Call for energy help for sports sector ahead of ‘final straw’

By Sported |  22 February 2023

 Sported has joined more than 200 bodies and individuals from the worlds of health, sport, recreation, and leisure in signing a letter to the Prime Minister with an urgent plea for greater support for grassroots facilities and clubs amid the ongoing energy crisis.  

With energy costs relief for the UK’s community facilities, swimming pools, leisure centres, and gyms ending on 31 March, thousands of facilities and clubs are at risk of permanent closure or reduced services, as public and private sector organisations of all sizes face unprecedented financial challenges, with bills remaining up to 200 percent higher than normal.  

Group of women doing water aerobics.

For public leisure operators running services within local authorities, the latest data from ukactive’s members shows that 31 percent of council areas in England remain at risk of losing their leisure centre(s) or seeing reduced services at their leisure centre(s), from 1 April**, with around 350 facilities nationally already having 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, while athletes such as Rebecca Adlington and celebrities including Davina McCall have also added their support.  

The letter warns that, “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.  

“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.”  

Within the letter, the coalition calls for the Government to: 

  • • 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 in England with the Spring Budget to unlock the potential of the sector to support the economic, health, educational and social wellbeing of the nation. 

The letter was coordinated a group of bodies, including: Active Partnerships, Community Leisure UK , the Sport and Recreation Alliance, the Sport for Development Coalition, the Youth Sport Trust, ukactive and Sported. 

Nicola Walker, CEO of Sported, said: “It is important to protect essential community facilities across the country that remain under threat of service restrictions and closure. 

“It impacts people of all ages and backgrounds but young people in areas of disadvantage will feel the pinch most of all. 

“Community facilities, pools and leisure centres and community facilities form part of our social fabric, and they are vital for our physical and mental wellbeing. It is vital that they receive support to offset the rises in costs so that grassroots sport is affordable and sustainable.”

Read the full letter here 



** Risk register assessment survey conducted by the ukactive Research Institute with ukactive public sector leisure operator members. Responses were received from 21 national and multi-site operators, representing 35% of all UK council areas (February 2023) 
Young teenager in a Sported t-shirt preparing to throw a punch in a boxing ring to the instructor

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