#SaveLeisure Campaign

Published on: July 13th 2020


Almost half of all public leisure facilities (48 per cent) are at risk of permanent closure by the end of the year without financial support from the government.

Leisure centres, swimming pools and community services play a vital role in society. Latest figures from 4global via Data Hub research indicate that public leisure provision contributes £3.8bn in social value to the UK (England, Scotland and Wales) every year, measured through savings to the NHS as well as improved mental and physical health.

Providing services in the UK’s most deprived areas, public leisure facilities are a critical support for people from lower socio-economic groups who are 18 per cent less likely to be active than their more affluent counterparts.

There are more than 2,800 public leisure facilities across the UK providing accessible and affordable facilities and services for all members of society, serving children and adults, schools and community groups, older people and faith groups.

Working in partnership with GPs and other health professionals, they support people living with long-term health conditions and those with physical and mental health issues via specialist physical activity referral schemes and social prescribing services.

They teach our children to swim, older people a place to feel less lonely, and they offer a safe space for communities to connect in an increasingly isolated society. And with the UK suffering one of the highest obesity rates in Europe, they support thousands of people to maintain a healthy weight and an active lifestyle.

The government wants the nation to slim down and get fit in face of an expected second wave of the coronavirus. Public leisure facilities are perfectly placed to help people improve their physical and mental health and build resilience to Covid-19, but they require urgent financial support. 

Public leisure providers face a shortfall of around £800m this financial year (2020–21). Up to 35 percent of leisure facilities will not be able to reopen (from 25 July in England) due to the combination of exceptional increased costs resulting from lost income during lockdown and the need to operate at reduced capacity to comply with social distancing measures.

This is why Community Leisure UK, ukactive and CIMSPA are calling for ring-fenced funding to overcome the enormous financial impact of the Covid-19 lockdown period and its legacy.

Without this funding, we estimate that 48 per cent of all public leisure facilities face closure, meaning the loss of 1,300 centres by the end of the year, along with more than 58,000 jobs.

Leisure centres, swimming pools and community services are essential to the health and wellbeing of the nation and are critical to protecting the public against Covid-19. It’s imperative that we save these vital and much-loved community assets.

We call on the UK government to act now to save this vital, irreplaceable part of our communities by investing circa £800 million to provide an emergency relief fund to sustain UK leisure infrastructure and services through the Covid-19 lockdown and the recovery phases to the end of March 2021.

More information on the key messages from the #SaveLeisure campaign can be found here.


Professor Nanette Mutrie MBE, Chair of Physical Activity for Health at the University of Edinburgh, said:

The leisure industry must be saved if we are to prevent an increasing cost burden for the NHS in dealing with increasing obesity, type 2 diabetes and poor mental health which loss of activity will create. Money used to save such facilities, which are in danger of permanent closure due to the impact of the pandemic, must be seen as an investment and as future cost saving to the NHS. Public leisure facilities need to re-open in order that the health benefits of activity are available to all and all age groups and not just to those who can afford a private membership.

Mark Tweedie, Chief Executive of Community Leisure UK, said:

Communities without leisure centres are unimaginable, so we are reaching out to everyone to unite behind our #saveleisure campaign for specific fixed term Government financial support to save our leisure centres and community based services. Public leisure centres feature at the heart of communities – they play an essential part in supporting health and wellbeing and help to reduce escalating costs to the NHS and social services. They are places where communities connect and have fun, they serve all age ranges and abilities, from parents with babies, through to sports clubs, walking groups and gentle exercise classes; and in these unprecedented times, they will be vital to help millions of people maintain their physical and mental health, and build resilience to, and rehabilitate from Covid-19. We know Sport England have made the Government aware of the severe impact on public leisure provision and are continuing to support this vital part of our sector to secure additional financial support as serious concerns remain over its economic viability, and we welcome the recent DCMS Select Committee report highlighting the urgent need for funding to preserve leisure facilities and community based services.

Tara Dillon, CEO of CIMSPA, said:

Leisure is a sector that creates enormous economic, health, social and community benefits, but it is one of the last to reopen. This has created huge financial challenges and we urge the Government to provide this additional targeted financial support to protect these public leisure facilities which are at serious risk of closure. If they are allowed to close, communities up and down the country will lose vital facilities, and we will lose many thousands of jobs among the talented and dedicated leisure workforce.

Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, said:

COVID-19 has been devastating to the fitness and leisure sector. This is a health crisis, and a secure and thriving sector will be crucial in supporting the nation’s health, wellbeing and recovery. That is why we are calling on the Government to provide crucial support for the entire sector by delivering urgent assistance through regulation and taxation, as well as the vital financial investment needed to keep our essential facilities in operation. As part of this call, we have urged the Government to save public leisure by committing to an immediate £800m investment to address both the period of closure, and also the recovery as facilities reopen. Now, more than ever, the nation cannot afford to lose these vital community assets.

Jane Nickerson, Chief Executive of Swim England, said:

Swim England is pleased to partner with CLUK, UK Active, CIMSPA and others as part of the #SaveLeisure campaign. Swimming pools and leisure centres are vital hubs of local communities up and down the country. Pools generate millions in social value and swimming saves the NHS and social care system more than £357 million each year. Community pools are home to hundreds of swim schools, swimming, diving, water polo and artistic swimming clubs. Without the urgent funding #SaveLeisure is seeking we will see many pools close for good, denying people the opportunity and all the benefits of being active in the water. That’s why we will continue to make the case for this funding to support our pools and ensure they have a viable future for everyone who wants to use them.

Fergus Feeney, CEO of Swim Wales, said:

As a National Governing Body Swim Wales is supporting the #SaveLeisure campaign launched by Community Leisure UK urging the UK Government to commit circa £800m relief funding to enable the full reopening and recovery of the public leisure sector. Without this dedicated relief fund a third of all public leisure facilities in Wales may not reopen and half will face permanent closure by the end of the year. Our ‘places of sport’ and activity must be protected if we are to continue to tackle obesity and improve our nation’s health and wellbeing.

ABOUT Community Leisure UK

Community Leisure UK (CLUK), is a members’ association for organizations who deliver public leisure, sport and cultural services across the UK. Commonly called Trusts. Members are registered Charities, societies or community interest companies who work in partnership with Local Authorities. CLUK has 110 member Trusts who, combined, operate approximately half of all public service leisure provision across the UK, the remaining proportion is operated by in-house Local Authority departments and by private companies. Members combined turnover in 2019 was over £2bn. CLUK is Fair Tax certified and a member of Coop Group, Charity Finance Group and Social Enterprise UK.

ABOUT ukactive

ukactive exists to improve the health of the nation by getting more people, more active, more often. ukactive provides services and facilitates partnerships for a broad range of organisations, all of which support our vision and have a role to play in achieving that goal.

We serve over 4,000 members and partners from across the public, private and third sectors, from multinational giants to local voluntary community groups. We do so by facilitating partnerships, campaigning and providing outstanding membership services.


CIMSPA is the professional development body for the UK’s sport and physical activity sector, committed to supporting, developing and enabling professionals and organisations to succeed and, as a result, inspire our nation to become more active.