The European Commission has officially authorized the French government to provide subsidies to the operators of skilifts, cable cars and other ski facilities in the ski resorts all over France, which have been locked down throughout the snow sports season to help minimize coronavirus contamination. The French government had pledged direct grants of about €500 million for them, in addition to the development of a wider program for mountain resorts.
The ski lockdown measures have been less severe in most other European countries, but we have been unable so far to find out whether any of the respective national authorities have asked the European Commission for permission to provide such specific aids.
It is also still unclear at this stage what kind of governmental aid can be expected by suppliers and retailers of snow sports products. The French sporting goods industry association, Union Sport & Cycle (USC), has already gone on record to explain why the aid given or promised to them so far – guaranteeing 20 percent of the turnover for ski retailers losing 70 percent of the season’s sales - is going to be clearly insufficient to cover their losses. It said it was lobbying for more adequate compensation.
The Federation of the European Sporting Goods Industry in Brussels, FESI, asked the European Commission for support for the whole winter sport sector on Dec. 9, after the start of the second wave of Covid-19 led some member countries to apply the first measures. Noting that it had already approved by then more than 400 national state aid measures for the tourism and hospitality sector because of restrictions on cross-border travel, the Commission replied that only the member states can decide whether to close or open their ski facilities, based on the epidemiological situation on their territories.
Meanwhile, the recent resurgence of the virus has led to new retail lockdowns in France, Germany, Italy and other countries, setting exceptions in certain cases for pharmacies, hairdressers, bookstores and some other categories, but not for sporting goods retailers.
Various governments have permitted some individual and outdoor sports. In Germany, some retailers have reacted by bringing forth again the argument that the sale of sporting goods should also be considered as an “essential” service because of the health benefits of sport.
The French government said it was studying the possibility of authorizing additional inventory clearance periods for clothing and other seasonal merchandise. Like the German government, it has also indicated that it might allow unsold inventories of deadstock to be written off for tax purposes.