Getting the country moving again
- Healthy body, happy mind
- Grassroots as the foundation of sport in the UK
- Fears of losing a generation of sports-lovers
Freddy Logan, Junior PR and Marketing Executive
The impact of coronavirus has left no corner of the globe untouched. The sports industry has been hit particularly hard and yet financial support for the sector in this country has been largely overlooked. Sport has been left reeling amid the harsh reality of cancelled fixtures, closed facilities, empty stadiums and staff redundancies – felt all the way from professional athletes to grassroots level participation.
The sports industry simply cannot afford to stand still and accept its fate. As such, last week, governing bodies across the industry, including The Football Association, Premier League, Rugby Football Union, England and Wales Cricket Board and Lawn Tennis Association, wrote a letter to the Prime Minister urging for the provision of a “comprehensive support package for the sport and physical sector to aid its recovery”.
The letter goes further to suggest that “the impact of this [COVID-19] will potentially lead to a lost generation of sport and activity”.
But, lives are being lost the world over; surely financial resources are better directed elsewhere? So say the sceptics.
Thanks to national lockdown, social distancing and the intimate nature of many sports and physical exercise, leisure facilities and community centres alike have been forced to close their doors. The global pandemic has taught us many lessons and uncovered some painful truths along the way, but the need for a healthy body and a happy mind has never been more important.
Closure of schools at the height of lockdown and the stark possibility of an education gap as a consequence might have, understandably, dominated the headlines but the importance of getting our country and children moving again, both literally and metaphorically, must not be lost in translation.
The letter continues: “We are particularly concerned about the impact on those whose participation has been limited during the pandemic. Physical activity levels, especially in the most vulnerable groups, are significantly below where they were tracking pre-Covid-19”.
While the professional game represents the very top of the ladder, grassroots sport is the backbone to the industry. According to Sport England, before the outbreak of coronavirus, activity levels in this country were rising with over 63% of the population doing more than 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical exercise each week. Alongside national treasure Joe Wicks’ daily workouts, running and cycling proved a safe and popular option for many during the deepest months of lockdown, but the doors of many sports clubs and leisure facilities remained largely shut.
The industry’s letter, in no uncertain terms, spells out the importance of the industry to a sport-loving nation; annually providing the UK economy with over £16bn, as well as the provision of over 600,000 jobs.
However, not all hope is lost. Lockdown forced individuals to channel their inner creative and take responsibility into their own hands. Our living rooms became Pilates studios, our gardens became gymnasiums, and family members became our very own personal trainers. In line with government regulations, local children’s sports clubs, as well as school clubs and athletics tracks are now, against all odds, beginning to reopen.
Instead of lamenting the potential loss of a generation, perhaps a window of opportunity has arisen. With the appropriate investment and by harnessing key messages around exercise and activity, the next generation might learn for themselves to be fitter, healthier and happier. After all, the darkest hour of the night comes just before the dawn.