Tomorrow (Tuesday) at 10 a.m., Rich Emerson, a director of the Association of British Climbing Walls, will be giving evidence about the indoor climbing sector to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee. The session will be available to watch live online or via replay.
Prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, last autumn the DCMS launched an inquiry into the financial viability of community sport and called for evidence from sporting organisations.
The Committee stated:
'The DCMS Committee wants to identify specific actions the Government can take to guarantee the future survival of the community sports sector. The Committee is looking into sports governance, funding and the case for elite professional sports to support the lower leagues and grassroots.'
The ABC responded to the inquiry with a detailed overview of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sector, participation figures and information relating to the industry and its growing market.
The total revenue for the industry in 2018 was £93M, with 1.5 million individual visitors to climbing walls making 8 million visits in total, according to the ABC. Their research in 2020 found that climbing wall business balance sheets were down between 20% and 60%, visitor numbers were reduced by between 20% and 50% and income had fallen by between 20% and 60%.
Temporary closures, capacity caps and increased management costs due to strict hygiene requirements have all led to balance sheet vulnerability. The ABC is aware of two centres that have shut down as a result of the financial impact of the pandemic.
'As an industry we believe that our future can be safeguarded with £24M of government support through VAT write off, a VAT reduction and Business Rates holiday,' the ABC's response to the DCMS reads.
'This is an opportunity to make our case for some further financial support to guarantee the long term viability of our sport - we hope the government will hear and understand the position that we and many other sports are in,' ABC director Rich Emerson told UKC. 'We also think this session a great opportunity for climbing to raise its profile, so we're keen to let people know that we're doing it.'
The Committee is expected to focus on the following topics during the session:
- How has the industry coped during the COVID-19 pandemic?
- Climbing in the Olympics
- Safe reopening - particularly with the new variant of the virus
- The adequacy of government support
- How the sector can safely return to previous activity levels
- Differences between the four Home Nations
The session will be live streamed and can be watched here.
You can find out more about the inquiry here.
You can view the full Committee membership here.