October Bedford Independent Column – Sport clubs are the beating heart of Bedford and can’t be casualties of Covid

News this week from the media and entertainment industry union, BECTU, that nearly 7,500 theatre and live events workers have been made redundant as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic is a devastating picture of how grave a state the live entertainment industry is in for those affected but also for the industry as a whole.

It’s been a harrowing and uncertain time for live events businesses in Bedford and Kempston – they’ve been hanging on by a thread and may not have even made it this far without the financial help of their loyal fans.

I was relieved and delighted when earlier this month, Esquires and The Place Theatre benefitted from the Cultural Recovery Fund rescue package but the fate of many other businesses in our town like the Bedford Blues – our premier sporting team, still hangs in the balance.

As a sports-fan with a lifelong passion for cricket, I know sports clubs are the beating heart of our communities and following sport, whether amateur or professional plays such a huge role in our personal lives.

It’s unthinkable they may not get through this. But the future right now looks bleak.

Our sports clubs were clinging on to the hope they could reopen in some form from October 1, but many found out just days before that they couldn’t.

Boris Johnson admitted that it could be at least another six months before crowds can attend sporting fixtures.

To help community clubs through this crisis, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport funding body, Sport England announced a £210 million emergency fund, and earlier this year the Government stepped in to protect rugby league from the imminent threat of collapse.

But the financial assistance schemes are either coming to an end or being substantially reduced. Rugby league, rugby union, cricket and swimming are all in a perilous situation, losing millions of pounds in revenue, but so much more in the value that each sport brings to those engaged with it.

A support package is urgently needed.

As the virus is on the rise again, most recognise that meeting in big groups is not on the cards any time soon.

Which is why it is unforgivable that the Government has failed so miserably to get the Serco test, trace and isolate system working effectively.

It is the only solution at our disposal to ensure only that infected isolate.

At the grassroots, whether rugby, tennis or athletics, so many sports want to know what the plan is.

So, the Government must urgently announce their short, medium, and long-term plans for sport and provide financial stability over the year to come to prevent further job losses.

Spectator sports clubs, hospitality businesses, theatres and music venues are precious – the beating heart of Bedford.

We must fight to ensure they are not the next casualties of this dreadful virus.

The published article can be read on the Bedford Independent’s website

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