Coronavirus in Sport: Third lockdown ‘hammer blow’ to leisure industry
Huw Edwards, chief executive officer of non-profit industry association ukactive, says some facilities will not survive a third lockdown, which he has described as a “hammer blow”.
Fitness centres, gyms, swimming pools and tennis courts have all been forced to close again following Monday’s Government announcement of further lockdown measures in the fight against coronavirus.
Edwards told Sky Sports News: “I think we have been beyond the tipping edge in terms of a third lockdown.
“We have worked with the Government very closely at every stage of this crisis and it was great to be outside of those three tiers that were announced in October because of the importance these facilities provide for the wider wellbeing of the nation.
“This third lockdown is a hammer blow and some will not survive this, no doubt.
“What we need to do is minimise the impact on the sector, which every community across the country depends on from the youngest to oldest, irrespective of age or background.
“It is hugely important there is that level of support but we are resigned, unfortunately, to losing some facilities that just won’t make it through this very challenging, traumatic financial period.”
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Edwards agreed it was “crucial” the further restrictions were respected, but urged the Government to agree “credible plans to minimise the damaging impact lockdown has on the physical and mental wellbeing of people across the UK,” he is quoted as saying by PA.
“We cannot afford to wait until the vaccine rollout is advanced before we act, so the Government must explore all options at this time and provide a credible plan for maintaining this support to millions of people who rely on these Covid-secure facilities to stay strong and healthy.
“Furthermore, the UK governments must protect this sector before it becomes too late. They must acknowledge that January and February represent a vital period for gyms, pools, and leisure facilities to trade but they currently have zero income, unlike other sectors.”
Outdoor team sports and golf will be prohibited in England, although the latter will be allowed to continue in small groups in Scotland.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new restrictions for the country in national TV address on Monday evening but elite sport, including Premier League, is exempt and can carry on with current protocols in place.
England Golf, which campaigned hard for the reopening of courses when they were closed first time around, expressed disappointment.
“England Golf – as part of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf along with other leading industry bodies – is extremely disappointed with the news, having made a strong case in recent months to keep golf open during the national lockdowns and in the regional tier system,” said a statement.
“It is with great regret that we share this news with you, but please be assured that we will continue to make the case for golf to reopen whenever possible.”
Elite sportspeople and their coaches will still be able to compete and train, including those who are under-18 in an environment with established Covid-19 protocols.
Organised outdoor sport for disabled people is also able to continue.
But football below the Premier League and English Football League – steps three to six of the National League system and tiers three to seven of the women’s football pyramid right down to grassroots – must stop.
The Vitality Women’s FA Cup will also be halted as it is classed as non-elite at this stage of the competition.
“Dialogue will continue with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, leagues, competitions and County Football Associations and we will provide further updates for the 2020-21 Vitality Women’s FA Cup, Buildbase FA Vase and non-elite football when relevant,” read an FA statement.
The Lawn Tennis Association also made its case for their sport to continue, while the British Horseracing Authority confirmed racing would go ahead behind closed doors.
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