HCM June 2020

Page 40


Everyone’s taking about

The future of facilities The fitness industry has shown incredible flexibility during lockdown, pivoting to digital to keep people active. But as lockdowns end, we ask what impact the pandemic will have on facility provision

Tara Dillon CEO, CIMSPA


he effects of the pandemic will be most immediately seen in the number and type of sites that will reopen after lockdown. Understandably, operators want facilities up and running as soon as possible. To help them, CIMSPA, with ukactive, has developed national guidance for the UK on the safe operation of sites. However, a phased return is far from straightforward. For example, few operators have the space to run group exercise classes while maintaining social distancing, and team/contact sports will be all but impossible to host. Some argue that a little revenue is better than none. But not many operators can shoulder the full costs of running a site, while generating only 20-30 per cent of the revenue. Staffing costs can represent 60-80 per cent of turnover and currently 80 per cent of that is being paid by government. Some of the larger private sector operators will open; they’ve got reserves and can take the hit. The bigger budget chains have fewer staffing costs so they too will open. But smaller trusts and boutique gyms will struggle to operate and maintain social distancing. After years of cuts, the public sector has little to no reserves, so I believe they will need to have open conversations with their clients about mothballing many of their sites until a vaccine is found and social distancing measures are lifted. The sector faces a challenging dilemma: if we do nothing, businesses


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Public sector operators have little to no reserves, so will need to have conversations about mothballing sites until social distancing measures are lifted will go bust. But if we rush to reopen, businesses will also go bust. There is a much bigger conversation to have with government here – they should force banks to lift the restrictive criteria in accessing business interruption loans. Swathes of our sector are unable to access these loans because the criteria is largely based on historical data and reserves that are not representative of how our sector manages its finances. The initial stage of the pandemic highlighted key sectors such as the NHS. Given the emphasis placed on physical activity by government, I believe our sector should be included in the second wave and identified as a key sector, essentially giving us second phase key worker status. This gives us a valid case for requesting more government support, which will help more facilities to reopen to meet the nation’s mental and physical wellbeing needs.