THE ECONOMIC and social impact of COVID-19 related closures have been felt hard by the fitness industry, right across Australia.

Fitness Australia has released an industry impacts report detailing the devastating effect of gym shutdowns from March 23.

The COVID-19 Fitness Industry Impact Report lays bare the financial, social and economic impact suffered by the $3 billion a year industry that employs more than 35,000 people across more than 6,426 businesses, according to Fitness Australia CEO Barrie Elvish.

Mr Elvish said while the industry was supportive of the government measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, gym closures resulted in the mothballing of thousands of businesses.   

“Australians spend more than $8.5 billion every year on fitness and a large portion of this is spend on gym memberships, personal training, fitness classes and bootcamps,” he said.

“The closures, which affected all types gyms and fitness facilities, and shortly after outdoor bootcamps, meant these businesses had suffered significantly.

“The safety of the community comes first but the impact has been devastating for the fitness industry. Our report shows this impact has been felt by everyone from personal trainers and sole operators right through to the large gym franchises – no one is unaffected.” 

WORRYING SNAPSHOT

The COVID-19 Fitness Industry Impact Report surveyed a broad snapshot of the industry including exercise professionals and sole traders, through to boutique businesses and multi-service facilities. 

Fitness Australia’s analysis of exercise professionals and sole traders surveyed found: 81 percent has lost their job or main source of income; 71 percent had not had a single client since gyms closed on March 23, 2020; 44 percent of respondents has lost more than 61 percent of their income; 90 percent are continuing to pay up to $5,000 a month for business expenses despite not operating; less than 10 percent of clients had transitioned to virtual platforms or one-on-one training. 

Fitness Australia’s analysis of boutique businesses and multi-service facilities surveyed found: All businesses have had to stand down employees with less than 10 percent of staff still working; 70 percent of businesses cited a 100 percent decline in memberships; 24 percent of businesses reported a 61 percent decline in memberships due to cancellations or suspensions; revenue was down 100 per cent for 50% of gym owners; gyms have only been able to generate less than 10 percent of their usual income through virtual or outdoor one-on-one training. 

EAGER FOR ACTION

Mr Elvish said the industry was willing to do “whatever it takes” to get gyms reopened safely as soon as possible – both from an economic and overall wellbeing perspective.

“The industry is committed and onboard to do whatever is needed to reopen,” Mr Elvish said.  “We all want to ensure gym members and employees have the peace of mind to safely return to the gym, do a workout or take part in a group glass.

“Fitness Australia has prepared a draft reopening framework to ensure gyms can reopen safely as soon as possible. This is currently with all state and territory health departments for consideration.

“It was very encouraging to see the NT government include the staged reopening of gyms in their announcement yesterday,” he said.

“In addition to the financial benefits of getting gyms reopened, the role exercise plays in our overall health and mental wellbeing cannot be underestimated and it will become more apparent as restrictions are eased back.

“Gyms and the broader fitness industry will have a vital role in ensuring the ongoing health and wellbeing of Australians during and following COVID-19.”

www.fitness.org.au

Download the COVID-19 Fitness Industry Impact Report.

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WHILE the world is locking down to beat COVID-19, Bek Strachan is unlocking the power of high intensity home exercise as an antidote to social restrictions and physical inertia.

Director and head trainer at exercise studio Raw by Bek, Ms Strachan is opening the doors of her digital studio and encouraging Australians to clear the space in their living room, set up their yoga mats and get moving.  

Leading the way in both fitness and business with an increasingly popular new form of High Interval Intensity Training (HIIT)Ms Strachan has digitised her fitness program and pivoted the business in order to continue delivering her HIIT-to-the-beat workouts across Australia – an even internationally.   

Bek Strachan started the company when she was 24, and Raw by Bek now has over 150 members since the studio opened in 2016.

With the business paused in what had been a strong growth phase, COVID-19 has challenged Ms Strachan to think, innovate and adapt in order to continue thriving. She said it was about continuing to deliver on her promise of not only providing “a killer workout” but a healthy social community too.

Raw by Bek’s new digital program involves live-streamed workouts at different times throughout the day; Facebook events; The Raw by Bek Project Show with episodes on nutrition, exercise and how to remain fit and healthy indoors; and online access to recipes and healthy food preparation methods.

“The feedback from the Raw by Bek community has been really positive,” Ms Strachan said.

She said despite the challenges Raw By Bek is facing, “the community is worth it”.

“Our budget has been slashed, and without any definite end date, I've been forced to forward-plan for six months of closure, and ensure we are able to re-open on the other side with a community of members even stronger than before the close,” Ms Strachan said.

“I’m loving the challenge and how fast we've had to adapt, and am so thankful our community has done the same.”

www.rawbybek.com.au

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AUSTRALIA's 1.4 million sole traders face dire circumstances due to COVID-19 according to Fitness Australia CEO, Barrie Elvish, whose organisation represents more than 10,000 fitness industry sole traders.

He is calling on the Federal Government to provide more financial support and assistance to this business sector, claiming not enough was being done to ensure they can survive the current environment. 

“In Australia, more than 62 percent of small businesses are sole traders and it appears to date the government has provided no means of financial support to these hard-working Australians,” Mr Elvish said. 

“Small business is at the core of the Australian economy employing more than 2.2 million people and we are already starting to see businesses really struggling and don’t know how long they can continue to survive.

“We are calling on the Australian Government to provide financial support and assistance to sole traders, casual employees and small business, many of whom proudly operate in the fitness industry," he said.

“Already the sole traders in our member network, many of whom operate as personal trainers, have seen a sharp drop in their clients due to travel restrictions, social-distancing and self-isolation.

"While we applaud and fully support the government on their recommended health and safety measures, nothing is being done to support this section of the business community that is greatly impacted,” Mr Elvish said.

In addition to advocating for more financial support for sole traders, Fitness Australia is also urging the government to consider gyms an essential service.

“Exercise is imperative to our mental health and wellbeing – gyms need to stay open to allow people to continue their regular exercise. Protecting and managing mental health during this uncertain and concerning time is essential," Mr Elvish said.

“With the strict hygiene, health and safety measures in place, gyms can stay open. We are actively working with our members every day to ensure government laws and guidelines are being met, while also providing additional recommendation on how facilities can continue do more to ensure the safest possible environment to exercise.”

www.fitnessaustralia.com.au

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VARCIS Capital recently launched what it labels the world’s first Asia-focused sports technology investment and advisory house.

Headquartered in Hong Kong and with imminent leadership announcements to be made in China and Australia, Varcis has a vision to become the world’s most important sports technology and human performance platform in Asia.

Varcis Capital founder and managing partner Phillip King said the company was founded on the core belief that Asia’s 4.7 billion people (62% of the world’s population) would have a big role to play in the future intersection of sports, fitness, health, wellness and technology.

“Varcis Capital and our partners are committed to the intersection of sports and technology in Asia – specifically sport, fitness, health, medical, wellness, eSports and human performance –making direct investments and transaction advice to companies,” Mr King said. 

“The first problem with the global landscape is the majority of venture capital for the sports technology industry is American centric which represents only 5 percent of the world’s human population – Asia has 62 percent of the world’s population (4.7 billion people) and is home to fastest-markets growing at 20 percent CAGR at the intersection of sports, fitness, health, wellness and technology.

“The second problem is that Asia’s best entrepreneurs need more local investment, capital markets expertise and integrated ecosystems to accelerate faster and work more closely with Asia sports clients,” Mr King said.

“Varcis Capital and its partners aim to co-create an open end-to-end ecosystem for sports technology that seamlessly connects, celebrates, supports and turbo-charges the best and brightest sports technology and human performance across 48 countries in the Asia region.”

Mr King said Varcis Capital had created a world-class leadership team, combining elite sports experience, investment management and brand licensing, venture growth research and transaction advice in Asia.

“The Varcis Investment Division will write ‘seed’ and ‘Series A’ cheques of between US$500,000  and $5 million and the Varcis Transactional Team will provide expertise – from M&A, IPO and due diligence advice, technical expertise and brand distribution licencing – to fast-track companies looking to expand, create and monetize sports in Asia,”  he said.

According to Mr King, the Varcis global partner network has access to “tens of thousands of sports teams, leagues and organisations in Asia and internationally – as well as the world’s leading sports entrepreneurs and exciting young companies”.

The company’s main geographic focus markets include China, Australia, India, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Philippines and Korea and all 48 countries across the Asia region, while Varcis is establishing physical offices in Hong Kong, Beijing and Melbourne in 2020.

www.varcis.com

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RACING Queensland chairman Steve Wilson has welcomed a State Government decision to make available funds for an immediate 17 percent prize money increase for the greyhound and harness racing codes.

Mr Wilson said prize money would increase collectively by $5.5 million a year, co-funded by the Queensland Government and Racing Queensland, to be distributed according to each code’s revenue market share.

Greyhounds will receive an increase of $3.5 million, with $2 million for harness, both of which aim to progress industry viability concerns, boost grassroots participation and improve cash flow for participants and owners.

For harness, this is in addition to the increase of $200,000 in drivers’ fees which commenced in August this year.

“I would again like to thank the government for its willingness to engage with all three codes to address industry viability and long-term sustainability,” Mr Wilson said.

The 17 percent increase is consistent with the $18 million announced for thoroughbred prize money in October, he said.

Racing Queensland (RQ) CEO Brendan Parnell said RQ would now consult with representatives from greyhound and harness racing regarding the prize money allocation with a view to roll-out the increases as soon as possible.

“We have made a commitment to government to continue investigating industry reforms and sustainability measures across all codes,” Mr Parnell said.

“Once those reform measures are agreed, we will work with the greyhound and harness industries to realise a collective $2.5 million in participant increases, in parallel with the $8 million thoroughbred reform increases in 2019.”

www.racingqueensland.com.au

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ROY MORGAN has launched the Genome Audience Planner in alliance with TEG Analytics as a ‘next generation sponsorship planning and optimisation platform’.

The platform is expected to change the way advertisers in Australia identify, reach and measure new sponsorship opportunities across the live sport and entertainment sector.

According to Roy Morgan research, the Australian media rights and sponsorship sector is worth more than $4 billion a year. However, Roy Morgan chief digital officer Howard Seccombe said as an increasingly significant marketing and media channel, event sponsorship lagged behind the audience science of other media.

“As a single initiative, the Genome Audience Planner will not only validate the strength of this market, but accelerate the introduction of new brand dollars into the event sector,” Mr Seccombe said. 

“For the first time this new platform will enable advertises to directly connect their target audiences with live events to build their sponsorship strategy, understand gaps and performance."

Genome Audience Planner brings together TEG ’s extensive audience and live ticketing data of more than 14 million Australians with Roy Morgan Single Source, Australia’s largest and most comprehensive consumer data set for media and channel planning. This combination on the platform will help profile the brand preferences and consumer choices of live audiences across the arts, entertainment and live sports sectors.

“The partnership with Roy Morgan points to the exciting future direction of data analytics in the sport and entertainment sector,” Geoff Jones, the CEO of TEG, the parent company of TEG Analytics said.

It is about intelligent collaboration that combines the power of leading players. That is exactly what we have achieved with the partnership between TEG Analytics and Roy Morgan.”

By defining a particular fan base, product preference or behaviour, lifestyle or demographic, Genome Audience Planner prioritises the products or services fans prefer, or events which are best suited to a particular target audience such as a new car buyer.

For the first time, Mr Secfcombe said, the live entertainment sector can now be defined as a measurable ‘media channel’ consistent with other media like television, digital or outdoor, enabling live entertainment to play a role inside a broader advertising strategy.

Advertisers will be able to optimise sponsorship budgets across paid, owned and earned media, identify gaps and deepen consumer engagement and shape customer experiences.

“Genome Audience Planner provides a huge set of insights into the live economy – the who, what and where of fans and participants alike,” TEG Analytics and Insights general manager Andrew Reid said. “It allows sponsors and event owners the chance to build their own audience profiles and create more value for the medium.”

TEG lays claim to being Asia Pacific’s leading ticketing, live entertainment and data analytics company.  TEG includes Ticketek, TEG Live, TEG Dainty, TEG Analytics, TEG Insights, TEG Digital, Softix, Qudos Bank Arena, Eventopia, Life Like Touring, The Entertainment Store, Brickman Exhibitions and TEG Asia.

www.t-e-g.com.au

www.roymorgan.com

 

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RACING Queensland has created the ‘Country Cups Challenge’, celebrating the significant contribution country racing makes to the sporting calendar – and culminating in a $70,000 metropolitan final on one of the Summer Racing Carnival’s most popular days.

Set for Group 3 George Moore Stakes Day at Doomben on December 1, 2018, the Country Cups Challenge will bring together the winners of 16 Country Cups held across Queensland between September and November.

Racing Queensland general manager of Racing (Thoroughbred) Simon Stout said the new series was a welcome addition to the new-look and highly successful Queensland Summer Racing Carnival. 

“I welcome this new series as it provides Racing Queensland with another fabulous opportunity to showcase our regional participants, who are among the country’s most talented and hard-working, to a nationwide audience,” Mr Stout said.

“While the Battle of the Bush put the spotlight on some of the bush’s most hardened sprinters, the Country Cups Challenge will act as a ‘grand final’ for Queensland’s country cups circuit.”

This new challenge complements the inaugural Battle of the Bush Series, which brought 16 sprinters from the country to the city on Sky Racing Tattersall’s Tiara Day.

Mr Stout said Racing Queensland recognised the significant contribution country racing has made, and continues to make to the wider industry and state economy.

“Country racing generates 47 percent of the $1.2 billion in economic value the Queensland industry generates each year,” Mr Stout said.

The final will be run under the conditions of a Quality Handicap (1600m) race, with qualifiers required to have competed in no less than three non-TAB races in the 12 months immediately preceding acceptance date for that qualifying race. 

Like the Battle of the Bush Series, float subsidies of between $500 and $2000, depending on the region of travel, will be paid to the trainers of horses that remain in the final field after final scratching time.

www.racingqueensland.com.au

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