England Touch joins over 100 sports in call for ringfenced sports funding
Mark Croston, the Chair of England Touch, has joined the leaders of more than 100 other sports in urging the Prime Minister to ringfence funding for the recovery of the sports and activity sector in the nation’s ongoing response to Covid-19.
To mark the Great British Week of Sport, a letter has been sent to Boris Johnson highlighting the contribution of the sports and physical activity sector to society, fuelled by a combined workforce of more than 600,000 people – and also underlining the risk of fuelling physical inactivity and related illnesses for a generation.
The coalition of sports leaders requests an urgent support package from the Government, as has been provided to arts and restaurant sectors, that will enable the sport and activity sector to continue to provide programmes and facilities that address the health inequalities highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic and support the NHS by improving health outcomes.
It calls for a “Sports Recovery Fund” to be delivered at the Comprehensive Spending Review, as part of the Better Health campaign. The fund would help protect existing jobs and facilities so that the sector can:
- Support programmes and facilities that address the health inequalities highlighted by COVID-19, particularly inactivity among women, lower socio-economic groups, BAME communities and people with disabilities
- Expand the innovations across the sector that we have seen during COVID-19 – making opportunities digital and increasing accessibility across the country
A report published by Sport England and Sheffield Hallam University this month showed that every £1 spent on community sport and physical activity generates nearly £4 for the English economy, providing an annual contribution of more than £85bn a year, with a social value of more than £72bn a year, measured by physical and mental health and wellbeing, individual and community development.
Grassroots sport and physical activity is an essential part of the UK’s recovery, not just in terms of improved physical wellbeing and reducing the burden on the NHS, but the positive impact it has on mental wellbeing, as well as helping to overcome societal challenges such as loneliness, crime and isolation.
However, the sector has been heavily impacted by COVID-19, with gyms and leisure centres having to shut their doors, community sport being cancelled and heavy restrictions put in place since re-opening. This has significantly impacted the commercial viability of the sector, which has resulted in many local sport, fitness and leisure facilities announcing closures and job losses.
“Our sector is united in its call to the Prime Minister to back grassroots sport and physical activity so that our clubs, gyms and leisure facilities can throw their full weight behind fighting this pandemic,” says Huw Edwards, ukactive’s Chief Executive.
“This is a health crisis and our sector can play a vital role in supporting our NHS by restoring the nation’s physical and mental resilience in the face of this terrible virus.
“We call on the Government to deliver the urgent fiscal, taxation and regulatory support required to save sports and activity providers across the UK from disappearing from our communities at the time they are needed most.”
“The strength of this coalition from the sports, recreation and activity sector cannot be ignored in its public call to the Prime Minister,” added Lisa Wainwright, CEO of the Sport and Recreation Alliance.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has put an incredible strain on our sector, which was forced to close for a prolonged period.
“It is imperative that our sector gets the support it requires from the Government to get back to business, in order to ease the pressures on the NHS and play a central role in our nation’s recovery from COVID-19.”
Croston says that Touch is well placed to be able make a positive impact.
“As a sport that touches all ages, Touch can make a significant positive impact in the communities where our clubs, leagues and other deliverers continue to grow,” he says. “We join our fellow sports in urging the Prime Minister to recognise the importance of the sports and physical activity sector to society.”
England Touch CEO Chris Simon believes there is an opportunity to grow participation in sports during and beyond the pandemic.
“Community sport is at the heart of our country and it plays a significant part in both the mental and physical wellbeing of those that participate and volunteer,” he says.
“The pandemic has provided many with an increased opportunity to be physically active whilst others have found it much more difficult. As stakeholders in the sports industry, we all have a role to play in making sure we play our part in increasing participation and addressing inequalities in physical activity provision.
“The current situation presents a huge risk to the sports industry, but also a massive opportunity if we work together.”
The letter, as well as a full list of signatories to the letter can be found on the UKActive website.