The private sport industry in Bahrain is on the brink of a collapse due to the adverse impact of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, according to a new survey.

A staggering 85 per cent of sport facilities, including gyms, said the government subsidies have been insufficient to help them tide over the crisis.

The survey was conducted by Malaeb, a Bahrain-based football community application, that gathered responses from the sports and recreation industry.

It estimated that the sports industry would require a rescue fund of between BD2 million and BD4m for the next three months if they were to survive.

The study was conducted before the financial support provided by Tamkeen to enterprises in sectors most adversely affected by the pandemic was doubled and extended for another three months earlier this month.

The sectors included were sport clubs, gymnasiums, beauty salons, restaurants and cafés, training institutes and travel and tourism offices.

The latest study covered 83 facilities: 51 gym or fitness centres, 26 football fields and six listed as “others” (martial arts centres, performance arts centres and full-time independent trainers).

A total of 530+ staff were employed in the 83 facilities, including more than 314 full-time staff and over 215 part-time staff.

Forty per cent of the staff were Bahrainis.

“A total of 85pc of the facilities said the support received in the form of government subsidies was not helpful at all in helping them combat Covid-19 closures,” said the findings.

Furthermore, 48.1pc of the respondents claimed they did not receive Tamkeen support, compared with 51.9 who received the aid.

A total of 44pc of the respondents said they were at a risk of closing their facilities within a month, while 46pc stated they expected to close within the next six months.

Gyms, fitness studios and sheesha cafés were shut down in March, as part of a wide range of measures to combat the spread of Covid-19.

However, salons, barber shops and beauty parlours were allowed to reopen in May under strict regulations that limited their services to customers.

“I suggest that sports places be opened while adhering to health and safety standards,” said a respondent.”

The alarming case study showed that 56pc of the facilities took “critical actions” vis-a-vis their employees (salary cuts, lay off or both) to survive despite the government paying wages for Bahrainis.

In the average salary expenses section, 39.5pc of the facilities said they paid between BD500 to BD1,500 per month, 27.5pc paid over BD3,000, 27pc paid below BD500 and 16pc paid between BD1,500 and BD3,000.

A total of 25.9pc owners of sports facilities said they were “pessimistic” of bouncing back after the pandemic, with 19.8pc were “extremely pessimistic” and 27.2pc “not sure”.

“To sum up, the private sports industry in Bahrain as a whole is in real danger of collapsing as a result of the measures that was taken to combat Covid-19 which has resulted in full closures of sports facilities,” said the survey.

It said the morale among business owners was very low but pessimism and uncertainty were high.

The survey said there was a feeling that the sports industry has been “overlooked” and the support extended did not reflect fairly their situations considering that due to the closures, there have been no new subscriptions and a massive drop in revenues.

The survey urged decision-makers to set up a special fund or scheme to cover the sports industry and other highly impacted sectors such as hospitality and tourism.

It also called for communicating with the sector in a transparent manner regarding re-opening and potential timelines even if it’s with strict restrictions.

The extended government stimulus package for July, August and September cover payment of 50pc wages of Bahrainis in the private sector, utility bills of Bahrainis for primary residences, reduction of monthly labour fees of issuance or renewals work permits by 50pc, suspension of rent collection from government industrial lands, and waiver of 2020 Commercial Registration renewal fees, along with other relief measures.

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