Coronavirus: fitness industry “devastated” by lockdown


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Gareth Johnson with striking coach Michael Lucy

The fitness industry has been “devastated” by the Covid-19 pandemic, the UKActive trade body has warned.

He calls on the government to support sports and leisure facilities, such as the Eat Out to Help Out program for the food sector.

His suggestions include a reduction in VAT, a break on national insurance contributions and help with back dated rent arrears.

A gym owner said the BBC’s activity had worsened since it reopened.

“People think that now we’re open, we’re fine, but the guidelines mean we can’t really conduct our business in any way we did before, and we still have a full overhead to pay. Said Gareth Johnson, who is a part owner of a mixed martial arts (MMA) gymnasium in Portsmouth.

Mixed martial arts – which combine a number of fighting disciplines, including kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, and wrestling – require close physical contact during training.

Strict rules about people-to-people contact mean MMA fighters can’t train in his gym at all.

Training bubble

Mr Johnson believes Covid’s rules should include a ‘training bubble’ so that two people from different households can train together.

He has written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak and his local MP Stephen Morgan asking for their support, and has the support of Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt.

In a letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, seen by the BBC, Ms Mordaunt wrote: “I would like to support a bubble so that people can have an exercise partner outside of their homes with whom they can work out. “.

She adds that it would be “greatly beneficial to have a fund to allow health professionals to prescribe a gym membership.”

Fight for survival

British fighter Molly McCann and Commonwealth Games boxer Jonathan Francois are among those who trained at Mr Johnson’s Gym01.

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Combattante UFC Molly McCann

At its peak, it had 1,000 members, but can now only operate at 20% of its capacity under the new guidelines.

Gyms were allowed to reopen in England on July 25 after just over four months of lockdown, but by that time the gymnasium had lost more than half of its members, many of whom were themselves facing challenges. financial difficulties.

Others have been too nervous to come back or feel like they can’t get the exercise they want.

“When we reopened I had an air of excitement that everyone was going to come in and train and get in shape – and that just wasn’t possible,” Mr Johnson said.

“We have a lot of debt that we are having trouble paying. ”

According to the guidelines, which apply to all sports facilities, gymnasiums must adhere to strict hygiene and social distancing measures.

A recent study by UKActive found that people in England visited eight million gyms in the first three weeks after they reopened.

While 17 people subsequently informed gyms that they had tested positive for Covid-19, there was no indication that they had been infected while they were at the gym.

“Covid-19 has devastated the fitness and leisure industry with many businesses with no income but still facing overhead costs,” said Huw Edwards, CEO of UKActive.

“With government support, we can keep fitness facilities open when they are needed most. “

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NHS Better Health website does not include information about gyms

The government has launched a campaign urging people to get in shape.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson himself hired a personal trainer to help him lose weight.

But Gareth Johnson believes the Better Health campaign has excluded the commercial fitness industry.

“If you go to the NHS website, there are links where you can pay for diet clubs or online training videos, but no mention at all of going to a gym,” he said. he declares.

Insurance hit

Gym01 is also one of hundreds of UK companies affected by a dispute over whether ‘business interruption’ insurance policy extensions should include losses suffered as a result of the pandemic.

Insurers say they don’t and most haven’t paid the related claims.

A court ruling is due next month after the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) filed a case citing 17 examples of business interruption claims involving various insurance companies, eight of which are involved.

For Mr Johnson, this resolution cannot come soon enough.

“We need our insurance to pay and we need something that will encourage people to come and train,” he says.

“It’s 10 times worse than the last recession. We are very worried about the future. “


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