On 31 July the First Minister, Mark Drakeford, announced that, subject to conditions remaining favourable, children’s indoor play areas, swimming pools, indoor fitness studios, gyms, spas and indoor leisure centres will be able to re-open from 10 August.
Community Leisure UK and the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA) welcome this announcement, as we know that the sector has worked hard to prepare for a safe reopening of indoor leisure facilities in Wales.
We thank the Welsh Government for their pro-active engagement with the sector over the past months to better understand the challenges faced by operators, clubs, NGBs, and the self-employed workforce; and with our efforts to prepare for a safe reopening.
As we move towards a phased reopening, there is still a long recovery period ahead. Latest data from Community Leisure UK (Wales) indicates that a quarter of facilities will not open immediately, and that a total of 233 contracted and casual jobs have already been marked for redundancy, with a further 1049 at risk. This will disproportionately impact on younger people working within these organisations, specifically those aged 18-34.
We also continue to work with the UK Government to request a sector-specific funding package to mitigate the devastating impact of Covid-19. This would include a Barnett consequential for Wales. If this funding is forthcoming, we would welcome the opportunity to continue to work with the Welsh Government to ensure that the funding supports the entire sport, fitness and leisure sector in Wales.
We therefore continue to make the case to the Welsh Government of the overall value of the sport, fitness and leisure sector, and its role in the future of Wales. We know that public leisure provision contributes £181m in social value to the Welsh economy every year, measured through savings to the NHS as well as improved wellbeing and mental health (source: 4Global Datahub). This is demonstrated through programmes like the new service launched in Newport to help Covid patients recover, with a charitable trust – Newport Live – facilitating this programme.
Mark Tweedie, Chief Executive of Community Leisure UK, said:
The leisure sector is delighted to have a date to welcome back customers from the communities they serve with passion and care. Half the population use indoor facilities and leisure centres to undertake their regular exercise, so this news is really important to the majority of the population; it will help people to build back their physical and mental health after a prolonged lockdown period and it will mean some of most vulnerable people in our society can use leisure facilities to build resilience to Coronavirus and to rehabilitate. We now need to focus attention on the critical need for ring fenced Government financial support for public leisure services, without which we will see many of our cherished community leisure centres unable to reopen, and for those that do, many will become unsustainable because of significantly reduced income due to social distancing measures. To this end we are continuing to work with the UK Government to provide emergency relief funding to secure the viability of public leisure services.
Tara Dillon, CIMSPA CEO, said:
We are delighted that the sector in Wales has been given the go-ahead to reopen indoor sports, fitness and leisure facilities. The thousands of dedicated people who work in the sector can now plan to get back to work safely and help millions of people to stay fit and healthy, which in itself is one of the best ways to combat the threat of Covid-19. This is a sector that creates enormous economic, health, social and community benefits, but it’s one of the last to reopen. This has created huge financial challenges and we will continue to work with our partners to urge both the UK and Welsh Governments to provide additional targeted financial support to support the sector, especially the many public leisure facilities which are at serious risk of closure
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