A message from England Boxing CEO Gethin Jenkins
June 24, 2020 | by Matt Halfpenny
On behalf of everyone involved with England Boxing, I would like to convey our deep sense of disappointment over the Prime Minister’s announcement not to re-open indoor sports facilities in the latest easing of Coronavirus lockdown restrictions to come into force on 4th July – and add our organisation’s voice to the increasingly sector-wide demand for a government rethink.
Much like the views expressed in a statement by Sport and Recreation Alliance (SRA) CEO Lisa Wainwright, along with those articulated by leaders in other sports, we are left hugely frustrated that indoor sport has continued to be side-lined at a time when it is needed more than ever.
While we all understood and supported the measures needed to be taken back in March to limit the outbreak, save the NHS and prevent it going unchecked, together with the continued need to be vigilant and maintain the overall advice relating to the COVID pandemic, the decision for indoor sports facilities to stay closed at this point – especially as no definitive timeline for their re-opening has been set – poses a significant physical and mental health threat to those who participate. It also, given the economic implications, threatens the survival of grass roots sport, and boxing in particular, as we know it.
Our recent pioneering study, Evaluating the Impact of Boxing Clubs on Their Host Communities, conducted independently by a team from Sheffield Hallam University, confirmed that boxing is paramount to wellbeing in so many of the communities it serves, particularly those with areas of high deprivation, which our sport has consistently been able to reach where so many others can’t.
By insisting that indoor sports facilities remained closed, it puts in jeopardy not just the physical but also the mental health of so many that have already been suffering for months while the government has attempted to bring the Coronavirus Pandemic under control. Hitting a bag to disperse pent up frustration, getting a word of encouragement from an experienced coach or feeling that belonging as a member in training is the lifeline that some of boxing’s participants rely on, as it is for other sports. Without it, so many are lost.
England Boxing and its member clubs, as with many other sports, have done their best to fill the void left by the closure of the Clubs up and down the country with interactive online Zoom calls, website resources and outdoor sessions limited to no more than six people, as per government guidelines. Our Box In Mind mental health awareness programme has also been taken online at this vital time.
But it is simply not enough in the long-term. Sport clubs and their facilities provide a unique service and an outlet that needs to be restored before the government has a crisis of a different kind on its hands.
That’s not to mention the impact the loss of revenue will have on clubs which threatens their very existence. While some, encouraged by our team of Club Support Officers, have managed to access rate relief or emergency grants from a variety of sources including Sport England, and others have raised funds through our #KOCOVID19 campaign, there are others who are at risk of being forced to close their doors for good.
With 40 per cent of those clubs in the 20 per cent most deprived areas of the country, that cannot be allowed to happen. Clubs need to re-open before it is too late.
We believe that it is entirely possible to safely return to indoor sports facilities, providing guidance is followed and precautions taken at all times. This is all the more so given that high performance sport has been allowed to return. If it’s not safe, then we call on the government to publish the advice that prevents indoor sport from doing so.
Discussions have been ongoing behind the scenes into how we can make a return happen in a safe and phased manner – and I believe that everyone in the sport will work hard to get it right so that people’s health (physical and mental) remains the number one goal.
Please be assured that England Boxing, along with others in the sports sector, will continue to fight hard for this decision to be changed as soon as possible.
Thanks for your continued understanding and patience at this difficult time.
Gethin Jenkins (CEO, England Boxing)