Back in the building. 

On Monday this week, for the first time in nearly five months, the people of Wales were able to return to indoor gyms, swimming pools and other sports facilities. A huge step as we move through the process of fighting Coronavirus. 

From the very beginining, sport in Wales has been clear that we want to return to activity in a responsible and safe way. Working with Sport Wales, the Welsh Government and providers, the Welsh Sports Association has guided sports at all levels to where we are today. The WSA phased return groups have supported the return of activity that led us to the point where the First Minister had the confidence to allow indoor facilities to reopen. 

At 6am on Monday morning, Torfaen Leisure Trust welcomed the first public swimming activity in Wales since March back into their swimming pools, over the course of the rest of the day, facilities in Wales welcomed back their customers, although it was a slightly different experience than they would normally expect. 

Under the new regulations to prevent Coronavirus infections, indoor facilities may only admit 30 people to each enclosed space, and everyone must always remain 2m apart. These are strict legal requirements that shouldn’t be breached. Operators have dealt with this in different ways – but you can probably expect to see one-way systems, reconfigured gyms, and different room layouts throughout the facilities. 

Some parts of buildings may well remain closed as organisations adjust to the new ways of working – these might include saunas, steam rooms, jacuzzis and parts of soft play areas. We expect these to reopen in the future, but for the time being they’ll be shut. 

Reopening hasn’t been without challenges for operators. Only being able to admit 30 people to each indoor space means some facilities simply can’t make the money stack up to reopen just yet, and they might choose to remain closed.  

The need to enforce 2m distancing also means that some sports that utilise indoor facilities aren’t practical at the moment, and some activities won’t be able to take place. National Governing Bodies and coaches are busy trying to find ways to bring things back safely though. 

Customers & sporting partcipants should be reassured that operators have taken all the precautions necessary to keep them safe. We know that being active and healthy is a good protection against all forms of illness, so we think everyone should be getting back to their pre-lockdown routines.  

With all these challenges facing facility operators, the WSA is calling for the UK and Welsh Government to invest in our sporting facilities, whose future is currently hanging on a knife edge. With the Job Retention scheme tapering off, and regulations that prevent the normal operation of gyms, swimming pools and sports halls, we need to see an injection of cash to protect the future of Welsh sport. 

Our challenges are very similar to those faced by theatres and other cultural venues, but so far we’ve seen no moves to protect the sport sector from the storm clouds that are gathering. 

We have a hugely successful sporting legacy, punching far above our weight on the international scale and with widespread participation at the grass roots level. This will only continue if we protect the facilities that all sports depend on. 

If you would like to feed into the WSA phased return to sport discussion groups, please contact the Welsh Sports Association team at admin@wsa.wales  

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