Gym bosses warn industry is at a crossroads with a ‘day of reckoning’ coming ahead of PM roadmap announcement

The bosses of some of Britain’s top gym chains have warned that the fitness industry is at a crossroads after the colossal impact of the latest lockdown – and said that a “day of reckoning” is coming. 

As the Prime Minister gets set to give a statement on a reopening timeline in the commons, the sector’s chief executives called on Boris Johnson to allow them to reopen at the same time as non-essential retail. 

The chief executive of budget fitness giant PureGym told the BBC’s Today program that the group is burning through £500,000 per day in lockdown, and that a “day of reckoning” is coming down the track for the sector. 

PureGym isthe UK’s largest gym chain, with 275 sites across the UK. Humphrey Cobbold said it has burned through more than £120 million during the eight months of lockdowns it has endured since the pandemic hit. 

He said: “We are keen to get open ideally alongside non-essential retail… It’s been brutally tough.”

Cobbold said he expects to see “a rash of CVAs” and other issues when the rent moratorium ends.

“On the rental side, we’ve been protected by the moratorium, but that means that we and many in our sector have built up considerable rent arrears. Indeed many businesses that are less well capitalised than we are are now are effectively technically insolvent, because they’ve built up arrears for tax, rent, and owing to other suppliers,” he said. “There is a future day of reckoning coming down the track.”

Richard Darwin, chief executive of The Gym Group – which has 184 gyms around the UK, including 61 inside the M25 – told the Standard gyms “need to reopen as soon as possible”.

He said: “The fitness industry is at a crossroads due to the effects of this latest lockdown, with many smaller operators significantly impacted by this period of closure. 

“Gyms can play an essential role in our nation’s mental and physical recovery but to do so they need to be in a position to reopen.”

Glenn Earlam chief executive of the David Lloyd gym group, which employs more than 6,000 people across 100 U.K. gyms, said that it is “vital for the nation’s mental health that gyms are among the first to reopen when lockdown restrictions begin to ease”.

It came as hospitality bosses warned that their industry could afford “no more false starts”. 

Boris Johnson is set to detail a “cautious” approach for easing coronavirus restrictions across England in a speech to Parliament on Monday afternoon. He is expected to announce the reopening of schools on March 8, and to confirm that social restrictions will be eased next month.