Gyms and leisure centres will reopen across Liverpool following a U-turn over the decision to group them with pubs and bars in Tier 3 areas of ‘very high’ risk.
Liverpool’s Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram wrote to the government on Monday demanding an urgent review of the decision and said on Wednesday morning that they will now be permitted to stay open, as is the case in other Tier 3 areas such as Lancashire.
"The government have agreed with the case I put forward on behalf of city region leaders and that they would now bring us in line with other Tier 3 areas," he said.
There was further confusion on Wednesday morning over whether gyms would be shut in Greater Manchester when Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary, was unable to give a definitive answer on Sky News. "I think that gyms are being asked to close but you'll have to look in gov.uk when the regulations are published,” he said.
The expectation within the sector, however, is that gyms in Greater Manchester will remain open in line with Lancashire and now Liverpool.
Almost 400,000 people had signed a petition to prevent gyms again being forced to close and Rotheram had written to Boris Johnson demanding the evidence for shutting fitness facilities.
Ukactive has separately urged the Welsh government to recognise the sector’s “central role” in building health resilience and keep gyms and leisure centres open during the planned ‘firebreak’ lockdown which begins on Friday.
A statement said that their enforced closure “doesn’t take into account the vital issue of Wales’ health resilience and the fundamental role the gyms and leisure facilities play within this”.
They also highlighted strict protocols that have been in place to minimise the risk of spreading Covid-19 and data that has suggested a “very low” risk within gyms and leisure centres.
There is also anger inside the sports and recreation sector at the lack of progress over an emergency funding package at a time when more than 6,000 jobs have been lost and almost 300,000 more are at risk.
More than 150 sports bodies, including the Football Association, the England & Wales Cricket Board, the Premier League, the Lawn Tennis Association, the Rugby Football Union and UK Athletics, had signed a letter to Johnson last month that warned of a potential “lost generation” without emergency help.
They have asked for a dedicated sports recovery fund, the same VAT reduction that has been applied to the culture and hospitality sectors and a plan that will maximise access to sport and physical activity in the face of additional lockdown restrictions.
According to the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity, around 300,000 jobs are at risk if there is not a dedicated package of support. Almost half of all public leisure facilities are also said to be at risk of permanent closure by Christmas.
Sport England has this week launched a new £16.5 million ‘Return to Play’ fund that is specifically aimed at groups, clubs and organisations who have been impacted by restrictions.
Tim Hollingsworth, the Sport England chief executive, said the fund would particularly focus on tackling inequalities in activity that have worsened over the past six months.