Last updated on April 4th, 2023 at 09:57 AM
Data from Sport England’s Moving Communities platform has provided key evidence in a recent decision to make a major new £63 million fund available to publicly-owned leisure centres with swimming pools.
Critical to the decision was data that modelled the rising expenditures across the leisure sector, positioned alongside the potential loss in participation and social value.
Moving Communities is a Sport England driven initiative delivered by 4GLOBAL and a group of consortium members; Leisure-Net, Right Directions, and Sheffield Hallam University.
Together, Moving Communities provides live data based on the largest data set ever gathered for the local authority leisure sector.
According to data from Moving Communities, between April and August 2019, the average utilities cost per site was £46,240. For the same period in 2022, the sector was facing a 70% increase with average costs rising to £78,442. For large facilities, there was an 82% increase from £60,542 to £110,469.
These results show the challenges being faced by the more than 2,000 public leisure centres in England, over 800 of which have pools. These facilities play a vital role in helping communities engage with sport and physical activity.
Tim Hollingsworth, Chief Executive Officer, Sport England added:
“We know the rising cost of energy, along with chemical shortages and staff retention have created a challenging landscape for the public leisure sector.
We’ve been able to track this in real-time through our Moving Communities service, alongside participation data across different activities to understand the wider social value generated from activity in these vital community facilities.
Efforts from local authorities and their service providers in sharing this data have been integral to the funding decision and created a positive step change that can continue to show the impact of these centres moving forward.”
Data from Moving Communities showed that facilities containing both gyms and pools were estimated to create more than £833 million in social value in 2022 – 85% of the total generated for the sector.
Social value combines data from several outcomes including the total savings in health and social care costs achieved through the reduced risk of various health conditions as well as the average annual costs per person diagnosed with the condition.
It also includes improved educational attainment through sports participation, savings to the criminal justice system and the value of higher wellbeing derived from sports participants.
What’s more, over half of all leisure centre participants went swimming in 2022. Including both activities and lessons, this equates to more than 4.5 million people, which is more than any other leisure activity recorded by the platform.
Of those swimming, there was a higher proportion of older, female adults participating, and over the course of 2022, 1.1 million people participated in swimming lessons. The vast majority (95%) of swimming lesson participants were under 16.
“The pandemic left the public leisure market in a vulnerable position after almost two years of closures and restrictions,” said Emma Bernstein, Strategic Project Lead for Sport England.
“The new funding being made available to help these vital community resources through the financial pressures they face is a great start to support the sector as it moves toward a more sustainable operating model in future.”
“The hardest-to-reach demographics are the ones using pools the most,” continued Emma. “Continuing to ensure public access to swimming facilities is incredibly important to reduce inequalities in our communities, especially for the larger proportion of older adults, women and young children who regularly use these spaces to stay fit and healthy.
The data is clear. Pools play a vital role in communities, supporting hundreds of thousands of people each week.”
For more information about Moving Communities, go to https://www.sportengland.org/research-and-data/data/moving-communities