Coronavirus: ‘Sports clubs should be offered payment breaks’

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Catriona McAllister, chief executive of the independent body responsible for promoting sport and wellbeing, says local clubs could struggle to survive the coming months if dispensation is not given to cover facility-rental commitments and a loss of income while activities are put on hold.

Wholesale shut-downs are under way this week in an attempt to limit the impact of COVID-19, with public gatherings being increasingly discouraged as both the UK and Jersey governments consider widespread social distancing. Almost all sporting fixtures and training sessions in the Island have been postponed until at least the end of March, although the period of inactivity is likely to last much longer.

‘We have been monitoring things closely in terms of advice from the Government of Jersey and the World Health Organisation and, to the best of our abilities, trying to interpret what that guidance means for sport,’ said McAllister.

‘At the moment our priority is health, but then it will move to a phase of understanding the financial impact and how we support that. We are here to advocate for sport and we are doing that on a daily basis at the moment.

‘It’s important to understand what the financial impact is on sport. Not just the obvious – flights and accommodation – but also if sport will be treated the same as businesses, because a lot of sports pay leases and rentals. We’ll be advocating that sport should be seen the same as businesses and possibly allowed a deferral period for payments.

‘Where a sport is booked into a government facility for weekly training, as the weeks go on will sports have to continue to pay for hire or would that be negated?

‘And for clubs who literally survive week to week on the fees paid for training … it would be foolish not to consider how to support them. If we move into school-closures, at that point it’s likely we’ll have to advise for children’s sports to cease and that could have a major impact on the finances of a number of clubs.’

McAllister has also pledged to devise an action-plan geared towards diluting the knock-on effects of isolation.

‘We’re also working on guidance for how people can stay active in their home while maintaining social distancing, because we know being active does help the immune system,;’ she explained. ‘Now more than ever there’s a strong case to keep active in the home and outside, where the government guidelines allow.

‘It’s sometimes hard to understand what role sport plays socially within the community but at a time like this it’s clear. It’s so important for mental health … getting people out and interacting and there is obviously a concern that that may be lost.

‘We have found it useful when people phone us – even if it’s just having a person to chew the fat with, we’re here to provide advice and support, if needed, to help talk through any concerns.’

All of Jersey Sport’s weekly ‘Move More Adults’ and ‘Move More Health Walks’ sessions have been cancelled for the foreseeable future.

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