Covid-19: Sporting Fixtures and Sport Facilities

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons on 10th December 2020.

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Photo of Karl McCartney Karl McCartney Conservative, Lincoln

What steps his Department is taking to permit the (a) resumption of grassroots sporting fixtures and (b) reopening of sport facilities during the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Ian Levy Ian Levy Conservative, Blyth Valley

What steps his Department is taking to permit the (a) resumption of grassroots sporting fixtures and (b) reopening of sport facilities.

Photo of Mark Jenkinson Mark Jenkinson Conservative, Workington

What steps his Department is taking to permit the (a) resumption of grassroots sporting fixtures and (b) reopening of sport facilities.

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Sports and physical activity are vital for our physical and mental health and an important weapon in the fight against coronavirus. That is why I made the return of grassroots sports an immediate priority after national restrictions ended. Since 2 December, I am pleased to say that grassroots clubs, sports facilities and gyms have opened across all tiers.

Photo of Karl McCartney Karl McCartney Conservative, Lincoln

As my right hon. Friend is aware, my constituency of Lincoln is home to the mighty Imps—something that my constituents and I are very proud of. While the partial resumption of fan attendance is positive news, this does not end the concern that clubs and fans have. Will he confirm his plans to see a full return of fans, and what further financial support will be provided for those clubs, which have had a very difficult 2020? Finally, has snooker now be reclassed as entertainment and not sport?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I know that my hon. Friend is not impish in his devotion to Lincoln City, and it is good to see them doing so well this season. First, I am pleased about the deal that has been reached between the Premier League and the English Football League for £250 million, which I am confident will secure the game through to the end of the season. Of course, we want it to reopen as rapidly as possible. The first important step for somewhere such as Lincolnshire is to get out of tier 3 into tier 2, and then into tier 1, and we will see more fans able to attend as we go through that process.

In relation to snooker, the professional game has returned, but some recreational snooker and leagues may not be happening in higher tiers due to the risk of spreading. We will keep this under review.

Photo of Ian Levy Ian Levy Conservative, Blyth Valley

Blyth Valley is currently under tier 3 restrictions, with gyms and sports facilities open for individual exercise. Increased ventilation, enhanced cleaning of sports equipment and a constant supply of hand sanitiser are just some of the measures required to ensure that facilities can operate in a covid-19-secure way. The implementation of such measures is adding significant cost to an industry that has had a terrible year. Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that he will engage with the industry and find a way to help it to remain open in a safe and covid-secure way?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Sport is of course a force for good in all our communities, and I made it a priority to open sports facilities and gyms in all tiers as part of this reopening. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the incredible efforts made by venues to ensure that this could happen. I know the difficult financial situation many of them find themselves in. We have already provided over £2 billion to sport, including, for example, the £300 million sport rescue fund, money for local leisure centres and support from Sport England, but of course I will continue to work with sports over the weeks and months ahead to support them.

Photo of Mark Jenkinson Mark Jenkinson Conservative, Workington

Workington Reds are under the new chairmanship of David Bowden, and I would like to send him my best wishes for taking over at such a difficult time. Will my right hon. Friend tell me what support has been made available to clubs such as Workington Reds?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I of course join my hon. Friend in giving my very best wishes to the new chairman, David Bowden, at Workington Reds. We know the value of these clubs. That is precisely why we included £25 million of funding for national league clubs in the sports winter survival package. That is, of course, on top of the unique lottery deal, which has provided £10 million for the national league’s top two tiers to get them playing this season. Of course, we will continue to work with the sport.