Today we make an urgent plea to the Government not to take for granted the role and importance of sport, recreation, and physical activity in our country. As lead organisations from the sector and local government, we are acutely aware of the significant, and in some cases, unreconcilable pressure facilities are facing as a result of both the pandemic and now the energy crisis.
The failure to identify bespoke support for the sector (and schools operating sports facilities) as part of the Energy Bills Discount Scheme will be the final straw for certain facilities and services – especially swimming provision – across the UK.
Unless changed, communities will see the loss of essential local services, including swimming lessons for children, multi-sport offerings, mental health services, bespoke programmes for older citizens, ethnically diverse communities, and disabled people, and long-term health programmes including cancer rehabilitation and support for those with musculoskeletal conditions and type 2 diabetes. This will impact millions of people, of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds.
As more facilities close, this will create even more challenges for the NHS, which is already under unimaginable pressure, and impact economic productivity by hampering efforts to get people healthy for work.
We urge the Government to act swiftly with three key measures:
- Reclassify swimming pools as energy intensive as part of Energy Bills Discount Scheme so they have access to the higher level of discount on energy prices.
- Set out what tangible support it will provide to the wider sector – including gyms, leisure centres, sports facilities and clubs– to help navigate the energy crisis across 2023 so that service restrictions and facility closures can be minimised.
- Set out a “plan for the growth” for the sector by aligning the proposed new Sports Strategy with the Spring Budget to unlock the potential of the sector to support the economic, health, educational and social wellbeing of the nation.
Failure to do this will lead to facility closures on a national level across 2023, and these closures will damage further our national health, our NHS, and our economy.
The evidence we have provided to the Government is unequivocal, so we implore it to work with the sector and local government to find urgent solutions to this grave situation.
Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity
Local Government Association
Sport and Recreation Alliance
Sport for Development Coalition
Youth Sport Trust