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21 Sep 2020

Letter to Boris: give us a central role in COVID-19 recovery, says activity sector
BY Tom Walker

The letter calls for the sector to receive funding so it can provide programmes and facilities that help the nation tackle the COVID-19 pandemic

The letter calls for the sector to receive funding so it can provide programmes and facilities that help the nation tackle the COVID-19 pandemic
photo: Shutterstock.com/El Nariz

More than 100 sport and physical activity bodies have sent a letter to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, urging him to give the sector a central role in the nation’s COVID-19 recovery plans.

The coalition requests an urgent support package from the government – similar to the one provided to the arts and hospitality sectors.

In the letter – signed by a mixture of industry bodies, NGBs and public and private companies – the organisations say that the funding is needed to enable the sector to provide programmes and facilities that address health inequalities highlighted by the pandemic while supporting the NHS by improving health outcomes.

They call for a Sports Recovery Fund to be delivered at the Comprehensive Spending Review, which is due to be published later this year, as part of the government's Better Health campaign, announced by in July.

The letter was published during the Great British Week of Sport and highlights a report published by Sport England and Sheffield Hallam University this month, which 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.

It also coincides with the publication (today, 21 September) of research by Savanta ComRes, which shows that people believe the best way they can support the health service is by getting and remaining fit.

"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," said Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive.

“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.”

Lisa Wainwight, CEO of the Sport and Recreation Alliance – another signatory to the letter – added: “The strength of this coalition from the sports, recreation and activity sector cannot be ignored in its public call to the Prime Minister.

“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.”

Those to have signed the letter include:

Private sector
John Treharne, founder, The Gym Group
Colin Waggett, CEO, The Third Space
Paul Richardson, chair, Gymshark
Matthew Pengelly, CEO, Matrix Fitness
Rebecca Passmore, COO, Pure Gym
Neil King, CEO, énergie Fitness

Public sector
Mark Tweedie, CEO, Community Leisure UK
Mark Sesnan, CEO, GLL (Better)
John Oxley, COO, Places Leisure
David Bibby, MD, Everyone Active

Industry bodies
Tanni Grey-Thompson, chair, ukactive
Ali Oliver, CEO, Youth Sport Trust
Andrew Moss, chair, Sport and Recreation Alliance
Tara Dillon, CEO, CIMSPA

National Governing Bodies
Bill Sweeney, CEO, Rugby Football Union
Andy Reed, chair, Sport for Development Coalition
Jane Nickerson, CEO, Swim England
Scott Lloyd, CEO, Lawn Tennis Association

• To read the letter in its entirety and to see the full list of signatories, click here.



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