Future job losses in the leisure and fitness sector are imminent without continued government support according to Ireland Active.
Ireland Active, the national association for the leisure, health and fitness sector, has warned only half of employers in the industry will be able to employ the same level of staff as before the Covid-19 outbreak.
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A survey among its members reported 91% of facilities received little or no income during lockdown due to membership freezes.
This was in addition to the loss of income from ‘pay as you go’ users.
The group is calling on the government to extend the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme, reduce the VAT rate for sports facilities to 0% and continue an extension of the exemption from commercial rates for a period of 12 months.
Ireland Active says these steps are necessary to support the industry that employs 12,000 people.
The industry body also says sector-specific grants for utilities and operational costs such as insurance are necessary for the sector to remain operational.
Joe Cosgrove, Ireland Active Chairperson, said the sector has been badly disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak and requires assistance.
Speaking about their requests from the government, Mr Cosgrove said:‘The Irish leisure, health and fitness sector has been one of the worst-hit during the pandemic with the closure of the sector and subsequent loss of income for at least three months.
“To enable the industry to survive we are asking government to act urgently and deliver on the actions contained in the programme for government.
“If they do not, there will be mass closures and unemployment in the sector which will deprive every community in Ireland of much needed sport and leisure facilities.
“The industry makes a significant contribution to the health and wellbeing of the nation which will be impacted unless action is taken.”
Ireland Active reported 74% of participants in its survey used the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme which it said has “given a lifeline for businesses and which must continue beyond the end of August into 2021.”