Sports sector to ask Government for £2 billion support package

Jeremy Wilson
·3 min read
 Badminton player, Dylan Saunders (aged 15) from Winchester enjoys getting back on court during an Indoor Sports Collective Day  - PA
Badminton player, Dylan Saunders (aged 15) from Winchester enjoys getting back on court during an Indoor Sports Collective Day - PA

The sports sector is expected this week to ask the Government for a support package worth more than £2 billion amid fears that up to 300,000 roles could be wiped out.

Sports clubs, organisations, governing bodies and leisure providers have already made around 10,000 redundancies in recent months and they now have until Wednesday to submit detailed summaries of their position to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Public leisure providers have already detailed their need for £800 million to keep community gyms, swimming pools and sports halls viable until next March but private sector gyms are also under extreme stress, as are governing bodies and grass-roots clubs. 

The combination of closing facilities between March and July, and then their limited reopening, as well as ongoing restrictions on fans and recreational participation have devastated income streams and many facilities have been unable to reopen. Around a third of public leisure facilities, which often reach the most deprived communities, remain shut.

It is understood that the likely figure of more than £2 billion does not include the top four tiers of professional football. With its annual broadcast income of more than £3 billion, the Government remains adamant that the Premier League has sufficient resources to also provide the English Football League with the desired £250 million to safeguard clubs in the Championship, League One and League Two until the end of the season.

According to the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity, around 150,000 roles across fitness, leisure and recreational sports are at risk once furlough ends, but that will rise to between 250,000 and 300,000 by next year if there is not a dedicated package of support. That is based on losing 45 per cent of sports facilities and, while that forecast includes a relatively small percentage of volunteers, the vast majority would be paid jobs.

Young people between the ages of 16 and 34 have so far been disproportionately impacted by the 6,000 lost jobs in community leisure. 

More than 100 sports governing bodies and service providers wrote last week to Boris Johnson and warned of a potential “lost generation” if sport does not now receive a dedicated support package.

Individual sports, operators and clubs are currently preparing their own figures, with sports discussing a range of ‘asks’ including VAT and National Insurance rebates and government-secured loans, as well as a rescue fund.

According to several sources, the total figure is almost certain to pass £2 billion once public and private leisure, governing bodies and individual sports clubs are all taken into account.

The Government provided £1.6 billion for the culture, arts and heritage institutions and the sports sector will strongly argue that there will also be a future economic saving if their services are safeguarded. This is because of their potential benefit to the health and wellbeing of people at a time when the National Health Service is under such severe stress.

After being shut down between March and July - and then only coming back after pubs and restaurants - the grass-roots sports and leisure sector also believes that it has proved that it can operate in a way that sufficiently mitigates the risk of spreading Covid-19.

The Government has announced an Income Guarantee Scheme, which aims to support local authorities who have incurred irrecoverable loss of income during coronavirus. Sport England’s Community Emergency Fund has also provided £27.6 million for sports clubs and organisations. The fund, however, closed in May after approving 7,489 out of 11,043 applications for help.