The Really Hard work Starts Now
Posted: Fri, 10 Jul 2020 13:44
So now that the Government have announced that Gyms, sport and pools are to reopen safely are we are finally there? As a sector we have been calling for this for a long time So is it now all easy from here? Well of course not. The trouble starts from here without a lifeline for many providers and sports. And this impacts across all the parts of the 'sector'.
The Government has outlined the measures that will allow outdoor pools to reopen from 11 July and indoor gyms, swimming pools and sports facilities to reopen from 25 July, ensuring millions of people can get back into more sport and fitness activities.
The guidance, published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has been compiled with input from the trade body ukactive, the Sport and Recreation Alliance, Sport England and other sports bodies, and in consultation with Public Health England and the Health and Safety Executive.
It includes advice for providers of pool, gym and leisure facilities on cleaning, social distancing, and protection for staff to help venues get back up and running safely.
It also supports the re-opening of sports halls which are vital to the return of play for many sports, including badminton and volleyball. Guidance produced by National Governing Bodies will complement the government guidance and help ensure indoor sports can be played safely from July 25.
But what are we going back to? And what are the challenges? It certainly isn't back to our old normal for some time to come - if ever.
For a start some behaviours have changed as Sport England have been discovering in their regular monitoring. So people look like they may not all return to what they were doing before. We have to see this as a threat AND an opportunity to innovate and change. We we have argued at the ThinkTank going back isn't ideal as the sector was failing millions of the most disadvantaged anyway. Second the mitigation measures being put in place make many venues unsustainable without additional support. We have been looking at each of these issues on our Post Covid series There are massive and immediate issues for Gyms, public sector leisure and swimming pools as well as for community sport.
One of the other lessons we have noted during this period has been the effectiveness of the lobby from S&PA sector. I think we equate noise and activity with effectiveness all too often. When pubs and restaurants were opened but not Gyms there was a pretty heated debate on social media about how much more powerful the pub lobby was! I think if we look objectively at the last few months we can see where we are in the mind of most Ministers and MPs... and we have continued to shout loudly in our own echo chamber about our value and worth. Some get it and for a moment I thought the PM got it more than most. In an article for Sports Management magazine I was quite excited that the PA message was at the core of the government 5 messages. As somebody who has sat both sides of the table inside government and outside shouting in I am lucky to have a fair understanding of the dynamics. I have sat both sides of this fence and in a call this week with others who have been around as long we agreed that not enough has changed and we are still holding the same discussions and moaning about the same things as we were a decade ago. This is in need of a fundamental hard look at ourselves as we emerge from this crisis. We haven't even convinced those who should be our allies outside our sector of our worth and contribution. There have also been some pretty awful macho style calls from some parts of the sector which will have annoyed Ministers who are listening to advice from public health professionals.
But the biggest challenge is not about open v closed its about the public perception of the risk.
The same is true of the restaurant voucher scheme. It will be interesting to see if £10 is enough for people to risk their own health for a cheaper meal. We face the same issues. The Gym and sports hall may be open but are people ready to go back in sufficient numbers. The governments mishandling of the Covid crisis has broken the Trust needed to make going back safe in the minds of many people. I heard today from one NGB CEO that their 40-60% of participants were reluctant to return just yet. So in a way the bounce back is out of our hands. There are bigger behavioural science lessons to be learned here. I am sure (or I hope) the £10 meal deal will have been tested properly by the nudge people!
We will be back with more evidence and thoughts soon as we head closer to the reopening dates but this is the start of a very bumpy journey ahead and I haven't even mentioned a second spike yet.