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How sports clubs and fitness centres boost local economies and small businesses


When most people think about the sports sector, they conjure up images of packed stadia hosting lucrative Premier League or Champions League football fixtures.

But while football undoubtedly captures the attention of millions and generates significant revenue through ticket sales, sponsorship and broadcasting rights, this is by no means the extent of the UK market. 

While there are 134 professional football clubs in England and Scotland (including four from Wales that play in the English league), there are thousands of other clubs, ranging from semi-professional outfits to approximately 20,000 grassroots clubs. In addition, there are countless golf, cricket, tennis, rugby and hockey clubs, all of which contribute not only to the health of local communities but to the economy too, including providing employment for local people working in bars or kitchens.

There there’s the wider fitness and health club sector. The UK fitness industry is now estimated to be worth around £5 billion a year, according to Leisure GB’s 2018 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report, and reported a 4.6 per cent growth in the 12-month period to the end of March 2018, in part due to the popularity of group exercise activities such as yoga, pilates and HIIT classes. 

As well as the economic benefits, sports generate a number of other positives, including meeting new people and socialising – something that can be difficult for the self-employed – and increasing levels of fitness and productivity. 

Many small businesses also benefit from the sports sector, either directly or indirectly. Suppliers of kit, machinery, clothing and trophies all rely on grassroots clubs and events, while builders, plumbers, electricians and decorators help ensure pitches, pools, clubhouses and changing facilities are kept in good condition.

Many also invest back into the sector, sponsoring teams and paying for kit – which also contributes to the development of sports and the wider economy. 

In all, the total wellness and fitness sector is now worth £21.4 billion – an increase from £17.3 billion in 2010 – and is forecast to hit £22.7 billion by 2020, according to Statista.