Leaders call for investment in grassroots sport facilities

The Local Government Association has said that the legacy of Team GB’s success during this summer’s Tokyo Olympics risks being lost without further investment in grassroots and community sport facilities.

Councils provide the majority of public swimming pools and leisure facilities. However, they are expensive to build and maintain and with increased pressures to divert funding from sports to fund statutory services such as adult social care and children’s services. The pandemic has also resulted in many leisure facilities facing additional financial pressures.

Council leaders claim that 63 per cent of main sports halls and 60 per cent of swimming pools are past their expected lifespans or overdue refurbishment, resulting in some facilities remaining closed after the pandemic and in need of costly repairs. The LGA is calling for the government to provide an urgent second round of National Leisure Recovery Funding, worth £700 million, to enable facilities to remain open and continue playing  a vital role in supporting the health of the nation and nurturing the ambition of young people in elite sports.

Gerald Vernon-Jackson, chair of the LGA’s Culture, Tourism and Sport Board, said: “The country is hugely proud of the tremendous achievements by our athletes at the Tokyo Olympics. Their success could lead to a legacy of inspiring young people to take up sport and healthy lifestyle habits. We must take action now if we want to ensure this success is repeated in the future, and that young people from all backgrounds can aspire to compete in future Games.

“Local leisure facilities play a vital role in ensuring our communities can get healthy and active, but they are also the starting point in discovering bright new sporting talent, that can go on to represent Team GB on the world stage. Council funded facilities also offer people from all backgrounds the chance to access a range of free or low-cost activities in a safe and supported environment, which is vital in enabling residents living in deprived areas to be active and to level up opportunities across the country.”