England Netball’s response to the latest Government announcement

Today, the Government announced its next phases of restrictions being lifted across the country, with pubs, restaurants and other attractions such as museums set to re-open from 4 July.

However, the Prime Minister’s address also made it clear that leisure facilities would not open on this date as previously expected. Our CEO, Fran Connolly, responded to the announcement.

“Whilst we are delighted to hear that many businesses will be able to re-open across the country soon, we were deeply saddened to hear that leisure facilities would not be amongst those opening their doors in July.

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“Leisure centres are fundamental in the running of community netball and many other sports, they are vital for improving activity levels and the health and mental wellbeing of the nation. We are extremely worried that the longer leisure centres stay closed, the more likely it is that some of them won’t survive financially.

“As a sport that provides safe and, where needed, enclosed spaces for women to get active and enjoy netball, we know from experience that many will not feel comfortable exercising in public outdoor gyms or spaces. Many women who rely on leisure facilities to stay active through netball activity in safe and enclosed environments will suffer because of this decision.

“In recent weeks we have been working extensively with partners from across the sector to prepare detailed and phased plans for the return of some forms of indoor sport. Whilst we knew netball in its fullest form may not have been able to return we were hopeful for some form of netball activity to commence indoors. Extensive work has gone into ensuring comprehensive guidelines are ready for leisure operators and sports which will take place within these facilities, so it’s disappointing that we cannot yet implement these measures and get people active indoors again.

“With no clear timeline being given from the Government as to when they could re-open, we fear that community sport is being left behind and many leisure centres are in real danger of closing their doors for good, which will in turn put us and other sports under further financial pressure.”

Following the Government announcement, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, tweeted: “We’ve made lots of progress and I know steps businesses have taken to make their spaces and equipment safe. Subject to public health, our aspiration is to reopen gyms and leisure facilities in mid-July.”

Fran Connolly added: “Despite today’s disheartening news about leisure centres, we will continue to work closely with other governing bodies and Sport England to plan for netball’s return. Oliver Dowden’s message earlier today has given us hope though that things will change in the near future.

“Whilst we wait to hear more, we urge the Government to re-consider their positioning on this nationally, to provide a clear timeline for the eventual re-opening of leisure centres and grassroots sport more broadly, and to clearly communicate the rationale behind today’s decision so we can seek as a sector to find solutions.

“These facilities are fundamental to the health of the nation and we risk activity levels hitting an all-time low in the future without them. We are hopeful that more details will be issued on the opening of leisure centres soon!”

Today the Prime Minister also announced that where it is not possible for people to stay 2m apart, people should keep a distance of at least ‘1m plus’. This means that until further notice, we recommend that people continue to follow our latest guidance here and try to continue to remain 2m apart when taking part in outdoor netball activity to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus.

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