COVID-19 is an unprecedented challenge to the physical activity sector, not just until we find a vaccine but potentially far beyond that. While members of our facilities will return over time, we must not lose sight of those parts of society that will be hardest hit by this pandemic – in particular, older people and those with underlying health conditions who will fear most for their safety, and those in lower socio-economic groups who suffer most from the economic impact.
These groups were already identified as a large section of society that is not well represented within a leisure setting, and the pandemic is set to exacerbate that and marginalise them further.
More often than not, facility funding is aligned to addressing local health and social outcomes and inequalities, but more than ever we have a collective responsibility to ensure we are committed to addressing this widening gap in participation.
The funding framework for facility investment that ukactive will be developing in partnership with Sport England will reflect this. We’ll prioritise the allocation of funding to projects that demonstrate innovation and have the most impact on driving up participation among the aforementioned groups.
We have a collective responsibility to ensure we’re addressing the widening gap in participation
There’s now an abundance of digital content available, as the sector has really stepped up to the mark during the lockdown. Having a digital content offer for members will be a necessity going forward, but mainly as an add-on, in the same way you might choose peak- or off-peak membership.
Digital will never take the full value away from accessing a built facility – they are far more than bricks and mortar. Our facilities offer one-to-one support, friendship, camaraderie and, most importantly, a sense of belonging, acting as hubs that allow people to connect. This will be crucial to ease the impact of social isolation that was felt before COVID-19 and will be felt even more after.
The sector has really come together to navigate the challenges that COVID-19 has presented and it’s imperative this support for each other continues.
As the focus shifts to re-opening, ukactive is working through its four-stage strategy that’s been designed to ensure facilities are in the best possible position to re-open when the time comes. If implemented collectively by the whole sector, it will be a strong signal that demonstrates that the health and wellbeing of customers is at the heart of everything we do, as it always has been.