Sunak urged to do more to protect jobs in sport
Thousands of jobs in recreational sport “remain under threat” under the replacement for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the Government was warned yesterday.
Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, stood accused of failing to go far enough to rescue the sector after announcing a Job Support Scheme – to subsidise the pay of employees working fewer than normal hours – and the extension of other Covid-19 grants and tax breaks.
Huw Edwards, chief executive of Ukactive – which represents 7,000 gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools, as well as 200,000 staff – said: “We welcome the measures announced today by the Chancellor, which will provide some relief to the fitness and leisure sector. However, we must now see urgent tailored support for our survival.
“The Job Support Scheme and extension to the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme is important but, with many workers still on furlough, thousands of jobs remain under threat and we await more detail on these areas.
“The extension of governmentbacked loans schemes, and changes to the terms of repayment for Bounce Back Loans and Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans, will help with cash flow, alongside payment schemes for deferred VAT.
“However, we cannot have a situation where once again hospitality and tourism are prioritised over the fitness and leisure sector, which to date has received no tailored support despite being forced to close for a prolonged period during lockdown.
“Our sector requires a complete support package that not only includes core funding, but also stimulus including VAT relief and ringfenced funding for public leisure operators.
“There is no trade-off between health and the economy when it comes to investing in our sector.”
The chairman of Tranmere Rovers also warned the JSS “doesn’t make an impact” on clubs at risk of going bust. Mark Palios, who confirmed Tranmere still had staff on furlough, said his club would “probably take advantage” of the scheme, but said it would make little material difference to those whose biggest earners by far were players – who he expected to be ineligible.
Clubs were allowed to furlough their players when football was suspended in March but could only claim a maximum of £2,500 per month per employee. They also had to remove those players from the scheme when the game resumed.
An even lower ceiling of £697.92 per month applies under the JSS, which will see the Government top up the wages of employees working at least a third of their usual hours.
Support package: Rishi Sunak has been told hospitality and tourism should not have priority over fitness and leisure