The Outdoor Industries Association (OIA) reports that leaders of more than a hundred sports and exercise institutions in the U.K. have sent a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging him to reserve funds for the rehabilitation of the sports and physical activity sector - or risk fueling lack of exercise and related diseases for a generation. The letter came during the Great British Week of Sport, highlighting the contribution of the sports and physical activity sector to society, which is supported by a total workforce of more than 600,000 people.

The letter asks the Johnson government to provide an urgent support package, a “Sports Recovery Fund,” similar to what it has provided to the arts and hospitality industries, to enable it to continue to provide sports and activity programs and facilities that address the health inequalities highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The fund would help protect existing jobs and facilities so that the sector can support programs and facilities that address health inequalities, particularly inactivity among women, lower socio-economic groups or people with disabilities, and extend the innovations seen during the Covid-19 pandemic to the entire sector - digitizing opportunities and improving accessibility across the country.

A report released this month showed that every £1 spent on sport and physical activity in the communities generates nearly £4 for the English economy, representing an annual contribution of over £85 billion per year, with a social value of over £72 billion per year in terms of physical and mental health and well-being, individual and community development.

Popular sports and physical activities are an essential part of the U.K.’s recovery, not only in terms of improving physical well-being and reducing the burden on the National Health Service, but also in terms of the positive impact on mental well-being and in tackling social challenges such as loneliness, crime and isolation. The sector has been severely affected by Covid-19, with gyms and recreation centers having to close their doors, community sports being cancelled and severe restrictions being imposed since reopening. This has significantly impaired the economic viability of the sector, resulting in many local sports, fitness and recreation facilities announcing closures and job losses.

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