Thursday, June 13, 2024

UK sports facilities bounce back from pandemic – participation and energy costs still a risk

Research has shown that both the UK sports facilities and club sector have bounced back from the impact of the pandemic that saw a 35% and 24% respective annual decline in market size.

Alliance Fund, the sport investment fund, analysed the health of the sports facility and clubs sector, which showed that both suffered due to the impact of the pandemic. In 2021, the size of the facilities sector fell to just over £3.9bn, a 35% year on year reduction against 2020 and the smallest market size seen in the last decade.

The sports club sector also saw a notable decline, with total market size falling by -24% between 2020 and 2021 to £11.445bn, the third lowest annual market size seen in the last decade with the exception of 2013 and 2014. 

Alliance Fund said that there had been a ‘considerable return to form’, albeit they remain some way off their pre-pandemic pace. 

In 2022, facilities were estimated to have hit £5.298bn, a 35% uplift versus the sector low seen in 2021. However, the sector’s current market size still sits some -13% below that of the pre-pandemic peak seen in 2019. 

The sports club sector has also seen improvement, with market size increasing by 19% between 2021 and 2022 to £13.574bn.

Both sectors are expected to grow further by 2025. CEO of Alliance Fund, Iain Crawford, said: “We’re a nation of sport lovers and both the Sports club and Sports Facilities sectors are incredibly important in facilitating this love at all levels, whether it be amateaur, semi-pro or the top flight. 

“However, despite a sharp return to form, we’re yet to see a full return to fitness across both sectors and it could be some time before they return to their pre-pandemic glory days.”

Meanwhile research showed that a growing proportion of clubs were in severe financial difficulty, operating with low reserves following the pandemic – this is currently the case for a quarter of clubs and is expected to rise to a third in the coming year. 

Rising energy costs are putting the future of the sector at huge risk – bills are expected to almost double in the next 12 months, with much greater increases expected for a number of clubs. 

Participation opportunities have fallen much more than anticipated, with a 16% drop compared with 2019 – the worsening financial climate is affecting clubs’ ability to provide sport and recreation in their communities. 

Access to facilities and public spaces is the main concern for over three quarters of clubs – with closures and service restrictions already happening across the country, this is an urgent priority for clubs who depend on them to provide activity. 

Critically, higher costs will be transferred on to participants – 70% of clubs say they plan to charge members more in fees which will likely impact those on lower incomes and exacerbate existing inequalities in participation. 

If your hockey club is threatened by the energy crisis, a lack of provision or closure due to council decisions? Please get in touch with us so we can raise your concern.

Total Hockey

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