More than 50 leading British sports bodies have called for a new government action plan to get people playing and watching sport again “as soon as possible” even in tier 3 and 4 areas, and to help grassroots sport survive and thrive.
The letter, signed by the Football Association, the Rugby Football Union and the England and Wales Cricket Board, among others, also urges the government to support a “new year’s resolution” to put activity at the heart of the nation’s recovery from Covid-19 in 2021.
While praising the government for its support of elite sport, the letter asks it to do more for community sport and activity “in the higher tiers of restrictions to ensure people can get back to participating in what they love as soon as possible”.
“We all share an absolute focus for sport and physical activity to be at the heart of our nation’s post-Covid renewal in 2021 and beyond, helping everyone to get fitter and healthier,” it adds. “This means making plans for supporters to return to full stadia and people to return to their grassroots facilities as soon as possible, creating the income needed to reinvest into these communities.”
The message is the latest salvo from the Save Our Sports campaign, which is warning that much of the sport and activity sector – which employs nearly 600,000 people in the UK and contributes £16bn to the economy annually – will struggle to recover from a long period in tier 4.
Huw Edwards, the chief executive of UK Active which represents more than 4,000 gyms, pools and leisure centres, said he hoped it would be possible to reopen facilities sooner rather than later. But if that wasn’t the case, the government had to find other ways to help the sector.
“We recognise this is a new chapter in the virus with the new variant, but there needs to be a plan to support the physical and mental wellbeing of the nation during the winter months,” he told the Guardian.
“Of course every sector in the country is struggling – but at least retail has online, and food has takeaways. When you close gyms, pools and leisure centres, their income goes to zero. And thousands of jobs will be lost as a result.”
The UK recorded another 53,135 cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, the highest recorded daily total. But data from July to October 2020 across 55m gym and leisure centre visits, shows a Covid-19 transmission rate of just 1.41 cases per 100,000 visits.
“We want to work with the government to find a way to reopen facilities in tier 4,” added Edwards. “However if that is unachievable, our members will require greater practical and legislative support.”
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