A parliamentary report into the impact of Covid-19 on sport in the UK has called on government to extend emergency funding to prevent a collapse in the sector.
The report, by the influential digital, culture, media and sport select committee, was critical of the government’s response to the pandemic so far, and said “urgency” was needed to protect leisure facilities for the public and the continuance of elite sport.
After taking testimony from 25 witnesses and consulting 666 pieces of written evidence, the MPs’ committee also advocated a “reset” of governance in professional football and called for action to improve black, Asian and minority ethnic representation in sport, including mandatory targets for diversifying the boards of governing bodies.
The central call, however, was for more money and in short order, with the priority being council-run leisure facilities. “It is essential that leisure facilities are protected and have the funds to ensure … [they can] re-open fully,” the report said. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport should “work with local councils to ensure necessary funding is in place” and that “this must be done with urgency so that leisure centres are fully operational in August”.
Similar measures were advocated to protect elite sport in the absence of spectators, including the continuation of the furlough scheme which is set to end in October. “We recommend that DCMS works with HM Treasury … to ensure that the systems that have helped [sports] survive the crisis thus far, such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the VAT and PAYE deferral period, are extended beyond the current cut-off dates,” the report said.
Huw Edwards, the head of the leisure industry body UKActive, one of the witnesses to the committee’s inquiry, welcomed the findings. “This report provides further evidence of the imminent threat facing the physical activity sector and the communities that depend on these facilities”, he said.