NI Sports Forum urges re-opening of facilities for Indoor Sports sector
The last 18 months has been a difficult time for many sectors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact on the sporting sector has clearly been evident in terms of participation rates, spectator attendances and increased health, safety and logistical challenges.
Whilst many sports are almost operating at pre-COVID capacity levels, there are still significant challenges for indoor sports. Many indoor sports rely on the hiring of facilities from councils, schools and private providers and over years have built strong relationships with their providers to develop their sports. In recent weeks and months some of our member organisations such as Basketball NI, British Gymnastics NI and Netball NI to name just a few, have outlined the challenges in securing appropriate bookings for their activities and sports halls and centres have been repurposed during the pandemic to cater for other activities in schools and leisure centres.
In Gymnastics alone, almost 20% of clubs have yet to reopen and membership figures for all clubs have drastically reduced. Almost 10,000 individuals have yet to renew their membership which equates to 50% of all British Gymnastics members in Northern Ireland. The Understanding the Sporting System & COVID-19 related Need in Northern Ireland report which has just been published by Sport NI has indicated that 69% of respondents representing almost 240 sports organisations have experienced severe disruption to their club or organisation as a result of COVID-19 whilst 60% reported decreases in their membership and or service users
On October 31st further relaxations regarding social distancing indoors come into effect. On behalf of our members who operate significant activity on an indoor basis, the NI Sports Forum is urging local authorities and schools to re-open their facilities to community sporting clubs in order for them to return to full activity with their appropriate protocols in place. Sports clubs have made significant financial contributions to the upkeep and development of these facilities for many years and our members are committed to working in partnership with these facility providers to ensure a safe return that works for all involved.