These have been the most extraordinary few weeks for the nation, as the covid-19 pandemic has turned our world upside down.
Clearly, the priority for the government should be the health of its people. The realisation that covid-19 had (and still has) the potential to kill hundreds of thousands of Brits forced the government into making some of the toughest decisions any UK administration has had to make in peacetime.
While I do think the government made some early mistakes – such as delaying the lockdown, making a mess of PPE procurement and failing to implement wide-spread testing – a more detailed analysis of the government’s shortcomings should be left for a later date.
At SAPCA, it has been an extraordinarily busy time. While government policy towards construction sites has varied across the UK (with Scotland opting to allow only “essential” projects to continue), difficulties in complying with social distancing and the lack of building supplies forced nearly all contractors to suspend works. This led to a period of confusion, during which I had conversations with the DCMS, urging the government to clarify its approach and address the uncertainty as a matter of urgency.
At a time like this, advocacy bodies like SAPCA need to step in and do things well. At the top of the list is the need to listen to members and the concerns and worries they raise. By understanding the issues they face, we can be in a position to try to resolve them as quickly as possible. We do this by delivering a strong message to the right people at the right level. This is much more effective than having hundreds of independent voices, all trying to be heard.
During these uncertain times, local authorities, the national governing bodies of sport, Sport England and the DCMS – along with other industry organisations, from the Football Foundation to the Sport and Recreation Alliance – are stretched beyond belief. They require us, as their partners, to help to get their messages out. They also rely on us to collate feedback “from the frontline” and act as the collective voice of the industry.
As part of our strategy to be the go-to industry body for problem solving and advice, we’ve developed a number of partnerships which allow us to deliver crucial, free advice to our members – from legal issues to HR.
We’ve also created a collection of resources, which can be found on a dedicated page on our website (see more here). The information on the site will be continually updated and the aim is to build it into a useful hub for our members, the wider industry and the sports and play marketplace.
If there is any information you would like to see added to the site, I urge you to let us know!
We look forward to getting some clear guidance from the government on when (and how) things will be relaxed. We are at a different stage of the outbreak when compared with our European neighbours. This could allow us to observe how they start reopening facilities and how the outbreak can be contained, while things start to get back to normal.
In the meantime, this is a period where we might want to take a moment and reflect on what the new normal might look like in the future. Will it be a case of “as you were”? Or will the pandemic radically alter the way we live and work?
I suspect a lot of businesses in our sector are already finding alternative – perhaps even better – ways of working remotely with their teams. Will these new methods be continued in some way, once the day-to-day operations return to normal?
The extent of the pandemic’s economic impact is yet to be fully felt and understood. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has predicted that Britain’s economy could shrink by up to 35 per cent during the second quarter of 2020. If the OBR’s grim predictions prove correct, we can only hope that there is a quick bounceback.
What is clear, however, is that SAPCA will continue to work hard to help its members. We will be on hand to offer our assistance, as the sector emerges from the crisis. It is our goal to ensure everybody gets the government help they need and deserve.
Stay well and stay safe. In these difficult times, that is the number one priority.