SPORT England has vowed to continue working closely with the Government on a timeline for the reopening of indoor sport and physical activity facilities.

From Saturday, July 4, up to two households are permitted to gather in groups of more than six people indoors or outdoors, providing they follow social distancing guidelines.

New measures also mean outdoor gyms and playgrounds can open, but indoor gyms and swimming pools remain closed.

Following details on the next phases of restrictions being lifted across the country, Sport England chairman Nick Bitel commented on the next steps for the sport and physical activity sector.

“The sport and physical activity sector has been working incredibly hard preparing to reopen leisure, fitness and sports centres, with painstaking measures in place to ensure venues meet public health guidelines,” said Mr Bitel.

“These facilities are vital for the health of the nation, with almost 13 million people in England using private and public gyms and leisure centres alone to get active, and these are typically the core venues for indoor community sports such as badminton and basketball – as well as of course the millions of people who go swimming each week.

“It’s important that the Government continues to engage with the sector to get these facilities open, not just because activity levels will clearly become a vital public health intervention in the new coronavirus era, but also because the longer they stay closed, the greater the danger to their ability to survive financially.”

Northumberland County Council said work was ongoing to ensure the health and safety of staff and members once its leisure centres reopen.

From May 13, sports courts including basketball and tennis courts, bowling greens and golf courses were able to reopen after nearly two months of closure.

But for sports like badminton, the wait continues.

Badminton England chief executive Adrian Christy wrote to the Prime Minister saying the decision to refuse the reopening of indoor sports facilities from July 4, “is not only contrary to your own roadmap, it’s in complete contradiction to everything I felt that you held true”.

Mr Christy said on court, any players from outside the same household, would not be closer than 4m and could be up to 12m apart at any given moment while playing.

He added: “I therefore struggle to understand how these distancing measures can possibly be considered unsafe; they will certainly be socially distanced far more than other areas of society that you have permitted to reopen.”

Mr Bitel said public leisure providers were of a particularly deep concern because they provided activities for disadvantaged groups.

“These include those being disproportionately affected by the impact of coronavirus like older adults, women, Black, Asian and minority ethnic people, people from lower socio-economic groups, disabled people and people with long-term health conditions, while public pools are vital for helping young people learn how to swim,” he added.

“We understand that difficult choices need to be made as the country exits lockdown, and while it is disappointing for the sector that no specific date has been given for the reopening of facilities, we will continue to work closely with government to ensure this happens as soon as possible, ideally within the coming weeks.”