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HCM People: Mark Tweedie

Once facilities are mothballed they are unlikely to reopen ever again

Published in Health Club Management 2020 issue 7
Mark Tweedie
CEO Community Leisure UK
Mark Tweedie CEO Community Leisure UK

Mark Tweedie, who was named as the new CEO of Community Leisure UK (CLUK) recently, has called for essential UK government support for leisure facility operators and commissioned a report into the impact of the pandemic.

The report – Community Leisure UK COVID-19 Impact Report – published this month, is based on the latest survey data gathered by CLUK, which represents charitable trusts delivering public leisure services across the UK.

In presenting the findings, Tweedie said a significant proportion of leisure facilities in England have not reopened since lockdown measures were eased, and that a third of leisure trusts will face ‘unviability’ in the next six months, without financial support.

Other key headline figures indicate that nearly 7,000 jobs have already been lost in the trusts sector – and thousands more are set to follow unless financial support is given.

CLUK found the forced four-month closures – and subsequent limited capacities enforced since lockdown – have led to leisure trusts burning their financial reserves to prop up their businesses.

Tweedie told HCM that by March 2021 the leisure trust sector will collectively hold only 10 per cent of the financial reserves it had pre-lockdown: “Reducing reserves means increasing financial vulnerability and inability to deal with local lockdowns – or a second COVID-19 spike,” he said, “and once facilities are mothballed they are unlikely to reopen ever again.”

“If we lose our valuable leisure facilities it will have a negative impact on local economies and on people’s physical and mental health and wellbeing. This would be detrimental to current government policies, such as the new obesity strategy and efforts to help tackle diabetes and mental illness.

“Half the population use indoor facilities and leisure centres to undertake their regular exercise – including some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

“A DCMS Select Committee report has already highlighted the urgent need for funding and we know Sport England has made the government aware of the severe impact of the pandemic on public leisure provision – and is continuing to support our sector to secure the additional financial support necessary to avail these serious economic viability concerns.”

CLUK is calling for government intervention and has launched the #SaveLeisure campaign to rally the industry and stakeholders to support the sector.

Tweedie joins CLUK after 10 years as CEO of Active Tameside (2011 to 2018) and Active Northumberland (2018-2020). He began his career as a PE teacher before moving into sports development and leisure service management.

• About CLUK
CLUK represents 3,700 facilities. Its 110 members operate 3,800 facilities, hosted 233m customers in 2019 and have a combined turnover of £2bn.

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