SPORTS across Scotland have welcomed extra funding announced by sportscotland to help sport recover from the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown, and urged all to help to restore sport to the heart of community life.
Sport, leisure and recreation across Scotland has suffered significantly as a result of activity, members and income being lost during lockdown, with many clubs facing bankruptcy and Community Leisure Scotland warning that over 100 public facilities may never re-open. Sportscotland has led discussions across the wide sport sector and with Scottish Government to understand the challenges and secure support for another raft of measures designed to help sport get back on its feet.
In April, sportscotland, Scotland’s national agency for sport, agreed to provide the first six months of scheduled SGB funding, totalling £16.4m, with targets and outcomes usually demanded of sports relaxed, in an attempt to protect around 1600 jobs across the sport sector. That investment, funded jointly by the Scottish Government and The National Lottery, helped to sustain a wide variety of sports as part of the Community Sport Hub (CSH), Direct Club Investment (DCI) and Active Schools programmes.
This week, Stewart Harris, sportscotland chief executive, confirmed that further talks with government and across the sport, leisure and recreation sector had led to agreement that the final six months of their annual investment (£16 million) could be handed over, without the usual targets and outcomes attached to funding, along with an additional £1.5m support fund.
He said: “Scotland’s sporting system has shown incredible resilience during this difficult period. It has been far from easy for SGBs, local partners and the wider sporting system, but there has been a shared commitment that has allowed us to continue to make progress.
“That work is ongoing and there are still a number of challenges that lie ahead. We remain in the middle of a public health emergency and the virus has not gone away but the early release of this funding, along with the relaxation of all associated targets and the creation of the SGB Covid Support Fund, will allow our partners to fully focus on the challenges ahead.
“We all want to see sport return safely and we will continue to do all that we can to achieve this. The coming weeks and months will be crucial if we are to build on the progress that has already been made and to ensure that we can get back towards something like normal.”
The funding forms part of wider support and guidance provided by Scottish Government and The National Lottery to help organisations and communities across the country deal with the impact of the pandemic. Discussions are also ongoing and further funding support has not been ruled out.
The announcement was warmly welcomed by the new Scottish Governing Bodies Forum, which represents the wide range of sports in Scotland from athletics, badminton and netball to disability sport, squash and snow sports. The Forum has met regularly with sportscotland and the Scottish Government during the coronavirus crisis and stated that the announcement was a signifiant step forward. The leaders also acknowledged that this did not mean all sport would suddenly restart, and called for more recognition of sport’s ability to help communities recover physically and mentally from the health crisis.
“This week has marked an important next step towards the return of sport in communities across the country,” the Forum stated, “with indoor sports courts and swimming pools now able to reopen in line with the latest Scottish Government public health guidance.
“This timely statement recognises that whilst progress has been made with the re-opening of sports facilities across Scotland, this does not mean a full restart of sport as we know it and that many sports, particularly those reliant on accessing indoor sports facilities for club training and competition, face a much slower return as local Trusts and leisure operators take a cautious and phased approach to the re-opening of their facilities.
“We want to see more progress made in line with the latest public health guidance at all levels of sport, to ensure that clubs and local communities have access to facilities. The SGB Forum continues working with partners across the sporting system including sportscotland, the Scottish Government and Local Authorities and Local Trusts to bring about the safe return of sport, and is committed to ensuring that all of Scotland’s sports club members, volunteers and communities can access critical and much loved sporting and physical activity opportunities as soon as possible.
“Whilst there is a clear desire from all partners to reopen facilities and get our sports into these facilities as quickly as is safely possible, the ongoing difficulties presented by COVID-19, including facility staff on furlough, training requirements and venue remodelling to comply with social distancing measures, means that it is unlikely that all venues will be able to reopen fully for some time to come.
“In the meantime, as a sector, we need the support, understanding and backing of all our clubs and members now more than ever as we work to protect the rich sporting fabric of our nation and strive to bring sporting activity back to being at the heart of our Scottish communities once more.”
sportscotland is continuing to work with partners to develop and implement plans for the safe return of sport in line with the latest public health guidance. An online ‘COVID officer’ training module has been developed to help SGBs, local partners, clubs and community organisations across the country welcome people back safely in line with the latest guidance with Covid officers becoming anew feature of club volunteering structures. To help venue operators, sports clubs and organisations manage facilities safely, sportscotland has also published an extensive range of resources. Visit the sportscotland website for further advice and guidance.
UK Sport has also this week confirmed that it will grant more than £1.38million in extra funding to help national governing bodies (NGBs) struggling because of the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
In the first round of grants from the UK Sport’s Continuity Fund, set up specifically to help mitigate the adverse impact of Covid-19 on the operational and financial health of NGBs, the money will be distributed between ten sports who applied for assistance. A second round will be be announced later this year.
The extra funding will be used to cover existing expenditure, support new strategic activity and enable competition participation essential to work rankings and qualification for future Olympic and Paralympic Games, in which a host of Scottish athletes have interest. The following NGBs have received grant support via the UK Sport Continuity Fund:
- Archery GB – £110,000
- British Basketball Federation – £180,000
- British Cycling – £500,000
- British Fencing – £33,000
- British Judo – £86,000
- British Weightlifting – £30,000
- England Hockey – £90,000
- Goalball UK – £35,000
- Pentathlon GB – £22,000
- Royal Yachting Association – £300,000