Sports halls ‘need urgent investment’

Bryan Swanson

Chief Reporter, Sky Sports News

Last Updated: 24/01/20 10:15pm

Nearly two thirds of council-run sports halls in England are outdated
Nearly two thirds of council-run sports halls in England are outdated

Nearly two thirds of council-run sports halls in England are outdated and in urgent need of investment from the government, according to new findings revealed by the Local Government Association (LGA).

The figures, compiled by Sport England, and released by the LGA, reveal that up to 63 per cent of sports halls and swimming pools are more than 10 years old. Nearly a quarter of all sports halls and swimming pools have not been refurbished in more than 20 years.

The LGA, which represents councils in England and Wales, is calling on the government to introduce a £500m funding pot for councils to “redesign, upgrade and renovate facilities to the standard needed to support healthy, active communities and transform the nation’s health.”

But, in response, the government says it is investing more than £500m in community facilities over the next decade to support a potential UK and Ireland World Cup bid in 2030.

The LGA claims, ahead of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, increased investment will lead to “more active communities and boost efforts to tackle child obesity, loneliness and mental health challenges.”

“With desperately-needed investment, councils can improve our leisure facilities and help use the upcoming Commonwealth Games to inspire our communities to become healthier and more active,” says Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Chair of the LGA’s Culture, Tourism and Sport Board.

“Local leisure facilities play a vital role in ensuring our communities remain healthy but too many are now in desperate need of being updated and refurbished. Council-run leisure facilities provide thousands of people and families with access to affordable gyms, swimming pools and exercise opportunities they would otherwise not have.

Gerald Vernon-Jackson says councils can use the upcoming Commonwealth Games to inspire communities
Gerald Vernon-Jackson says councils can use the upcoming Commonwealth Games to inspire communities

“Under-investment has meant that many councils have not been able to provide the necessary refurbishments to some outdated sports facilities.

“Where refurbishments have been possible, they have been shown to save an average of £500,000 a year, so investment pays for itself, as well as improving the health and well-being of residents and helping meet our climate targets.”

The LGA says council-run leisure facilities, which include swimming pools, gyms, football pitches and sports halls, are vital to local communities as they contribute to physical and mental well-being.

They believe the NHS “spends hundreds of millions a year treating preventative diseases which could have been avoided by access to active facilities.”

But the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport [DCMS] has said it remains ‘completely committed’ to improving active participation.

“We are completely committed to helping people to get active and stay active,” a DCMS spokesperson told Sky Sports News.

“Since 2012, the government and Sport England has invested over £200m from the exchequer and lottery to help build or develop state of the art health and leisure facilities across the country.

“We have also placed a £550 million investment in community sports facilities over the next 10 years at the centre of our plans to support a potential UK and Ireland World Cup 2030 bid.”

Source : Sky Sports