income Support Scheme. The scheme is intended to mirror the support given for furloughed employees and will pay qualifying self-employed individuals up to 80% of their average monthly income (as a taxable grant) up to a limit of £2,500 per month. 

Self-employed individuals (including partnership members) will qualify for the scheme if: 

  • They have made at least one tax return showing a year’s worth of trading income 
  • Their annual profits are no more than £50,000 in 2018/19 or an average trading profit of less than £50,000 from 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19 
  • They have submitted their self-assessment tax return for 2018/19 (those who have yet to submit their return must do so within four weeks)
  • They earn more than 50% of their annual income from self-employment (e.g. it is expected that those with high levels of rental income in addition to self-employed profits would not qualify) 
  •  They were trading during 2019/20 and will carry on (when the COVID-19 outbreak is over) and have lost income as a result of the virus. 

Individuals who commenced self-employment after 5 April 2019 will not be able to apply for the scheme as they have no tax records on which payments can be calculated. Individuals trading through a personal service company will not be eligible but may be able to claim under the COVID-19 Job Retention Scheme

For those who can claim, in calculating the amount of grant payable, HMRC will average the individual’s profits over the past three tax years (or a shorter period, provided profits have been declared on at least one tax return). 

The scheme will operated for a minimum of three months and was extended on 29th May 2020. A second and final grant will be available when the scheme opens again in August 2020.

Individual taxpayers who are due to make a second payment on account for the 2019/20 tax year by 31 July 2020 may be able to defer that payment by up to six months. Originally the deferment only applied to self-employed individuals, but was subsequently extended to all taxpayers. Where the deferment applies, no interest or penalties will arise as long as the payment reaches HMRC by 31 January 2021. During the deferral period, individuals can set up an HMRC budget payment plan to help them pay the deferred payment on account when it comes due on 31 January 2021. 

Although the deferment is automatic and no application is required, HMRC has clearly stated that where a taxpayer is able to make the payment by 31 July 2020, they should continue to do so. Whether or not the deferment applies will therefore depend on whether (i) the individual experiences difficulty in making a payment on 31 July, and (ii) this difficulty was caused by the coronavirus. See here for latest government guidance.

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Furloughing staff

The Government expects that the scheme will not be used by many public sector organisations, as most public sector employees are continuing to provide essential public services or contribute to the response to the coronavirus outbreak. 

Where employers receive public funding for staff costs, and that funding is continuing, the Government expects employers to use that money to continue to pay staff in the usual fashion – and correspondingly not furlough them. This also applies to non-public sector employers who receive public funding for staff costs. 

Where organisations receive public funding for staff costs (e.g. through Sport England or UK Sport), and that funding is continuing, the Government expects this money to continue being used to pay staff and staff should not be furloughed. If such funding is withdrawn, eligibility can be reviewed. 

In a small number of cases, for example where organisations are not primarily funded by the Government and whose staff cannot be redeployed to assist with the coronavirus response, the scheme may be appropriate for some staff. Additionally for sports organisations, staff members paid through revenue-generating activities (for example Events Managers in high profile sports) are eligible for funding, providing their salaries are not funded through government grants. 

On 12th May 2020 the Chancellor announced the extension of the furlough scheme to the end of October 2020. On 1st July 2020 employers were able to bring furloughed employees back to work for any amount of time and any shift pattern, while still being able to claim CJRS grant for the hours not worked.

From 1st August 2020, the level of grant will be reduced each month. To be eligible for the grant employers must pay furloughed employees 80% of their wages, up to a cap of £2,500 per month for the time they are being furloughed.

Wage caps are proportional to the hours an employee is furloughed. For example, an employee is entitled to 60% of the £2,500 cap if they are placed on furlough for 60% of their usual hours, the key changes and pending changes to the scheme are listed below:

  • In June and July 2020, the government is paying 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 for the hours the employee is on furlough, as well as employer National Insurance Contributions (ER NICS) and pension contributions for the hours the employee is on furlough. Employers are currently required to pay employees for the hours they do work.
  • In August, the government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 for the hours an employee is on furlough and employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions for the hours the employee is on furlough
  • In September, the government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50 for the hours the employee is on furlough. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and top up employees’ wages to ensure they receive 80% of their wages up to a cap of £2,500, for time they are furloughed
  • In October, the government will pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875 for the hours the employee is on furlough. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and top up employees’ wages to ensure they receive 80% of their wages up to a cap of £2,500, for time they are furloughed

Employers continue to able to choose to top up employee wages above the 80% total and £2,500 cap for the hours not worked at their own expense if they wish.

See here for latest Government guidance

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Paying Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

A number of measures have been announced. All employees who self-isolate will be able to claim SSP and, as a temporary measure, SSP claims can be made from the first day of illness, rather than the fourth. Employees who are caring for someone who is self-isolating will also be able to claim SSP on this basis.

Businesses with fewer than 250 employees as at 28 February 2020 (including groups and charities with fewer than 250 PAYE employees in total at that date) will be able to reclaim SSP expenditure from the Government up to a maximum of two weeks per employee.

The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme will repay employers the current rate of SSP that they pay to current or former employees for periods of sickness starting on or after 13 March 2020. If you’re an employer who pays more than the current rate of SSP you can only claim the current rate amount. HMRC have yet to announce the methods in which to reclaim SSP payments from the Government.

The repayment will cover up to 2 weeks starting from the first day of absence. Employees do not have to give you a doctor’s fit note for you to make a claim.

Claim totals should not be above the maximum €800,000 of state aid under the EU Commission temporary framework and all types of employee contracts are covered by these arrangements.

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Annual leave deferment

The Government has announced that all employees can defer two weeks’ of annual leave to be used in the subsequent two financial years, ensuring staff do not lose their entitlements as well allowing more flexibility for employers managing the time of key staff.

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Small organisations

Direct business grants

Business grants are being made available to support the many small businesses that pay little or no business rates because of Small Business Rate relief (SBRR). The Government will provide funding for local authorities in England, which will provide the business grants.

These schemes are delivered by Local Authorities – if you are eligible, your Local Authority will be in touch with you to arrange payment. Central Government will provide funding to Local Authorities that are responsible for business rate billing. Those Local Authorities will contact eligible businesses to arrange payment of the grants.

Under the Small Business Grant Fund (SBGF) all eligible businesses in England in receipt of either Small Business Rates Relief (SBRR) or Rural Rates Relief (RRR) in the business rates system will be eligible for a payment of £10,000.

Under the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant (RHLG) eligible businesses in England in receipt of the Expanded Retail Discount (which covers retail, hospitality and leisure) with a rateable value of less than £51,000 will be eligible for a cash grants of £10,000 or £25,000 per property. Eligible businesses in these sectors with a property that has a rateable value of up to and including £15,000 will receive a grant of £10,000. Eligible businesses in these sectors with a property that has a rateable value of over £15,000 and less than £51,000 will receive a grant of £25,000. Businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 or over are not eligible for this scheme and should browse additional guidance in the medium and large organisations section of these pages. Businesses which are not ratepayers in the business rates system are not included in this scheme.

It is our understanding that Community Amateur Sports Clubs (CASCs) should benefit from full relief. However, please note that the guidance confirms that it is for local authorities to administer a local scheme and determine in each individual case when to grant relief. You should contact your local authority for confirmation. 

For Government guidance click here

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Bounce back loan

The Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) enables smaller businesses to access finance more quickly during the coronavirus outbreak. It is designed to help small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and up to 25% of their turnover. The maximum loan available is £50,000. The government guarantees 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months. After 12 months the interest rate will be 2.5% a year. If you need a larger loan, you may be entitled to other government support. See CBILS and CLBILS guidance.

For more information to apply, click here

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Mid-sized organisations

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)

The scheme helps small and medium-sized businesses to access loans and other kinds of finance up to £5 million. The government guarantees 80% of the finance to the lender and pays interest and any fees for the first 12 months.

Private and third sector businesses based in the UK with annual turnover under £45 million can apply for a CBILS loan. Public funded organisations are not able to apply for this scheme.

You’ll need to provide documents that show you can afford to repay the loan.

For full eligibility criteria and further guidance click here

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Coronavirus Future Fund

The Future Fund will provide government loans to innovative UK-based companies ranging from £125,000 to £5 million, subject to at least equal match funding from private investors. These convertible loans may be a suitable option for businesses that rely on equity investment and are unable to access the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. Eligibility has yet to be fully confirmed by the Government with additional announcements regarding this expected during May 2020.

For headline terms click here

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Large organisations

Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme

The Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) supports large businesses, with an annual turnover of over £45 million. All viable private and third sector businesses with turnover of more than £45 million per year can apply for up to £25 million of finance. Firms with a turnover of more than £250 million can apply for up to £50 million of finance. Public funded bodies are not eligible for this scheme.

The scheme is available through a series of accredited lenders, which are listed on the British Business Bank website. The government provides lenders with an 80% guarantee on individual loans. Facilities backed by a guarantee under CLBILS are offered at commercial rates of interest.

This scheme allows lenders to support businesses that were viable before the coronavirus outbreak but now face significant cash flow difficulties that would otherwise make their business unviable in the short term.

For Government guidance click here

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COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility

Under the COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF), the Bank of England will buy short-term debt from large companies. This scheme will support your organisation if it’s been affected by a short-term funding squeeze, and allow you to finance your short-term liabilities.

It will operate for at least 12 months, and for as long as steps are needed to relieve cash flow pressures on firms that make a material contribution to the UK economy.

For Government guidance click here

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Key Contacts

Partner - Head of Public Sector
BDO Southampton