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Sport and recreation organisations urge Government to act

Activity Alliance has joined other sport and recreation organisations in urging Government to act now to protect community activity from looming disaster.

Group of disabled people doing leg stretches during a group PT session

On Monday 9 January, the Government announced its new Energy Bill Discount Scheme, with sport and leisure centres excluded from their priority list of ‘energy and trade intensive industries’.

The Sport and Recreation Alliance, as part of its position in the National Sector Partners Group (NSPG), called for an immediate review of this decision as a matter of national emergency.

Following the announcement, members of this group met with the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Sport, Kim Leadbeater MP to outline sector priorities, after which Kim has written to the Minister for Sport, Stuart Andrew MP calling for immediate action to support the following two key pillars for the delivery of sport and physical activity:

  • Immediate action to include sport and leisure facilities on the list of ‘energy intensive industries’ eligible for additional support through the Energy Bill Discount Scheme (EBDS).
  • Urgent confirmation of funding for school sport for the academic year 2023/24.

A number of senior figures within the Sport and Recreation Alliance’s membership have supported this message to Government and highlighted how many of their clubs and facilities are set to be impacted.

Activity Alliance Chief Executive, Adam Blaze, said:

“We cannot ignore the impact our local facilities have on so many disabled people’s health and wellbeing. They are a fundamental part of our communities and any health improvement strategies.
“That’s why it’s imperative that the Government’s new Energy Bills Discount Scheme categorises these services as intensive energy users for more support.
“The health benefits of being active are widely known. But we also cannot forget for some people across every community, it may be the only occasion they interact with other people in a social setting. It is more than an activity.
“It’s a place to feel warm, included and not as lonely. We are seriously concerned if we do not protect and support our places and spaces more, then we will have an even bigger national crisis on our hands.”

Sport and Recreation Alliance CEO Lisa Wainwright MBE said: 

“We are now in a critical situation. Government must act and demonstrate that they realise the true social, economic and health value of our sector to so many communities.
“This oversight puts the survival of grassroots activity at high risk, considering the challenges imposed by the energy crisis and lasting effects of COVID-19 detailed in our latest research – The Cost of Living Crisis: The impact on grassroots community sport and recreation.
“As this research evidenced, over 80% of our grassroots clubs wholly depend on community facilities to deliver their activities. Currently, access to facilities is the highest concern for three quarters of our clubs – if the Government does not act to reverse this decision, there could be a catastrophic loss of the clubs that provide a vital hub for communities, and help their members achieve better physical and mental health.
“This is a sector-wide issue being felt across our membership, from swimming to gymnastics, martial arts and all indoor sports. The Government’s recent announcement only serves to exacerbate the problems faced by the cost of living increases and the recovery from COVID-19 – we need to ensure that the grassroots clubs that so many of our membership work with are given the chance to survive, by being given the support afforded to other sectors.”

Sarah Powell, CEO of British Gymnastics, added: 

“Gymnastics clubs in communities across the country make a significant contribution to the huge economic, health and social benefits delivered by the sport sector through keeping our nation active.
“Gymnastics is particularly crucial in developing physical literacy among children and young people, something we see every week with over 300,000 people involved in gymnastics in the UK at our 1,400 member clubs.
“Our members are currently facing many challenges with rising energy bills and so we fully support the Sport and Recreation Alliance in urging the Government to rethink their approach to energy bill support to ensure the incredible benefits that sports like gymnastics provide remain open to as many people as possible.”

Emily Robinson, CEO of London Sport, said: 

“We call on the Government to immediately reverse the decision to leave out the sport and leisure sector from the scheme that will give key industries protection from soaring energy costs.
“January is exactly when many people are looking to improve their physical and mental health. Now more than ever, we need to protect the pools, gyms and sports halls that serve as a lifeline for millions of children and adults.”

Find out more about Sport and Recreation Alliance's work.