Ireland Active, the body representing leisure, health and fitness operators across ireland has written to Government outlining nine key measures it sees as important in the soon to be published July stimulus package.
In it CEO Conn McCluskey outlines how the Programme for Government places a renewed focus on exercise and wellbeing and aims for a target of 60 per cent participation in physical activity as opposed to the current 46 per cent, with swimming as a priority sport.
The letter outlines the impact which Covid-19 and the lockdown gas had on the sector with 91 per cent of facilities having frozen their memberships during closure, meaning little or no income was received for a period of 3-4 months.
60 per cent of Ireland Active members have suffered loss of revenue of between 85 and 100 per cent of income during the period, while only 23 per cent were able to secure a rent reduction or deferral.
The effect of social distancing will reduce capacity by around 50 per cent with consequent impact on the viability of operators without substantial supports.
The nine key asks of the Government are:
- The extension of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme for the period of restrictions being in place due to the pandemic, to include provision for seasonal workers and new hires
- Extension of the exemption from rates for a period of 12 months
- Reduction in the VAT rate for sports facilities to 0%
- Sector specific grants which could be in the form of energy and operational grants to cover rent, utilities and insurance.
- A state backed ‘leisure centre and gym’ voucher scheme, to encourage use of local facilities.
- State backed loans for the sector with 0 per cent interest and no repayments for 12 months
- A Code of Conduct for commercial landlords put in place to avoid evictions during the pandemic and share the financial burden, together with a government support scheme
- Tax liabilities warehoused for a further 12 months until 2022
- SME Recovery Group established with representation from Ireland Active for our sector
- Sector taskforce established for the industry.
Conn McCluskey joined us on the Sport for Business daily this morning to discuss these asks and to look at the challenges which operators are facing.