LONDON, United Kingdom — Not-for-profit health body ukactive is calling for UK governments to provide more targeted support for the fitness industry as the nation enters its third lockdown.
In a statement issued earlier this week, the fitness industry association appealed for financial protection for the thousands of fitness operators forced to close their doors since the start of the pandemic, as well as new regulatory measures for the sector’s recovery.
Despite welcoming news of further support from the Chancellor, Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive argued that the current top-up grants and funding pots will not be sufficient to save the fitness industry’s facilities and jobs. And, once shared across the retail, hospitality and leisure industries, would amount to no more than “a sticking plaster for the financial challenges being faced”.
“Both public and private fitness and leisure operators will require much greater, tailored financial and regulatory support for their recovery, especially in light of the latest national lockdown, which comes at the worst possible time for gyms and leisure facilities which rely on January trade,” commented Edwards.
He added: “Gyms and leisure centres throughout the UK will find it unsustainable to operate on zero income with this limited funding. The current measures do not go far enough, and as the length of lockdown is not yet determined, it makes it impossible to plan for when revenue will start to come in again.”
With that in mind, ukactive suggests what the industry needs are credible plans and a comprehensive package of tailored financial and regulatory support to mitigate the risk of widespread business failure.
“Our sector needs a VAT rebate – resulting in an effective output tax of 10% – an extension of the business rate holiday for physical activity and leisure providers beyond March 2021, and financial support for operators for back-dated rent which will be due once the moratorium ends,” explained Edwards.
In an attempt to move things along, ukactive is currently in dialogue with the government to provide the latest impact modelling of the current lockdown. It also continues to state the case for the reopening of facilities.
In December 2020, it published data demonstrating that fitness facilities continued to achieve an extremely low prevalence of COVID-19 by successfully following the Government’s safety guidelines when lockdown restrictions were last lifted.
The findings, which reflected aggregated data from more than 2,000 facilities overall – from July to October 2020 – showed that there had been a total of 781 COVID-19 cases from gym users that visited facilities over the 14-week period, against a backdrop of 735,398 UK-wide cases at the same time (as measured by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control).
It also revealed that the latest overall rate for the UK fitness and leisure sector across the whole period since the first reopening – measured from 25th July to 25th October 2020 – showed that sites had seen more than 55 million visits, with an overall rate of 1.41 cases per 100,000 visits.
This data, Edwards argued at the time, supported the case for gyms and leisure facilities to remain open in all tiers through January and February. However, with the latest lockdown restrictions forcing the industry to close once again, ukactive is urging the UK governments to protect the sector before it becomes too late.