Some of the UK’s NGBs and public bodies have reacted to the government’s easing of lockdown restrictions which do not yet include indoor sport and leisure facilities.
It was announced that pubs, restaurants and museums will be able to open from 4th July, but gyms, swimming pools and other indoor sporting venues would remain closed until further notice.
Sport England Chair, Nick Bitel, said that while the organisation understood that difficult choices must be made in order to safely bring the country out of lockdown, he was disappointed that no firm date was yet in place for the opening of facilities.
“These facilities are vital for the health of the nation, with almost 13 million people in England using private and public gyms and leisure centres alone to get active, and these are typically the core venues for indoor community sports such as badminton and basketball – as well as of course the millions of people who go swimming each week,” he said.
“With the first leisure trust collapsing last week in Peterborough, this is a real and growing risk, with public leisure providers a particularly deep concern because so many of those operators provide activities for disadvantaged groups.
“These include those being disproportionately affected by the impact of coronavirus like older adults, women, Black, Asian and minority ethnic people, people from lower socio-economic groups, disabled people and people with long-term health conditions, while public pools are vital for helping young people learn how to swim.”
Swim England, meanwhile, has called on its members, clubs, coaches, teachers, swim schools, swimmers and facility operators to back its #OpenOurPools campaign and has launched a petition to ask the government to reopen pools.
Jane Nickerson, CEO, Swim England, said: “Like millions of other swimmers up and down the country, I have been left frustrated by the Government’s latest Covid-19 announcement which relaxed restrictions on pubs, cinemas, hairdressers and others, whilst ignoring the plight of leisure and sporting facilities.
Ukactive CEO Huw Edwards has called on the government to give greater clarity on when facilities can reopen, commenting that sport and fitness is crucial not only to combatting the virus but also in supporting the rehabilitation of those who are recovering from its effects.
“Many people will be understandably frustrated by the decision not to reopen the fitness and leisure sector from 4 July,” he said “However, the government has indicated that gyms and leisure facilities will reopen from mid-July, subject to final agreement between health officials and our sector.”
“Our sector’s safety standards are among the highest in Europe, where other nations have already reopened their gyms and leisure facilities safely.
“Any further delay to our reopening will threaten our nation’s recovery from COVID-19. With obesity the second largest cause of hospitalisation from this virus, gyms and leisure centres are equipped to not only combat COVID-19, but to support rehabilitation for those recovering from the virus.
“Closed facilities cannot support that fight. Closed facilities will also worsen the health inequalities in this nation, especially as one in four members of public leisure facilities is from a BAME background, a community where health disparities from COVID-19 have been felt most.
“Any further delay to reopening would also have grave economic consequences, including the potential loss of 2,800 facilities and over 100,000 jobs.”