Monday will be an important day for the sport and physical activity sector.
While many restrictions are still in place, and it will be a few more months before we can play and exercise with the freedom we once took for granted, 29 March represents a significant step forward, and sends a powerful message too.
The wide ranging return of outdoor sport is to be welcomed, and I pay tribute to everyone in our sector – from those who work for national governing bodies to the volunteers at sports clubs across England – who’ve worked so hard to get to this place.
The fact organised sport has been one of the first things the government has allowed to reopen underlines its potential to benefit society more widely and the message it sends is of its importance to our nation’s health and wellbeing. It also reflects the responsible way those involved in sport and physical activity have approached dealing with the challenge posed by coronavirus (Covid-19) over the last year.
Yet while we can afford ourselves a moment of celebration for reaching this milestone, we know there is still plenty to do. We all have a part to play if we’re to help our sector rebuild and ensure everyone can enjoy the benefits being physically active can bring.
The pandemic has impacted everyone in some way, but it has been anything but equal. As has been said in other contexts – when it comes to being active in the past year, we are all on the same sea but not in the same boat.
Sadly, if predictably, it’s those who already faced the most barriers to activity who’ve been most negatively affected. It’s why our new strategy, Uniting the Movement, unashamedly has tackling inequality and injustice at its heart.
The themes raised in Uniting the Movement will inspire and shape our decision-making process over the next decade but first, in the coming days and weeks, we’ll be doing all we can to help our sector to reopen safely and successfully.
It's up to all of us to ensure we communicate the lengths being taken to ensure spot and physical activity is safe.
Today, we've published new insight that gives a flavour of how the public are feeling about the return of sport and physical activity.
It shows that people’s motivation to be active is rising as we come into spring, thanks in part to new optimism around the vaccine rollout and the weather, even if for some there is still understandable nervousness. This latter point highlights the importance for the sport sector keeping on raising awareness of their safety measures.
The pandemic and winter have taken their toll, and some people have lost strength and conditioning, so it’s important providers are encouraging and highlight that anyone returning to sport should ease in slowly with small, manageable steps.
It’s up to all of us to ensure we communicate the lengths being taken to ensure sport and physical activity is safe and be mindful of our offer to ensure no one is left behind.
As part of our build up to the reopening, we’ve also spoken with a number of sports and clubs about the actions they’ve taken to be ready and the lessons they’ve learnt over the past year. Their thoughts are both interesting and inspirational and I hope will inspire many others as you continue to make your own plans.
At Sport England, we’ll continue to work very closely with the government to ensure the needs of community sport continue to be considered throughout the process and will work hard to provide the latest information and correct interpretation of the restrictions – as well as, we hope, supporting moves to open up further and see indoor sport and activity return.
You can read more about Monday's changes and what is and isn’t allowed, plus answers to your frequently asked questions, in the coronavirus section of our website.
Sport England has invested more than £270 million of government and National Lottery money to support the sport and physical activity sector through the coronavirus crisis. You can read more about how we’ve invested the money, and what funding is available right now, in the Our Funds section of our website.