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Sports bodies urge PM to intervene as grassroots facilities face financial oblivion

It is feared that grasroots facilities could be closed if the energy cost support is cut (Image: / Lukas)

A coalition of more than 200 sports and active leisure bodies have written to the Prime Minister with an urgent plea for greater support for grassroots sports facilities and clubs amid the ongoing energy crisis.

In the letter, they highlight how thousands of facilities and clubs are at risk of permanent closure or reduced services, after the energy cost relief is set to end on 31 March.

The letter outlines how public and private sector organisations of all sizes face unprecedented financial challenges, with bills remaining up to 200% higher than normal.

The ending of the energy cost relief is described as the “final straw”, which could see a third (31%) of council areas in England lose their leisure centres or see reduced services at their sports facilities, from 1 April.

It also claims that around 350 facilities nationally have already seen service restrictions, temporary and permanent closures since October 2022.

The signatories of the letter range from major health bodies to sport’s national governing bodies, and the nation’s biggest fitness and leisure groups.

“Failure to identify bespoke support for the sector (and schools operating sports facilities) as part of the Energy Bills Discount Scheme will be the final straw for many facilities and services – especially swimming pools,” the letter reads.

“Without national intervention, communities will see the loss of essential local services, including swimming lessons for children which are vital for water safety; multi-sport offerings; mental health services; bespoke programmes for older citizens, ethnically diverse communities, women and girls, and disabled people; and long-term health programmes including cancer rehabilitation and support for those with musculoskeletal conditions and type 2 diabetes.”

The signatories call on the government to take three “decisive actions”:

• Reclassify swimming pools as energy intensive as part of the Energy Bills Discount Scheme so they have access to the higher level of discount on energy prices.

• Set out what tangible support it will provide to the wider sector –including gyms, leisure centres, sports facilities, and clubs –to help navigate the energy crisis across 2023 so that service restrictions and facility closures can be minimised.

• Set out a “plan for growth” for the sector by aligning the proposed new Sports Strategy with the Spring Budget to unlock the potential of the sector to support the economic, health, educational and social wellbeing of the nation.

The signatories of the letter include Active Partnerships, the Association for Public Service Excellence, the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA), the Chief Cultural & Leisure Officers Association (CLOA), Community Leisure UK, District Councils’ Network, the Local Government Association, Sported, the Sport and Recreation Alliance (SRA), the Sport for Development Coalition, Swim England, the Swimming Teachers’ Association, the Youth Sport Trust, and ukactive.

To read the letter in full, click here.

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