Leisure centre closures to cost £7.25m in missed health savings

Closing gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools under coronavirus restrictions is costing the UK, on average, £7.25 million in lost social value and around £90 million in sector revenue for every week of lockdown.

The scale of the social and economic impact of closing the fitness and leisure sector was revealed as full national lockdowns were announced, meaning that more than 7,200 gyms, leisure facilities and swimming pools have been forced to close across the UK.

ukactive says that the cost to operators based on lost membership fees, despite furlough, business rate support and grants, is estimated to be on average £90 million per week. However, the reality is that January losses could be much higher based on it being a key period for new joiners and renewals. Additionally, the organisation warns that the loss of social value which they provide represents a major threat to the health and well-being of communities.

Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, said: “This evidence shows why the fitness and leisure sector provides such an essential service to communities across the UK, from the vital mental and physical health benefits to the economic benefits. The closure of gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools during January and February poses a major threat not only to thousands of facilities and jobs, but also our nation’s health, and resilience to conditions including Covid-19, obesity and some cancers.

“We urgently need to see credible plans from the government to work with our sector to keep people active and minimise the damaging impact lockdown has on the physical and mental wellbeing of people who rely on these Covid-secure facilities to stay strong and healthy.

“Furthermore, the government must protect this sector as a priority, before it becomes too late. January and February represent a vital period for gyms, pools, and leisure facilities to trade but they currently have zero income, unlike other sectors.

“The top-up grants and funding announced by the Chancellor, while welcome, will be no more than a sticking plaster for the financial challenges being faced, and both public and private fitness and leisure operators will require additional, tailored financial and regulatory support for their recovery.”