CIMSPA urges the government to provide immediate financial investment in the grassroots sport and physical activity sector.

  • Up to 300,000 jobs at risk in coming months

  • 48% of public leisure facilities could close by Christmas

  • Sector provides £85bn of economic and social value per year

  • Funding proposals were submitted to government several weeks ago

1 October 2020

The Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA), along with other sector bodies, is warning that ongoing Covid-19 restrictions could lead to the loss of up to 300,000 jobs from the UK’s sport and physical activity sector in the next six months. CIMSPA is urging the government to act immediately by investing in supporting the sector to protect jobs, facilities and vital public health services.

The UK’s sport and physical activity sector employs around 579,000 people in total – made up of people working within private and public gyms and leisure facilities, self-employed fitness instructors, swimming teachers, sports coaches, group exercise instructors, physiotherapists, rehabilitation specialists and more.

These are trained professionals who play a vital role in supporting the nation’s health and wellbeing, especially in socio-economically disadvantaged areas. Many of them are young (198,000 are aged under 24) and highly vulnerable to the impact of redundancy.

Although gyms and leisure facilities have been able to reopen since 25 July (and despite gyms and leisure centres having an extremely low presence of Covid-19, with just 0.34 cases per 100,000 visitors, according to ukactive) ongoing restrictions mean we are likely to see a significant number of closures in the private and public sector.

ukactive estimates that 48% of public facilities could face closure by Christmas, without immediate financial support. This would have a devastating impact on the individuals, families, children, schools and community clubs that rely on these facilities, as well as the people who work in them. Once closed, the cost of reopening these facilities will be high, and many may be permanently lost.

This is a sector that was thriving before this crisis, delivers immense value to the country and will play a vital role in supporting public health and the NHS in the future. A report published by Sport England and Sheffield Hallam University in September 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.

Tara Dillon, CIMSPA CEO, said,

“We are at a critical point. With the right intervention now, this sector could get through the next few months of restrictions, successfully trade out of this crisis and be one of the fastest sectors to recover. Jobs would be protected and the health, community and social value of the sector would be maintained.

“We are not looking for a bailout. This was a thriving industry before the pandemic and it will be again, but we need investment now to get through the next six months. At a time when the nation’s health and wellbeing is a central priority, it would be a travesty if this doesn’t happen. This sector will save the NHS on average £9.5bn each year. As the Sports Minister said this week ‘Sports and physical activity are incredibly important for our physical and mental health, and are a vital weapon against coronavirus.’ “

CIMSPA urges the government to recognise that supporting professional sports clubs (while also hugely important) is a totally different challenge from that of protecting the grassroots sport and physical activity sector.

The sector submitted a funding proposal to the government several weeks ago, and wrote a letter to the Prime Minister on 21 September, but now needs to see an urgent and meaningful response.

Other sectors have already benefited from direct government intervention, including:

  • a £1.57 billion investment to protect Britain’s cultural, arts and heritage institutions

  • at least £500m for the hospitality industry through the Eat Out to Help Out scheme

  • a temporary VAT cut to 5% for the hospitality and tourism industries

  • a railway bailout costing £3.5 billion between March and mid-June