Moral Hazard of Return to Sport


The US PGA Tour has published plans to play the first four tournaments of a revised 2020 schedule in June, without any spectators.

It would produce live sport, with the star players, and in weekend prime time for fans here in Europe.

So far, so good but then you come to the point that how they will do this is through the continual testing of all those personnel who will be needed to put on the tournament, estimated at around 700-800 individuals.

Testing is good, it is seen as the way we are most likely to get on top of this crisis, but that is something which should be available to all on the basis of need. The USPGA is reported to have ordered one million test kits to be delivered over the course of the next month.

That would be fine if supply chains were working well enough to deliver them wherever in the chain professional golf comes in terms of priority but all the indications from across the US and the world are that this is not the case and therein lies the moral hazard that comes from placing elite sport on some higher pedestal.

Yes, it is important in terms of morale and confidence for a bruised world to try and regain a sense of normality.

But no, it is not more important than advancing the extent of testing in the most vulnerable areas that will save lives as opposed to peace of mind.

The hope is that these kind of contingent thoughts are to the fore and that the plan is based on there being ample testing kits and testing capacity to manage this without impacting on the population at large.

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan is a member of an Economic Advisory panel reporting into the President’s office.

It is understood that players who are based overseas could be brought into the country ‘around’ the travel ban by being classified as ‘essential travellers’.

I would not, nor could not imagine the GAA or any Irish sporting organisation stockpiling medical supplies to put sport ahead of the wider health of the population, or indeed willingly put players, officials and their families at a level of risk that exceeds what is deemed as necessary for the general public.

And yet the US is different. From the outset there were stories of NFL coaches and NBA players and teams being tested despite not showing symptoms but just because they could afford to pay for the tests.

With 40,000 deaths and rising, with news of a New Jersey nursing home where bodies were piled high in a morgue and with conflict on the streets over whether the economy or the public health is more important, the idea of getting your priorities right has never been more important but also never so seemingly out of step with what is really important.

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