WSA Representing Welsh sport in the Senedd

This week our CEO Victoria Ward presented evidence to the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications committee in the Senedd alongside Brian Davies of Sport Wales. You can watch the session here. The cross party committee meets regularly to take evidence from external organisations on the Welsh Government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and the wider impact of measures to combat the virus on the sport sector.

Victoria outlined the WSA and sport’s commitment to doing our part to fight the pandemic, whilst emphasising the significant impact the continued pause on activity is having on sports participation and sports businesses. As a sector in Wales we have been incredibly fortunate to have strong engagement with Welsh Government, Public Health Wales and Sport Wales and their ongoing insight and advice has been invaluable as we look towards recovery.

However, the pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated many issues we face as a sector. Participation is still significantly skewed against women and girls, BAME communities and on a class basis. Through the closure of some facilities, either as required by the regulations, or their use as field hospitals and vaccination centers we have also seen how heavily dependent some communities are on single sites or providers of facilities. This is particularly acute in rural areas, where we are aware of examples of facilities that have not reopened since 23rd March 2020.

When we move back to Alert Level 3 in Wales, as outlined in the Welsh Government’s Coronavirus Control Plan, there will be opportunities to bring sport back on line and resume activity. However, we know that ongoing restrictions on gatherings and requirements for physical distancing will mean we don’t go back to “normal”. What we can do within the regulations will shape our business models, and will require financial support from the Government to manage. These changes will have ongoing impacts on participation, where people are not able to and have been unable to play their sports for nearly a year now.

We also see issues around consumer confidence, and we have heard from our members about the significant concerns some people now have about the safety of returning to participation in the short term. This appears to be particularly for groups that have traditionally faced other barriers in their access to sport. Sporting facilities have and will continue to take significant steps to make themselves safe and we must ensure our customers are ready to return as soon as the regulations allow.

The coming year will require sport to be flexible and innovative as we respond to the vaccine rollout and the ongoing circulation of the virus. The WSA will continue to work with Welsh Government and other decision makers to ensure that sport can return as quickly as possible, and that we can all resume our essential role in helping the population be fitter and healthier.

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