Ireland Active is the representative body for leisure centres, gyms, swimming pools and commercial sports facilities in Ireland.
The sector employs approximately 12,000 people in roles such as lifeguards, swim teachers, fitness instructors, sports coaches and operational staff.
In order for facilities to continue offering the two highest participation sports in Ireland, Personal exercise (16%) and swimming (9%), we are calling on government to introduce a direct industry specific energy facility subsidy grant as part of Budget 2023 similar to the 2020 and 2021 swimming pool grants schemes.
Leisure Health and Fitness operators are being adversely and disproportionately affected because of high energy demands, especially those facilities with swimming pools. Energy costs are typically a leisure operator’s second highest cost after staffing costs. This is further exacerbated due to energy inefficient facilities.
Leisure providers are trying to mitigate the costs but they are unable to budget forecast for gas and electricity costs as the price is fluctuating so erratically. The energy issue is now reaching a point where it is driving decisions about facility closures or reduced opening hours. This will negatively impact on the health and wellbeing of communities as well as the recovery and future viability of the sector.
In order for Leisure health and fitness operators to ensure inclusivity, accessibility and cater for the wider local need, we are calling on Government for direct industry supports in 2023 to ensure the long-term viability of gyms and swimming pools across Ireland:
1. Targeted measures of energy subsidy grants to ensure the viability of leisure facilities
2. Direct grants for gyms & swimming pools for energy efficiency upgrades and measures
3. Reduce vat rate to 5% vat on sports facilities
4. Implement the Employee Exercise Scheme
5. Include leisure health & fitness professionals in revenues flat-rate expense allowances
6. Changes to how commercial rates are calculated for leisure centre facilities
7. Insurance reforms
The measures outlined above would ensure that leisure health & fitness operators continue to provide facilities to local communities throughout the country, enabling the programme for government, National Sports Policy and boosting the health of the nation.