Martial arts gyms fear knockout funding blow when restrictions lift

There have been widespread calls for the Welsh Government to lay out a timetable for when Welsh gyms will once again be able to welcome customers.

Fitness chain PureGym says it is losing £500,000 a day during lockdown and has called on governments across the UK to allow gyms to re-open.

According to a recent survey by PureGym, 85% of members said gym closures have a negative impact on their physical wellbeing whilst 98% said gyms are important to their mental health.

However, not all gyms are the same.

Martial arts gyms depend on physical contact – which still won’t be allowed due to physical distancing.

That means some gyms cannot safely reopen and are concerned that they could lose crucial government financial support when restrictions are lifted.

Rob Taylor owns a Jiu-Jitsu academy in South Cardiff. He wants to be able to restart classes but acknowledges he may have to wait until everyone in Wales has been offered their second dose of the COVID vaccine.

Rob’s biggest fear is a repeat of the situation he found himself in last year between lockdowns. As restrictions were lifted, government financial support evaporated. His academy did what it could to bring money in, but there are severe limits on what a martial arts gym can provide.

“We were just told that we could go back to business as normal but with social distancing. I don’t know what that means for a grappling gym,” he said.

“We were told that we could re-open now but there’s no more funding. Everything is open but we can’t, because we can’t do business as normal without having contact with someone.”

Users of all different types of gyms are keen to start training again as soon as they can. Ed Jones describes himself as an ordinary gym user who trained roughly six times a week.

He said he understood gyms couldn’t reopen now as the Welsh Government is prioritising getting kids back to school, but he thinks gyms should be prioritised over non-essential shops.

“Personally from a mental health point of view I think it’s more beneficial to exercise and stay healthy both physically and mentally than it would be to walk around Next or whatever,” he said.

“The gyms in Wales have followed everything that’s been asked of them.

“They can restrict numbers with online bookings, they do their best to move equipment and social distance and they provide unlimited sanitising products.”