The federal government will provide $72 million in relief funding to the country’s sport sector that has seen myriad events cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Federal Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault made the announcement Friday, three days after Sports revealed a dire financial situation facing dozens of Canada’s national sport organizations.
In addition to the money for sports, arts and culture will receive $198.3 million through existing programs, $115.8 million is going to the to support the Canadian audiovisual sector and $53 million will be provided to the heritage sector via the emergency component of the Museums Assistance Program.
National sport organizations and institutes will receive $34.5 million, provinces and territories $32.5 million and the Athlete Assistance Program $5 million.
Canadian Olympic Committee CEO David Shoemaker clarifies the funding is not intended for professional sports.
“This is funding specifically devoted to what we’ve termed ‘amateur sport’ over the years, but amateur and Olympic sport,” Shoemaker told on Friday. “National sports organizations, multi-sport service organizations and sports institutes in Canada. That’s a main point to focus as emergency funding, to make sure that they stay viable. They are an important part of the fabric of this country.”
Shoemaker says the federal sports budget is expected to be distributed based on need.
“The principle in play is need,” Shoemaker said. “So, whether it’s a national sports organization or a local sport club within a province or territory or an athlete who’s under the assistance program of the federal government, it’s about making a case for need.
“That why the pandemic and in the situation where we’re all at home and businesses and sports are not running, why that has caused economic impact.”
Athletes whose Sport Canada assistance cheques are impacted by both the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics and the pandemic will also receive financial assistance.
“We will try to save all our organizations and to help everybody,” Guilbeault told The Canadian Press on Friday. “We may not be able to, but we will try.
“What we’re hoping to achieve out of this is once we’ve gone through that first phase of the crisis, our sports ecosystem is still intact.”
Many sources close to Canadian sporting landscape called the measure a good first step, but still have questions about how the funds will be distributed.
‘Significant revenue loss’
“This is great news for the sport community,” Terry Dillon, CEO for Rowing Canada, said Friday. “Many NSOs, like Rowing Canada, have experienced significant revenue loss and some are at risk of going under.
“Sport is a big part of what makes Canada, Canada. It will be a critical part of the recovery and what will re-energize our communities. It is good to see our government recognize this and provide us with meaningful support. It will make a difference.”
Both the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee said they are “sincerely grateful” to the government for the investment to support the Canadian sport system.
“National sport organizations are facing significant obstacles, including limited cash flows, layoffs and uncertainty,” the organizations said in a joint statement on Friday. “Along with this funding package, the COC and CPC will fully support the NSOs and broader sport community. We remain committed to playing our role in COVID-19 relief and recovery in concert with our partners at the government of Canada.
There are more than 60 summer and winter NSOs in Canada which govern all aspects of a sport in the country. They manage the high-performance programs, including national teams, sanction competitions and tournaments and provide development for coaches and officials.
Early this week we contacted dozens of the Canada’s NSOs and while many of the organizations said it was still too early to tell how much they’re going to be impacted by the shutdown of sports, many admitted it was getting dire.
Swimming Canada CEO Ahmed El-Awadi had painted a bleak picture when it comes to the situation facing most sport organizations in Canada right now.
“I think there’s a chance some NSOs might not survive. There’s also a greater possibility NSOs will look very different after this,” he said.