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Understanding the Economic Impact and Future Potential of Greater Lincolnshire’s Sport, Physical Activity & Leisure Sector

Chapter 5

Understanding the impact of COVID-19 and the Cost-of-Living Crisis on the sector

  • Impacts of COVID-19 on individuals

    Impacts of COVID-19 on individuals

    • An unexpectedly high uptick of physical activity, particularly running, in the general population. Participants also noted that the first year of the pandemic was the one with the most imaginative and innovative initiatives introduced by local authorities and other physical activity providers.

    • However, participants also noted that the second year of the pandemic, as lockdown restrictions were lifted, very few people continued their engagement with physical activities.

    • Other positive changes noted by participants were the increased appreciation for community resources and the increased appreciation for exercise time.

    • Long COVID was brought up as something that would impact citizens for a long time, and possibly impact their engagement with the sector.

    • Indeed, the impact of the pandemic on individuals’ mental health was seen as disruptive by participants as the impact of the pandemic on physical health.
  • Impacts of COVID-19 on the workforce

    Impacts of COVID-19 on the workforce

    • An unexpectedly high uptick of physical activity, particularly running, in the general population. Participants also noted that the first year of the pandemic was the one with the most imaginative and innovative initiatives introduced by local authorities and other physical activity providers.

    • However, participants also noted that the second year of the pandemic, as lockdown restrictions were lifted, very few people continued their engagement with physical activities.

    • Other positive changes noted by participants were the increased appreciation for community resources and the increased appreciation for exercise time.

    • Long COVID was brought up as something that would impact citizens for a long time, and possibly impact their engagement with the sector.

    • Indeed, the impact of the pandemic on individuals’ mental health was seen by participants as as disruptive as the impact on physical health.

    Having said all of this, there were some impacts on the workforce that participants attributed specifically to COVID-19: the exodus of skilled workers; the rising cost of skilled labour; and the opportunities for employment that were missed out by students because of the pandemic. The latter was seen as having far-reaching consequences, as the lack of hands-on experience for future workers had a knock-on effect on recruitment and training times.

  • Impacts of COVID-19 on the providers

    Impacts of COVID-19 on the providers

    • Many participants pointed out the ways in which providers had to adapt in order to become “COVID-safe” – smaller class sizes, repurposing spaces, introducing new rules and restrictions around equipment, and more.

    • Another impact, as mentioned in this report, has been the introduction of automated processes, with employees having to take on more roles.

    • Beyond the frontline pressures providers faced, another impact that COVID-19 had on the sector was on the ability and mental health of fundraisers.

    • One positive impact of COVID-19, as reported by some community hubs and community halls, was that the lockdown allowed them to carry out maintenance work and facility upgrades that would not have been possible in another year.
  • Impacts of the Cost-of-Living crisis on individuals

    Impacts of the Cost-of-Living crisis on individuals

    • Participants had mixed views on the way the cost-of-living crisis would impact individuals. Most of them talked about the negative consequences: the cutting of discretionary spending (gym memberships, unnecessary car trips, various activity clubs).

    • Participants agreed that the least served communities would be hurt the most by the crisis; that it would have a chilling effect on the activities of women and girls, disabled communities, and those living in the most under-served wards in the county.

    • However, some participants also noted that the cost-of-living crisis might drive more people towards community centres, community hubs, and leisure centres. Some participants noted that, if people chose to keep their gym membership, they might be more likely to use the facilities (like showers and complimentary towels) to save up on their bills at home.

    • Interviewees from community hubs talked about how they were effectively subsidizing groups to have their activities in their centre by not raising their booking prices.
  • Impacts of the Cost-of-Living crisis on the workforce

    Impacts of the Cost-of-Living crisis on the workforce

    • Fuel costs/transport costs will likely reduce the options open to staff who travel to work.

    • Higher demand for services will likely increase demand for staff.

    • Working from home can lead to isolation, higher home fuel bills and can impact on productivity. This can also impact on the mental and physical health of staff – e.g. lonely or less physically active.

    • Many front-line staff cannot work from home to save travel costs.

    • Running on a skeleton staff to reduce travel costs might become the norm.

    • Reduced funding and opportunities for CDP.

    • Anticipated higher turnover of staff.

    • Volunteering is seen as less attractive as people need to be earning money.

    • Reduced number of student volunteers – students may take paid part time work instead of volunteering whilst studying.

    • Reduced numbers of older volunteers as people retire later, or look for part time work once retired, rather than volunteering.

    Participants also noted the perceived “shelf-life” for many roles in the sector. A concern was raised that, after a time, staff wanting to increase their income or develop their careers, such as coaches or instructors would need to move into management, or out of the sector.

  • Impacts of the Cost-of-Living crisis on providers

    Impacts of the Cost-of-Living crisis on providers

    When discussing the future challenges to the sector, both interview participants and survey respondents noted the rising costs of utilities and fuel as being one of the biggest concerns for them. Electricity and gas came up frequently in conversations as being major drivers of costs – floodlights for outdoor pitches, the heating of swimming pools, electricity and heat for gyms, electricity and heat for large sports halls, and more.

  • Chapter Five, Recommendations
    Chapter Five, Recommendations

    As demonstrated by this chapter, the workforce of the sport, physical activity, and leisure sector is staffed by many talented and skilled employees and volunteers. However, there is a growing demand for complex skills, limits to what training can be undertaken, and structural challenges to recruitment and retainment.

    As such, the recommendations that are put forward are aimed at addressing these challenges:

    - Big, bold thinking needed, both for sector recovery and sector resilience

    - Community-centred approaches to resource distribution.
    Examples include:
    • Direct community engagement to deliver what is needed. (See Chapter 2 for more details,)

    • Two-way conversations with community leaders.

    • Lobbying and investment for local solutions and local providers.

    - Putting mental health in the centre of programs.
    Examples include:
    • Developing resilience by addressing individual, organisational, and systemic barriers to working.

    • Developing resilience by addressing individual, organisational, and systemic barriers to engagement with the sector.

    • Lobbying and investment for bespoke programs, addressing individual concerns rather than one-size-fits-all approaches.

    - Empowering employees in the workplace.
    Examples include:
    • Skills, training, and investment in long-term career paths.

    • Addressing the barriers to work.

    • Mentoring and skills development for people who have been out of the workplace for a while.

    • Mentoring and skills development for people who struggle with chronic health conditions, including long COVID.

    - Increasing investment in skills and development of long-term career paths.
    Examples include:
    • Multi-skilled training.

    • Highlighting those with unconventional career paths.

    • Investment in on-the-job training.

    • Investment for year-long employment.

    • Engaging with and addressing the concerns of employees.

    - Increasing investment in volunteers and volunteering.

    (See chapter 4 for more details.)

    - Increasing support for frontline staff.

    (See chapter 4 for more details.)

    - Increasing the economic resilience of enterprises. Examples include:
    • Investment in micro businesses, CICs, and charities.

    • Investment in partnership working between the public, private, and third sector.

    • Lobbying for and investment in continuity planning for local programs, preserving local knowledge, and maintaining skills.

    • Helping companies invest in long-term sustainability planning (such as energy independence, insulation, energy-efficient practices, recycling and upcycling of equipment, and more.)

    • Helping companies implement short- and medium-term efficiencies (such as minimising staff turnover.) (See chapter 1 for more details.)

    The above list is advisory and non-exhaustive.

Impacts of COVID-19 on individuals

  • An unexpectedly high uptick of physical activity, particularly running, in the general population. Participants also noted that the first year of the pandemic was the one with the most imaginative and innovative initiatives introduced by local authorities and other physical activity providers.

  • However, participants also noted that the second year of the pandemic, as lockdown restrictions were lifted, very few people continued their engagement with physical activities.

  • Other positive changes noted by participants were the increased appreciation for community resources and the increased appreciation for exercise time.

  • Long COVID was brought up as something that would impact citizens for a long time, and possibly impact their engagement with the sector.

  • Indeed, the impact of the pandemic on individuals’ mental health was seen as disruptive by participants as the impact of the pandemic on physical health.

Impacts of COVID-19 on the workforce

  • An unexpectedly high uptick of physical activity, particularly running, in the general population. Participants also noted that the first year of the pandemic was the one with the most imaginative and innovative initiatives introduced by local authorities and other physical activity providers.

  • However, participants also noted that the second year of the pandemic, as lockdown restrictions were lifted, very few people continued their engagement with physical activities.

  • Other positive changes noted by participants were the increased appreciation for community resources and the increased appreciation for exercise time.

  • Long COVID was brought up as something that would impact citizens for a long time, and possibly impact their engagement with the sector.

  • Indeed, the impact of the pandemic on individuals’ mental health was seen by participants as as disruptive as the impact on physical health.

Having said all of this, there were some impacts on the workforce that participants attributed specifically to COVID-19: the exodus of skilled workers; the rising cost of skilled labour; and the opportunities for employment that were missed out by students because of the pandemic. The latter was seen as having far-reaching consequences, as the lack of hands-on experience for future workers had a knock-on effect on recruitment and training times.

Impacts of COVID-19 on the providers

  • Many participants pointed out the ways in which providers had to adapt in order to become “COVID-safe” – smaller class sizes, repurposing spaces, introducing new rules and restrictions around equipment, and more.

  • Another impact, as mentioned in this report, has been the introduction of automated processes, with employees having to take on more roles.

  • Beyond the frontline pressures providers faced, another impact that COVID-19 had on the sector was on the ability and mental health of fundraisers.

  • One positive impact of COVID-19, as reported by some community hubs and community halls, was that the lockdown allowed them to carry out maintenance work and facility upgrades that would not have been possible in another year.

Impacts of the Cost-of-Living crisis on individuals

  • Participants had mixed views on the way the cost-of-living crisis would impact individuals. Most of them talked about the negative consequences: the cutting of discretionary spending (gym memberships, unnecessary car trips, various activity clubs).

  • Participants agreed that the least served communities would be hurt the most by the crisis; that it would have a chilling effect on the activities of women and girls, disabled communities, and those living in the most under-served wards in the county.

  • However, some participants also noted that the cost-of-living crisis might drive more people towards community centres, community hubs, and leisure centres. Some participants noted that, if people chose to keep their gym membership, they might be more likely to use the facilities (like showers and complimentary towels) to save up on their bills at home.

  • Interviewees from community hubs talked about how they were effectively subsidizing groups to have their activities in their centre by not raising their booking prices.

Impacts of the Cost-of-Living crisis on the workforce

  • Fuel costs/transport costs will likely reduce the options open to staff who travel to work.

  • Higher demand for services will likely increase demand for staff.

  • Working from home can lead to isolation, higher home fuel bills and can impact on productivity. This can also impact on the mental and physical health of staff – e.g. lonely or less physically active.

  • Many front-line staff cannot work from home to save travel costs.

  • Running on a skeleton staff to reduce travel costs might become the norm.

  • Reduced funding and opportunities for CDP.

  • Anticipated higher turnover of staff.

  • Volunteering is seen as less attractive as people need to be earning money.

  • Reduced number of student volunteers – students may take paid part time work instead of volunteering whilst studying.

  • Reduced numbers of older volunteers as people retire later, or look for part time work once retired, rather than volunteering.

Participants also noted the perceived “shelf-life” for many roles in the sector. A concern was raised that, after a time, staff wanting to increase their income or develop their careers, such as coaches or instructors would need to move into management, or out of the sector.

Impacts of the Cost-of-Living crisis on providers

When discussing the future challenges to the sector, both interview participants and survey respondents noted the rising costs of utilities and fuel as being one of the biggest concerns for them. Electricity and gas came up frequently in conversations as being major drivers of costs – floodlights for outdoor pitches, the heating of swimming pools, electricity and heat for gyms, electricity and heat for large sports halls, and more.

Chapter Five, Recommendations

As demonstrated by this chapter, the workforce of the sport, physical activity, and leisure sector is staffed by many talented and skilled employees and volunteers. However, there is a growing demand for complex skills, limits to what training can be undertaken, and structural challenges to recruitment and retainment.

As such, the recommendations that are put forward are aimed at addressing these challenges:

- Big, bold thinking needed, both for sector recovery and sector resilience

- Community-centred approaches to resource distribution.
Examples include:
  • Direct community engagement to deliver what is needed. (See Chapter 2 for more details,)

  • Two-way conversations with community leaders.

  • Lobbying and investment for local solutions and local providers.

- Putting mental health in the centre of programs.
Examples include:
  • Developing resilience by addressing individual, organisational, and systemic barriers to working.

  • Developing resilience by addressing individual, organisational, and systemic barriers to engagement with the sector.

  • Lobbying and investment for bespoke programs, addressing individual concerns rather than one-size-fits-all approaches.

- Empowering employees in the workplace.
Examples include:
  • Skills, training, and investment in long-term career paths.

  • Addressing the barriers to work.

  • Mentoring and skills development for people who have been out of the workplace for a while.

  • Mentoring and skills development for people who struggle with chronic health conditions, including long COVID.

- Increasing investment in skills and development of long-term career paths.
Examples include:
  • Multi-skilled training.

  • Highlighting those with unconventional career paths.

  • Investment in on-the-job training.

  • Investment for year-long employment.

  • Engaging with and addressing the concerns of employees.

- Increasing investment in volunteers and volunteering.

(See chapter 4 for more details.)

- Increasing support for frontline staff.

(See chapter 4 for more details.)

- Increasing the economic resilience of enterprises. Examples include:
  • Investment in micro businesses, CICs, and charities.

  • Investment in partnership working between the public, private, and third sector.

  • Lobbying for and investment in continuity planning for local programs, preserving local knowledge, and maintaining skills.

  • Helping companies invest in long-term sustainability planning (such as energy independence, insulation, energy-efficient practices, recycling and upcycling of equipment, and more.)

  • Helping companies implement short- and medium-term efficiencies (such as minimising staff turnover.) (See chapter 1 for more details.)

The above list is advisory and non-exhaustive.

Follow the links below to download the full chapter briefing or return to the report homepage.

Read More

Download the full chapter briefing or return to the report homepage.