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ROAD RECOVERY New research shows that UK public sector health and fitness is on track for recovery, but operators face shifts in their member profiles that mean operators will need to adapt to thrive


n a story now all too familiar, March 2020 saw the temporary closure of the sport, leisure and physical activity industry at the hands of the pandemic. Thousands of facilities were forced to close as the country went into lockdown. Two months later, with the industry showing signs of life as we got closer to a reopening date, ukactive and 4global – powered by the DataHub and supported by organisations from across the sector – attempted the impossible. Researchers used modelling and analytics to predict the future, providing public sector operators, trusts and national bodies with evidence on which to build their financial and operational plans.

The research

Using member and participation data from prelockdown, combined with consumer confidence data from inside and outside the industry, the research team used predictive modelling to map the sector’s expected path out of lockdown. The calculations considered restrictions on facility capacity, a lower rate of participation by older age groups and a reduced amount of swimming and team sports. It was estimated that if restrictions were lifted


October 2020 ©Cybertrek 2020

six months after opening, the industry would reach -1 per cent (minus 1 per cent) of participation by the end of February 2021, when compared to 2020 figures. Taking into consideration a steady increase in consumer confidence (the willingness of people to use facilities), and with operators across the UK being required to limit class sizes and gym entry during peak time, calculations for late September 2020 projected that participation at local authority and trust facilities would be 51 per cent of the figure for the same week in 2019.

Is the sector on track?

Against these projections, live participation figures from the DataHub show that the calculations from the research team were exactly right, at an accuracy level above 98 per cent in the first eight weeks of re-opening. “The projections we made back in May are being realised, as participation across the sector is impacted by consumer confidence and capacity restrictions,” says Utku Toprakseven, partner at 4global Consulting. Toprakseven led this latest research, which was published almost exactly six months after the UK first faced lockdown.

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HCM October 2020  

HCM October 2020