Image Credit: Crissy Ocallaghan
While elite sport has been allowed to continue in this second lockdown, the same cannot be said for the sports that the rest of society contributes to and benefits from. The #SaveOurSports campaign is urging the government to save grassroots sport, fitness and leisure facilities from permanent closure due to Covid-19. The campaign is asking the government to provide a £1.57 billion Sports Recovery Fund to support the survival of these vital facilities. The campaign is being supported by all the major national governing bodies of sport in England, as well as the Sport and Recreational Alliance, and UK Active.
The motion behind the campaign grows as little is being discussed in regards to the threat of permanent closures by the government, much to the dismay of many sporting organisations. Back in September leaders from more than 150 sporting bodies wrote to the prime minister asking for funding for the recovery of the sport and activity sector, with no response to the letter. It is predicted that without financial support, nearly half of public leisure facilities face risk of permanent closure by Christmas.
The request from the sport and activity sector replicates that already provided to the arts sector, with sport and activity stating that they experience many of the same challenges as the arts sector and the funding is just as necessary. The petition states that without emergency government support the “UK’s physical and mental health faces a bleak future that will be difficult to recover from, damaging Britain’s ability to Build Back Better.” The coining of the prime minister’s own phrase ‘Build Back Better’ highlights the importance of the sport and activity sector in society, and the government's own emphasis on improving public wellbeing. The petition also states that sport and leisure clubs and facilities are “the lifeblood of communities across the nation” and raises the important notion of physical activity supporting people’s mental wellbeing. According to statistics from UK Active, 63 per cent of people say that sport and physical activity helps reduce feelings of loneliness – which is why it is so important to the sports and activity sector that the grassroots organisations which support their local communities can reopen when measures lift and continue to offer people the opportunity to be active.
England Boxing’s chief executive officer, Gethin Jenkins, spoke about the importance of the recovery fund stating that “Without boxing clubs to provide support in their local communities, then the physical and mental health impact is going to be severe and will out-last the pandemic.” This outlook can be mirrored throughout the sport and activity sector, with the heads of many organising bodies speaking out about the value they hold in society – both for physical and mental wellbeing.
The sport and activity sector are also bringing to attention the measures that they put in place to protect people when they did return to their facilities and how safe they proved to be. It is recorded that from over 1,900 facilities and 5 million visits in the week of the 5-11 of October, that just 156 cases of Covid-19 are reported to have attended a facility before being confirmed with the virus. This indicates an incidence rate of 2.88 cases per 100,000 which is drastically lower than the 150.83 cases per 100,000 people in the general population that the government reported for the same period. The sports and activity sector proved its dedication to support the safety of its visitors in continuing to operate, which fuels their frustration at the lack of funding being offered so they can continue to do so when they are able to reopen.
The campaign currently has the most momentum on twitter, with tweets from the governing bodies of many sports encouraging people to show their support. The campaign encourages people to speak about how the restrictions on sport and being active are affecting them and to write to their local MPs. The petition that has been created has currently under 40,000 signatures, with sport governing bodies urging people to sign the petition and build more momentum behind the campaign.
The sports and activity sector is in great need of vital monetary support to guarantee its return after lockdown and hopefully the growing support behind the #SaveOurSport campaign can ensure this.
If you’re interested in supporting the #SaveOurSport petition, it can be found here: