Five British national governing bodies, led by Badminton England, have called on the UK Government to protect sports halls ©Getty Images

A group of five national governing bodies (NGBs) have called for the British Government to protect indoor sports halls from being sacrificed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Badminton England, England Netball, Basketball England, Volleyball England and Table Tennis England have expressed concerns indoor sports halls could become used as overflow gyms or may not reopen at all.

The organisations have warned indoor sports have seen their playing spaces almost entirely disappear with leisure facilities having to prioritise sports halls to accommodate gyms and group exercise due to social distancing.

The majority of other regular venues, such as schools or universities, also remain closed.

The NGBs warn that if these practices continue it is expected that two in three indoor facilities will remain unusable into the Autumn.

It is claimed this will impact 2.4 million people who play indoors sports regularly.

"It is vital that Government and providers of indoor sport facilities recognise the crisis that is heading our way if we continue to see indoor multi-purpose sports halls repurposed in favour of gym operations," said Adrian Christy, Badminton England chief executive.

"More than 2.4 million members of local communities are at risk of seeing their indoor sports facilities disappear from use.

"Only 20 per cent of badminton facilities have been able to accommodate players since we were given the green light to reopen resulting in more than half a million people unable to play the sport they love, and unable to stay, fit, active and healthy.

"While we understand the challenges facing facility providers, such as leisure centres and schools, there are unintentional consequences for badminton and the wide and diverse cross section of local communities who play our sport.

"We call on facility operators to make choices that reflect the breadth of sports that their local communities enjoy, and on Government to find ways to incentivise the unlocking of more doors.

"If they don’t, we risk millions of people, the length and breadth of the country, losing their community sports facility and irreparable damage to grassroots sport."

The five NBGs has called for the Government to incentivise the reopening of indoor facilities.

The organisations believe this will ensure leisure operators, schools and other venues are able to make the right choices to support the health and wellbeing of the nation and get participants back into community sport

Their sports are claimed to provide inclusive environments for many, particularly those who cannot get involved in other forms of physical activity due to ability or access.

The NGBs claimed they have done all they can to restart their respective sports, including guidance to create COVID-19 secure playing environments and supporting clubs wherever possible to avoid collapse.

They argued that, while gyms, swimming pools and some outdoor sports have returned, half of the sector remains closed and the people who play indoor sports regularly are being neglected.

"The latest phase of our extensive return to play consultation has highlighted the inescapable reality of poor access to indoor facilities for volleyball clubs," Sue Storey, Volleyball England's chief executive.

"Shockingly, only six per cent of volleyball teams have reported that they will be able to book an indoor venue before September 1, 2020.

"We are also noticing a worrying trend with multiple volleyball teams who ordinarily use school based indoor facilities unable to make bookings until 2021.

"Clearly, as a sector, it is vital that we pull together to protect and preserve the physical, social and mental well-being benefits that sports provide in abundance.

"And yet we are faced with a situation where Government has given the green light for indoor sports to return to play however there are so few indoor facilities available to play in, and this is not a short-term issue."

While gyms and swimming pools have reopened the NGBs say half the sector remains closed ©Getty Images
While gyms and swimming pools have reopened the NGBs say half the sector remains closed ©Getty Images

England Netball are also worried that their players are being disadvantaged due to coronavirus.

"As a sport that relies so heavily on the use of indoor sports halls for every part of the game, from grassroots to elite, it is extremely worrying to hear reports that a staggering proportion of our clubs and leagues across the country are struggling to book spaces in their local sports halls to deliver netball activity," Fran Connolly, the England Netball chief executive, said.

"Pre-lockdown netball participation rates were at an all-time high with record numbers of women and girls aged five to 85 years taking to courts across the country.

"For many of the 1.6 million participants involved in our sport, netball is the only form of physical activity they undertake and there is a real risk that not being able to access vital indoor provision within both leisure centres and school environments will lead to a significant drop in female activity rates overall, an audience who are already reporting difficulties in reforming previous exercise habits."