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Swim England signs letter to PM pleading for urgent ‘Sports Recovery Fund’

Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson is part of a 100-strong coalition that has signed a letter to the Prime Minister calling for an urgent support package to fund the recovery of the sports and activity sector.

The letter warns that failure to provide the necessary injection of financial support will risk fuelling physical inactivity and related illnesses for a generation.

It has been sent to Boris Johnson during the Great British Week of Sport and highlights the vital contribution of the sports and physical activity sector to society.

The coalition of 102 leaders from national governing bodies and sporting organisations across the country requests investment from the Government, similar to the one that has been provided to the arts and restaurant sectors.

That will enable the sport and activity sector to continue to provide programmes and facilities that address the health inequalities highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic and support the NHS by improving health outcomes.

It calls for a ‘Sports Recovery Fund’ to be delivered at the Comprehensive Spending Review, as part of the Better Health campaign.

The fund would help protect existing jobs and facilities so that the sector can:

  • Support programmes and facilities that address the health inequalities highlighted by Covid-19, particularly inactivity among women, lower socio-economic groups, BAME communities and people with disabilities.
  • Expand the innovations across the sector that we have seen during Covid-19 – making opportunities digital and increasing accessibility across the country.

The letter states: “Grassroots sport, fitness, and wider recreational activity is proven to improve physical, mental, and social wellbeing. This makes our sector an essential service as our nation recovers from the damage caused by Covid-19.

“Prime Minister – you’ve long been a champion of the benefits of a physically active lifestyle and we were heartened to hear that commitment renewed this summer with the launch of the Government’s obesity strategy.

“However, we are united in our concern that at a time when our role should be central to the nation’s recovery, the future of the sector is perilous. Covid-19 has exposed the fragility of vital services and assets, with sports clubs and fitness facilities facing permanent closure, depriving local communities of facilities and programmes on which they depend.

Joining fight for funding

“By placing sport and physical activity now at the heart of our nation’s renewal and using it to drive new ambitions for health and wellbeing, we can create a strong, prosperous, resilient and healthy nation for generations to come.”

Swim England has been extremely vocal in its call for ring-fenced funding to help those facilities financially struggling or still shut as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Jane said: “It’s encouraging to see so many more organisations have now joined the fight for funding and have joined forces to lobby the Prime Minister – the louder we shout with one voice, the harder it will be for the Government to ignore us.

“We have seen more pools reopen but a lot of these are still at reduced capacities compared with pre Covid-19 levels and there are still more than 20 per cent of publicly-owned facilities closed.

“This is extremely frustrating for our members, clubs, all our wonderful sports, teachers, coaches and recreational swimmers who all rely on the water for exercise, enjoyment and employment.

“It’s been proved that aquatic activity can help save the NHS and social care system hundreds of millions of pounds each year so it’s time for the Government to deliver and provide the vital support it has done for other sectors.”

A report published by Sport England and Sheffield Hallam University this month showed that every £1 spent on community sport and physical activity generates nearly £4 for the English economy, providing an annual contribution of more than £85 billion a year

Incredible strain on sector

However, the sector has been heavily impacted by Covid-19, with swimming pools, gyms and leisure centres having to shut their doors, community sport being cancelled and heavy restrictions put in place since reopening.

Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive said: “Our sector is united in its call to the Prime Minister to back grassroots sport and physical activity so that our clubs, gyms and leisure facilities can throw their full weight behind fighting this pandemic.

“This is a health crisis and our sector can play a vital role in supporting our NHS by restoring the nation’s physical and mental resilience in the face of this terrible virus.

“We call on the Government to deliver the urgent fiscal, taxation and regulatory support required to save sports and activity providers across the UK from disappearing from our communities at the time they are needed most.”

Lisa Wainwight, CEO of the Sport and Recreation Alliance, said: “The strength of this coalition from the sports, recreation and activity sector cannot be ignored in its public call to the Prime Minister.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has put an incredible strain on our sector, which was forced to close for a prolonged period.

“It is imperative that our sector gets the support it requires from the Government to get back to business, in order to ease the pressures on the NHS and play a central role in our nation’s recovery from Covid-19.”

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