I am completely bewildered by the announcement from the Prime Minister who has decided not to follow his Government’s own roadmap for the reopening of indoor sports facilities.
The reopening of indoor sports facilities from 4 July has been on the Government’s roadmap for several weeks now and in that time Badminton England has worked tirelessly alongside the bodies representing leisure facilities, the fitness industry and Government officials to draft the guidance, and adopt all the steps necessary to meet public health guidelines, for a safe return for millions of participants, coaches and volunteers to get back to doing what they love.
Yet Government has seemingly caved in to the pressure to allow pubs and restaurants to open while keeping the doors locked on the millions of people who want to play indoor sport, use a gym or pool. Surely after weeks of lockdown, we should be taking every step possible to ensure the nation has whatever opportunity it wishes to resume a healthy lifestyle. Instead, let's fill beer gardens and fast food restaurants! Its staggering. Particularly when no timeline has been given for reopening.
I have every sympathy with the economic argument that will save thousands of jobs in the hospitality sector and boost the economy. But what about the economic impact on the sport and leisure sector where there are just as many jobs at stake? The consequence of the Government's decision threatens the healthy lifestyles of more than 13 million people who are active every week! It is expected to see hundreds of local facilities close, a potential loss of tens of thousands of jobs, the closure of thousands of community sports clubs who cater for all sections of society, and millions of people being prevented from exercising; This decision is not just a sport matter but risks the nation lurching from one health crisis to another.
Throughout the period of drafting the return to play guidance with Government, there has been no hint whatsoever that this announcement was even a possibility. This will be an almighty kick in the teeth for grass roots indoor sports participants who will have waited patiently while elite sport has returned, while outdoor sport has returned, while many other sectors of society has started to return, yet our doors remain locked.
We have worked incredibly hard to prepare for indoor sport to get back up and running safely. We have taken every step necessary to adapt our sport and playing environment to mitigate the risk to the badminton community and you will understandably look around at other sectors of society and wonder why the risk is so much greater in a leisure facility than it is in your local pub, supermarket or high street. You will wonder why its ok for a bunch of footballers to cuddle each other when they score a goal, that you can now go to the cinema and wander round an art gallery or museum. I’m sure many of you will welcome the amazing news that those needing to shield through this extraordinary time, will soon no longer have to. But you will wonder why you can’t hit a shuttle to your partner from 10 metres away. The inconsistency of decision making is incredible.
I have already made strong representation to Government, and will continue to do so alongside our sector – we will be demanding an immediate rethink by our Government because this decision makes no sense.
I will be continuing to lobby Government on behalf of badminton. I’ll also be working with the wider sport and fitness sector to seek a change to this decision. But more than 4 million people play badminton in England every year and I would ask you all to ensure your voice is heard by contacting your local MP and make noise on social media, directly to No.10 (@10DowningStreet) and let's come together to unlock our courts as soon as possible.
I’m sure many of you will feel very confused and angry at this decision but please be assured that Badminton England is working extremely hard on your behalf to challenge this position and to ensure a safe return to badminton as quickly as possible.