SOCCER AMERICA: What can clubs that expect financial hardship -- because of the cancellation of field spaces/events, requests from parents for refunds, and paying employees and/or 1099 contractors -- do at this point?
HALEY CARTER: While it maybe too early to know exactly what the financial impact may be, I do suggest checking out the Small Business Administration's COVID-19-related disaster assistance loans. They are currently offering loans for up to $2 million with 30-year payment terms (depending on your situation) for non-profit organizations at 2.75% interest.
SA: How do recommend a club react if parents ask for refunds?
HALEY CARTER: Each club, organization, environment, and market is different so I cannot make a single recommendation that applies in each context. However, I encourage clubs to abide by their current, published refund policies. In some markets, we may be looking at a shorter term pause whereas in other markets, we may see full seasons canceled. These are decisions for the boards of clubs and organizations to lead and make and they know their markets best. Any decision to diverge from an existing refund policy can have significant financial impact to the clubs both now and in the future and should not be taken lightly.
SA: How would you advise parents who are thinking asking for a refund?
HALEY CARTER: Again, everyone’s situation is unique. For many families, they may need the funds that they’ve invested in their children’s activities to cover other expenses that have arisen as a result of COVID-19 shutdowns, pauses, etc. I would ask though that parents who do not immediately need those funds to consider the financial livelihood of the clubs/organizations their children participate in and in lieu of a refund, perhaps request a credit for a future season instead. Financial hardships are very much trickling down throughout the economy and it will be more difficult for clubs to receive refunds from their various commercial partners and further, it will be more difficult for them to help cover the expenses of their staff and coaches, whether employed or working in a contracting context.
SA: What should a club do if it's paid for a tournament that got canceled, or paid for the use of a field or facility for the period of time its unable use it because of COVID-19?
HALEY CARTER: The first question clubs should be asking is whether a tournament has an event insurance policy that covers cancellation. In many instances in major tournaments, this type of insurance is available to tournament organizers and can be used to help provide refunds to any participants, vendors, etc. We are still relatively early in our response to COVID-19 and while many tournaments and leagues have either canceled or postpone their events, it is taking time, as it is for everyone, for them to organize their own response.
With respect to field or facility rentals, clubs should consider checking their rental contracts for any force majeure clause that may allow them an out. If that is not available, then consider requesting a credit for use in a future date. A refund may be difficult for a space provider to offer but by obtaining a credit, clubs and organizations will be able to use the space at a future date without losing those funds.
SA: Are any resources you recommend?
HALEY CARTER: The NCAA page for Coronavirus updates, the US Youth Soccer Travel and Health Guidance, may be helpful. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidelines page.
Individual state associations and high school sporting bodies have provided guidance as well and I encourage clubs and various organizations to seek them out should for specific questions their areas.
SA: Anything else you'd like to add or address?
HALEY CARTER: This is going to be a difficult time financially for many organizations, their staff, coaches, players, and parents. I ask that everyone work together to find solutions that will enable the game to continue to grow. I applaud everyone that is working to get their players activities that they can do from home and I have seen some very unique and creative ideas to engage athletes during this time. It is important that we stick together as a community now and as we move forward.
(Haley Carter is the Chair of the United Soccer Coaches Women Coaches Advocacy Group. She is currently the goalkeeper coach for the Antigua and Barbuda women's national team, and has been the assistant coach of Afghanistan women's national team, and coached as a volunteer assistant at Huston-Tillotson, Sam Houston State, and the University of Houston. Carter has an MBA from the University of Liverpool and is pursuing a dual JD/LLM from the University of Houston Law Center. Her playing career included D1 ball at the United States Naval Academy and professional with the NWSL (Houston Dash). She's been assistant coach of Huston–Tillotson University and Sam Houston State University, and the Afghanistan women's national team.)