World Athletics sends Monaco staff home as Covid-19 pandemic bites

Wednesday May 13 2020
By ELIAS MAKORI

World Athletics (WA), the global athletics governing body, has sent some of its head office staff home as effects of the coronavirus pandemic continues to bite.

The Monaco-based organisation says the move was prompted owing to the fact that it relies on grants and sponsorship funds to support athletics and its 214-member base, and was, therefore, “duty bound to spend wisely.”

The decision amplifies the financial crisis in which global sport finds itself in due to massive losses in income following the suspension of virtually all global sports events owing to Covid-19.

With many international sports federations also relying heavily on revenues from selling sports broadcast rights, the lack of competitions has run their coffers dry.

However, the largely event management staff at WA will be cushioned by the Monegasque government’s generous scheme to support businesses based in the Principality of Monaco.

“World Athletics is a member-based organisation with 214 federations around the globe and relies on grants and sponsorship funds to support athletics around the globe,” a statement copied to Nation Sport from WA’s communications office in Monaco on Tuesday said.

“We are acutely conscious of our duty to spend our funds wisely and not waste the precious resources we have been awarded.

“Given the temporary postponement of sporting events around the world due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the strict self-isolation regulations in Monaco and France, where the majority of World Athletics’ HQ staff are based, World Athletics has chosen to take advantage of a generous Monegasque Government scheme to support businesses based in the Principality,” the statement added.

“This scheme allows organisations to temporarily reduce the working hours of staff who are unable, through no fault of their own, to carry out their roles to full effect.

“Therefore, we have decided to temporarily suspend parts of the organisation, primarily those areas which are heavily event driven, and put a number of individuals on temporary leave until the offices are officially able to reopen.”

FULL SALARIES

The WA statement, however, noted that all staff will continue to receive their full salaries, with the Monaco government contributing 70 percent of their gross wages and World Athletics funding the difference.

“World Athletics has taken care to ensure the support and services it offers its members, partners, stakeholders, athletes and the wider athletics community remains in place with a reduced team and we all look forward to the time we can resume athletics competitions around the world and have our whole team once again refocused on growing, promoting and delivering the Olympic Games’ number one sport,” the statement from Monaco said.

The Monegasque government has stepped in to support businesses hard hit by the Covid-19 containment measures.

According to reports from the Principality, by April 1, some 21,650 employees had been placed in reinforced temporary total unemployment with between 2,000 and 2,500 self-employed workers deprived of income.

The Monegasque government, headed by Prince Albert III – who himself tested positive for Covid-19 and is currently under treatment - has subsequently “agreed to reimburse employers up to 80.6 percent of the net salary of each employee, at a monthly cost of 50 million euros (Sh5.8 billion) per month,” according to a report in the monacodailynews.com website.

WAIVED RENT

The Monegasque government has also waived rent for its properties for the next three months and is holding discussions with private landlords to follow suit.

“Since the State cannot do this directly, it will immediately inject an amount initially set at 50 million euros intended for the smallest of SMEs through banking establishments,” the website reported.

“On the basis of simplified procedures, these entrepreneurs can benefit from a sum of up to 50,000 euros to pay the wages or rent which constitute their main fixed costs.

“These amounts loaned by the banks are guaranteed by the State. This means that in the event of default by the borrower, the government will reimburse the bank. For the bank, the risk is therefore zero.

“Employers who would like to pay the additional 20 percent of their employees’ wages so that they receive a 100 percent will be exempt from social charges on this additional part,” the website added, an option that WA apparently elected to take.

“The Prince’s Government, in agreement with the National Council, has taken a decision to make any dismissal impossible except in the event of proven gross negligence,” the report added.

It was not immediately clear how the human resource move by WA would impact of two of the organisation’s major events pencilled for Nairobi this year – the Continental Tour and World Under-20 Championships - which have both been postponed. WA has assigned $65,000 (about Sh6.5 million) for the Continental Tour and an undisclosed amount and huge technical and event support for the Under-20 championships.

The Kenyan government is taking the rest of the tab for both events. Last October, WA announced a 10-year sponsorship deal with Chinese conglomerate, Wanda Group, for its Diamond League programme.

It’s also uncertain how the Covid-19 pandemic stemming from China will affect this sponsorship or Wanda Group’s financing of WA.

Hitherto, most of the WA staff, including the organisation’s president Seb Coe, have been working from home.

To date, almost 8,000 people have been killed by Covid-19 in France, with less than 100 cases and one death reported in Monaco.

The sovereign city-state Principality of Monaco has a population of just about 40,000 and is the smallest independent state after The Vatican.

The Monaco Formula One Grand Prix, initially scheduled for March 19, was cancelled due to the pandemic.