SGB CEO Forum

Please see below for relevant communication updates on the work of the Scottish Governing Bodies CEO Forum.

Maggie Still, Chief Executive, Scottish Squash

2nd March 2021

Dear Mairi Gougeon MSP

I am writing further to your meeting this morning with the Scottish Sports CEOs and sportscotland. Thank you for your time and the support you demonstrated in meeting with the team. I am writing to you on behalf of Scottish Squash, the Governing Body for the sport of squash in Scotland. We are one of the indoor contact sports, mentioned in the introduction, whose clubs and members have been unable to take part in this activity for almost twelve months, and who currently cannot see a route back to the sport and physical activity of their choice. I ask that you please encourage your officials to prioritise ‘a safe early opening of squash facilities,’ and to support a ‘no contact socially distant version of squash,’ when the data shows that the time is right to do so.

Healthy and Successful Sport

Squash is really good for health, for all age groups, and has been referred to as the ‘World’s healthiest sport’ due to the physical and mental demands of the game, as reported in Forbes magazine recently. Squash is a sport played from age 7 to 77, and equally attractive to young and older people, with the European Masters due to come to Scotland in 2022.

Recently the British Journal of Sports Medicine underwent a study which examined information on more than 80,000 adults across England and Scotland who took part in national health surveys between 1994 and 2008. The study found that risk of death from any cause was 47% lower among those who played racket sports. The study suggested that regularly playing squash could help stave off death the longest.

It is a popular sport that may be lost forever in Scotland if we do not take action at the earliest opportunity.

Squash in Scotland has been progressing extremely well in recent years. The sport was in decline but we were fighting very hard, and we were turning the corner, to drive growth in participation in new and diverse communities, with growth in the women’s game and BAME communities particularly, alongside improved elite performance results.

COVID-19 and the risks to squash in Scotland

We thank you for the support of the Government, and for your support as Minister for Public Health and Sport, in allowing professional sport to happen during this incredibly difficult period.

With the support of sportscotland and the Scottish Institute of Sport we have been able to develop a near risk-free elite player environment, keeping the players safe and enabling them to continue their professional training and competition. This came from the strong partnership working with sportscotland, the Scottish Institute of Sport and your own Public Health colleagues. This may also provide a model for how grassroots sport can start to safely operate again, as restrictions ease.

The squash community acknowledges the challenging situation with COVID-19, and the danger the virus presents to society, both the immediate risk to life, and the long-term health and wellbeing challenges associated with the pandemic.

Within this context, I write to you today to share Scottish Squash concerns for the future of the sport of squash in Scotland, and to ask for your support in securing a safe, early return to the sport for the thousands of squash players in Scotland.

Squash is a close quarter, and non-contact sport which is classified for Public Health purposes as an ‘indoor contact sport’ and as such, squash facilities have remained closed to adults, playing any form of meaningful social or competitive squash, since March 2020. Whilst other sports may have been able to resume either in an adapted or in a full format, the sport of squash has been unable to do so. For close to a year, the sport has ceased to operate in any meaningful way.

The squash community will experience challenges over the coming months and years that other sports and pastimes may not:

  • Squash has been a sport of choice for many people and often squash players do not have another sport or physical activity to take part in when squash clubs close.
  • Squash has lost many of its existing members and also lost the opportunity to bring new players into the sport, and some clubs are experiencing a near 0% membership renewal putting local business and public facilities at risk.
  • Squash is losing its strong connection to young people. It may be tricky to reconnect unless we find a new way back to opening up squash clubs and courts, and continue our work in schools.
  • Over the past months some may have moved to other physical activity, or done little to no physical activity, and therefore a return to full squash may seem daunting to the older players.

The private and public squash clubs will continue to work with your government policies, using the funds that you are offering, to ensure that clubs and facilities keep themselves out of financial difficulty, however long-term sustainability is far from certain. Some of the clubs are struggling to access funding, especially as restrictions ease, and while we will continue to support them, some still risk permanent closure.

A data-driven way forward

Squash club managers and members in Scotland are responsible people, who have responded diligently and effectively in following guidelines and legislation to date. They risk assess and put in place relevant policies, procedures and systems to eliminate the spread of the virus in the squash environment. We are not aware of any transmission of the virus when squash returned for solo and household squash in the easing of restrictions in July 2020, and in the continuing of professional play during this difficult time. In addition, in England, where squash has been allowed to continue, we are not aware of any recorded cases of transmission of the virus within the squash environment. The data suggests that squash can be played in a safe and low-risk environment.

We add our voice to those of sportscotland, and other sports governing bodies, to encourage a safe early return of sport, to benefit the long-term health of our nation. We see this being done as lockdown restrictions ease, specifically in local authorities placed in Levels 0, 1, 2 and potentially 3, where strict protocols and monitoring and evaluation are in place. A socially distanced version of squash has been developed and this, plus enhanced protocols, similar to those devised to protect our professional players, could allow people to play again, in a safe environment, and help save the sport.

In summary

For the health benefits of squash, and squash in Scotland itself to be sustainable, we would appreciate guidance on how to best work with government health and wellbeing officials to support a return to squash, when the data shows that it is safe to do so; to prioritise ‘a safe early opening of squash facilities’:

  • We are a healthy sport that delivers a significant impact upon the Active Scotland Framework outcomes for young and older people.
  • Squash and our businesses and facilities are significantly at risk due to COVID-19.
  • We have learned from our professional protocols, and squash members and players are responsible and follow guidance well.
  • We have a socially distanced version of squash ‘ready to go’ and are keen to work with public health officials to gather data, monitor and evaluate during any gradual easing of restrictions for the sport.
  • We will continue to work in collaboration with other indoor sports to support each other to resume play in COVID-19 secure environments.

So we ask that you please encourage your officials to prioritise ‘a safe early opening of squash facilities’ and to support a ‘no contact socially distant version of squash’ when the data shows that the time is right to do so.

We thank you for listening to the challenge for the sport of squash and for all that you are doing during these difficult times.

Yours faithfully,

Mark Adderley

President and Chair of the Board

Scottish Squash

Dear colleagues,

Thank you for your continued efforts during what is an exceptionally challenging time for everyone involved in the sporting sector.

From 2 November we will be moving to a revised approach to outbreak management based on five levels of protection as set out in the published strategic framework document. Yesterday the First Minister published the protection levels that will apply in each local authority area in Scotland, alongside evidence and analysis that informs these decisions.

The Strategic Framework aims to tackle the virus with measures strong enough to work, but also proportionate to the scale of the problem in different parts of the country, and in a way that minimises as far as possible, the other social and economic challenges that the pandemic is causing. As part of these package of measures aiming to reduce the prevalence of the virus, a number of restrictions will continue to impact on the delivery of sport and physical activity.

I know that this will be frustrating to many of you and your members, but I wanted thank you for the various comments we have received on the draft strategic framework and to let you know that those concerns have been discussed and fully considered. While the restrictions around sport have not changed from those that were published in the draft document, the First Minister has said that we will keep that situation under review, because nobody wants to restrict anything without it being necessary, and that is particularly true of sporting activity. We will continue to review the situation and give updates as and when we are able to do so. Clubs will be vital as we strive to recover from the pandemic and it is important that we give them the opportunity to continue to deliver activity and support the communities they serve. Thank you for your continued patience and your support in providing clear guidance to your membership so activity can be undertaken in a safe manner. This support remains vital as we look to continue the progress made in recent months in relation to the safe return of sport at all levels.

I also wrote to you earlier this month to confirm that we were in discussion with the UK Government in relation to a financial package being developed to support those sporting organisations which are most affected by a delay of the return of spectators. These discussions are still ongoing and more information will be provided once we have clarity from the UK Government.

Joe FitzPatrick

Sporting Sector

9 October 2020

Dear all,

I know that this continues to be an enormously challenging time for the sporting sector and that the pandemic has put a real financial strain on many sporting organisations.

Last week I had a productive meeting with the UK Minister for Sport, Heritage and Tourism to discuss the financial package being developed by the UK Government to support those sporting organisations which are most affected by a delay of the return of spectators to stadia.

You will be aware that sportscotland has supported the sector during the pandemic by providing upfront annual investment to Scottish governing bodies of sport (SGBs) and local partners and has also created an additional £1.5 million fund. In addition, I know that there are further financial issues for those sporting organisations who rely on income from spectators and we expect that to be the focus of any further funding package.

We are still awaiting clarity on Barnett consequential funding to Scotland as a result of the UK Government scheme. However, in order that we will be in a position to move quickly once we receive further information from the UK Government, I’m asking sportscotland to collect any additional financial information to ensure any support we put in place is properly targeted. If you feel any support package would be applicable to your organisation, then please contact sportscotland to discuss further.

Thank you in advance for any information that you provide which will help us to design a package of support appropriate for Scottish sport.

Joe FitzPatrick

28 September 2020

As you’ll be aware, last week the First Minister announced further measures to ensure we continue to supress the virus.

I know you appreciate the importance of us taking the necessary actions to protect public health and save lives. The cost of the virus to families across Scotland who have lost loved ones is devastating.

I recognise this has been an enormously challenging time for the sporting sector and that the pandemic has put a real financial strain on many sporting organisations. I remain grateful for the efforts the sector has made, including the enormous amount of work that has gone into the safe return of people back to sport, where this has been possible.

Given the continuing impact on the sporting sector, I wanted to let you know that I’ve written to the UK Government to the UK Minister for Sport, Heritage and Tourism, seeking urgent discussions about a package of financial recovery for sport. While the details of any package are still to be determined, I will of course keep you updated as any discussions progress.

Finally, can I take this opportunity to thank you for your continued support and to ask that you share my thanks and this letter with the wider sporting sector, including Scottish Governing Bodies of Sport.

Joe FitzPatrick

This week marks an important next step towards the return of sport in communities across the country with indoor sports courts and swimming pools now able to reopen in line with the latest Scottish Government public health guidance.

The Scottish Sports Governing Bodies Forum and Executive Group welcomes Monday’s communication from Stewart Harris, CEO, sportscotland announcing the release of a £1.5m COVID Support Fund to support Scotland’s sporting system (sportscotland set up £1.5m Covid support fund for governing bodies). This timely statement recognises that whilst progress has been made with the re-opening of sports facilities across Scotland, this does not mean a full restart of sport as we know it and that many sports, particularly those reliant on accessing indoor sports facilities for club training and competition, face a much slower return as Local Trusts and leisure operators take a cautious and phased approach to the re-opening of their facilities.

We want to see more progress made in line with the latest public health guidance at all levels of sport, to ensure that clubs and local communities have access to facilities. The SGB Forum continues working with partners across the sporting system including sportscotland, the Scottish Government and Local Authorities and Local Trusts to bring about the safe return of sport, and is committed to ensuring that all of Scotland’s sports club members, volunteers and communities can access critical and much loved sporting and physical activity opportunities as soon as possible.

However, whilst there is a clear desire from all partners to reopen facilities and get our sports into these facilities as quickly as is safely possible, the ongoing difficulties presented by COVID-19, including facility staff on furlough, training requirements and venue remodelling to comply with social distancing measures, means that it is unlikely that all venues will be able to reopen fully for some time to come.

In the meantime, as a sector, we need the support, understanding and backing of all our clubs and members now more than ever as we work to protect the rich sporting fabric of our nation and strive to bring sporting activity back to being at the heart of our Scottish communities once more. 

The Scottish Governing Bodies Forum

The announcement by the First Minister that indoor sport facilities and gyms can reopen from 31 August onwards, is the latest step forward in relation to the phased return of sport at all levels, as we continue to follow the Scottish Government’s route-map through and out of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Scottish Squash welcomes the announcement. In recent months a wide range of partners across the sporting system, including the Scottish Government, sportscotland, Scottish Governing Bodies of Sport (SGBs), local authorities and leisure trusts, the third sector, as well as the further and higher education sector have been working together to progress plans for the safe return of sport, in line with the latest public health guidance. The reopening of facilities, which will play a key role in Scotland’s recovery from the pandemic, will be widely welcomed by clubs, individuals and the wider public. However, it is important to recognise that several challenges including the current economic landscape still need to be overcome before the delivery of sport in local communities and at a club level will be considered in any way back towards anything like normal.

While the desire from all partners to reopen facilities is clear, the difficulties presented by COVID-19 means that it is unlikely that all venues will be able to do so on day one, or for some time to come. Reduced capacities due to the required physical distancing will have a direct impact on the operational capabilities of venue operators and the economic viability of some facilities. We understand this will be frustrating for many people but while we all continue to work towards our shared goals and objectives, the continued support, patience and understanding of everyone involved, is more important than before.

As a sector we are committed to working together to address the challenges that still lie ahead. We want to see more progress made in line with the latest public health guidance at all levels of sport, to ensure that clubs and local communities have access to facilities, and that will remain our number one priority. From Monday 31st August the Government confirm that the following will be allowed:

  • Indoor sports facilities: All indoor sports facilities will be able to re-open following appropriate guidance. Scottish Government has published general guidance  for these facilities, while sportscotland has updated its Getting your Facilities Fit for Sport guidance with further information for specific types of facilities.
  • Children under 12: Will be able to undertake both contact and non-contact sports activity in indoor facilities. Relevant SGBs will publish guidance for undertaking their sports activity.
  • Adults and young people aged 12 and over: Will only be able to participate in non-contact sports activity in indoor facilities. Relevant SGBs will publish guidance for undertaking their sports activity.

The Scottish Squash COVID-19 Working Group wish to highlight what this means for squash clubs, facilities, and players across Scotland:

  1. Currently we remain in Phase Three of the government route map and there will be no change to the squash specific guidance until Monday 31 August.
  1. The Scottish Squash COVID-19 Working Group have taken the guidance from Government as outlined above and have been preparing the general guidance for squash clubs, facilities and players.
  1. Government now require Scottish Squash to submit the guidance for approval i.e. demonstrating how squash will meet social distancing and hygiene standards and limit any potential for transmission of COVID-19.
  1. It is likely that this will initially involve:
    4.1. Solo squash and household squash for players aged 12 and over
    4.2. Regular unconditioned squash for under 12’s only
  1. Upon approval by Government, and as soon as possible prior to 31st August, Scottish Squash will share a comprehensive Return to Squash Guidance document.
  1. Scottish Squash will ask clubs to ‘sign up to’ and implement the guidance

A further Government review date is expected on 10 September which may indicate a further relaxation of restrictions and here it is our intention to drive for a full return to Squash. Therefore, the period from 31st August is an important review point for the sport. We recommend that you work through the guidance; use the period of restricted squash activity to test procedures and embed new protocols. Take time to ensure that our facilities, and also our bodies, are fit for a return to squash.

In terms of local restrictions, where a locality or region is subject to localised restrictions, not all of the changes above will apply. Details of local restrictions are available here. Public health and wellbeing remain the most pressing priority, we all have a responsibility to do what we can to continue to suppress the spread of the virus. Once again, thank you for your continued support and patience, and please stay safe and well.

Following a formal communication sent to the First Minister on the morning of 30th July 2020 from 32 individual Scottish Governing Bodies of Sport (SGB), the SGB CEO Forum welcomes the recognition by the First Minister of the requirement to move forward the re-opening of sports facilities.

As a sector, we are disappointed that the indicative timescale for a return to sport is not sooner. We have submitted evidence in mitigation of any risk to public health and ask for clarification as to what more compelling information is required to ensure our sports can return to activity and competition within the indicative dates given.

However, we will continue to work with The Scottish Government and sportscotland to understand the level of evidence we need to provide so all requirements for indoor sport to safely return in late August can be met. As ever, we will react positively to any encouragement from The Scottish Government to review the dates.

We are especially concerned for those SGBs which only have the small 2020 summer window to restart their sport and competitions. Without access to facilities – both indoor and outdoor, wet and dry – our member Clubs cannot function and cannot contribute effectively to the recovery that the whole of Scotland so desperately wants and needs.

As we are all aware the reality is that ‘sport-in-Scotland’ is more than just ‘sport’. This has been clearly demonstrated through the national focus on maintaining daily physical activity throughout lockdown and effectively contributes to the social fabric of our local communities as a whole through (although not exclusively):

  • The health and wellbeing of the Scottish Nation;
  • Equality and inclusion;
  • Contributing to effective learners;
  • Mental health and wellbeing;
  • Tackling obesity;
  • Social inclusion; and
  • Women and Girls in Sport.

With confirmation that other public spaces and venues in Scotland are now reopening and in recognition of the immense challenges facing the restart of the Scottish sporting sector, the SGB CEO Forum wish to work quickly with Scottish Government, sportscotland and facility operators to establish a clear strategy to resume sport, for our members, clubs and communities.

Scottish Squash fully supports the collective drive of Scottish Governing Bodies to reopen as many sport facilities in Scotland as quickly and safely as possible.