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Reopening gyms: four-stage strategy revealed for UK fitness sector

By Tom Walker    23 Apr 2020
The strategy looks to enable a safe return to business for the thousands of facilities which have been closed since 20 March / Shutterstock
Our message to the government is that our sector will show it is ready to reopen when called upon
– Huw Edwards

Plans have been revealed for a four-stage strategy to reopen the UK's physical activity sector, once the government begins to ease the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

Published by industry body ukactive, the strategy looks to enable a safe return to business for the thousands of gyms, leisure centres and other facilities, which were forced to close their doors on 20 March.

The strategy has four key stages:

1. Research on business modelling

Stage one of the strategy will use new research, currently being undertaken by ukactive and DataHub, to provide business modelling which ensures that decisions by operators are informed by the latest intelligence and provide financial viability to reopen safely.

2. Framework for operators

Stage two will provide a clear framework for fitness and leisure operators to guide their operational plans for reopening. The framework is currently under review by public health experts and ukactive’s councils and forums, which represent operators of all types and sizes across the physical activity sector.

3. Public information campaign

Stage three will see a public information campaign which includes the dissemination of guidelines to operators and provides them with assets to engage and reassure their customers, while inspiring the public to step back into gyms and leisure centres.

4. Policy support

Stage four will be driven by the continued policy support of ukactive in its conversations with the Government, ensuring that policy decisions deliver what is needed to support the sector through additional or extended financial measures, and regulatory and taxation changes, once the sector is allowed to reopen.

Commenting on the strategy, Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, said: "Our priority remains securing the financial support and guarantees urgently required for the sector.

"We have, however, also been planning for the future milestones in the management of the COVID-19 crisis.

“Today, we set out a four-stage strategy that will ensure a coordinated and consistent approach to the reopening of gyms, leisure centres, outdoor fitness and other facilities, based on putting the safety of customers and staff first.

“Our message to the Government is that our sector will show it is ready to reopen when called upon.

“In order for the sector to reopen, two major milestones must be met: firstly, our operators must meet future public health recommendations in relation to combatting COVID-19, and secondly, any phased opening with ongoing restrictions must be accompanied by additional Government support that makes it financially viable for our members to reopen.

“Our sector puts the nation’s health at the very heart of its mission. We must act now to ensure that the organisations and workforce behind our nation’s activity levels are fully prepared to reopen in a safe and swift manner to ensure they can continue to serve our communities in future.

“Daily physical activity has been playing a vital role in the resilience of people in homes across the UK during this crisis, and it will be critical for our mental and physical recovery once the current restrictions are lifted.

“Our nation’s gyms and leisure centres form the fabric of our society, contributing £7.7bn to the economy annually and £3.3bn in social value from public leisure alone, as well as employing one of the most passionate and dedicated workforces in the world."

The UK's leisure and fitness facilities employ around 189,000 staff.

Earlier this month, ukactive said many sites are at risk of permanent closure, as organisations with zero income struggle to access loan support, face threats of eviction and are crippled by ongoing utility fees, delayed furloughing funds and failed insurance claims.

physical activity sector  COVID-19  DataHub  ukactive  lockdown  fitness  leisure centres 
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