Gym and sports venue operators are urging the govt to provide financial relief to help their businesses stay afloat
by S BIRRUNTHA / pic credit: anytimefitness.com
UNLIKE most businesses that have successfully transitioned to digital platforms in the wake of the pandemic, the same mode of business could not be implemented by gym operators who are struggling to stay afloat.
Gym and sports venue operators have found themselves in deeper water during the Movement Control Order (MCO) 2.0 than the first, and are pleading for government help just to survive.
Anytime Fitness Malaysia said their members naturally panicked due to the closures and requested for membership suspensions and terminations.
Anytime Fitness Asia chief growth officer Johannes Raadsma and MD of corporate clubs Ryan Cheal said even before the MCO 2.0 closure, there were significantly less members coming to the gyms, as well as for personal training bookings.
“All of these have affected our cashflows, and it has taken a toll on our owners mentally and financially.
“It has also affected our members greatly as they have lost full control of their lifestyle, coupled with the frustration of not being able to work on their immune system to weather the possible virus infections,” they told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).
They added that the gym would welcome any financial relief from the government, as the fitness industry is among the hardest hit by the closures.
They are also optimistic that the government will come up with a comprehensive plan for gyms to reopen.
In its commitment to provide fitness tools to its members, the gym has set up online training classes via the Anytime Fitness App.
“Our clubs all over Malaysia have also been actively promoting our instructional workout videos and tips on our social media platforms to encourage members and non-members to remain active during the MCO period.
“Although we are still reeling from the effects of the pandemic, we are hopeful and ready to comply with more detailed standard operating procedures (SOPs), operations and customer-focused efforts, and certain restrictions for the safety of our members,” the gym added.
Meanwhile, a futsal centre operator, who requested anonymity, told TMR that the current MCO’s impact is much worse compared to the first one, as he is struggling to pay the rent.
Rentals for futsal centres are at least RM30,000 per month.
“The rental is a huge ordeal for us and we definitely cannot sustain if we continue with a prolonged lockdown. We do expect some sort of financial assistance to be extended to sports venue operators.
“Many non-essential businesses are operating during MCO 2.0, but we were not given the green light. It is even worse for us now because we have not recovered from the first MCO.
“We have not been able to retrieve the losses and now we are being hit with another MCO,” he said.
The operator stressed that the fitness industry needs to be viewed seriously, as it contributes largely towards the nation’s financial situation.
Although his futsal academy is currently running online classes to sustain business, it is definitely not as fulfilling as in-person training.
“We have also ventured into our new sports shop which has just penetrated online platforms such as Shopee, Carousell and Facebook to cover some losses, but it is really to cover our rental.
“Shutting us down is understandable because of the pandemic, but let’s keep in mind that MCO 2.0 is not as strict as the previous one, so Covid-19 cases might not go down hence businesses like us will not be able to survive.
“A stricter approach is needed for the infection curve to flatten and for us to get back on our feet,” he noted.
A Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) black belt and coach Aaron Goh, who owns the Leverage BJJ gym in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur, concurred that his business financial position has been impacted much worse than the first lockdown.
He said although only a very few Covid-19 cases and clusters were associated with gyms, the industry was required to shut down during the current MCO.
“I can wholeheartedly say that MCO 2.0 has significantly derailed my efforts and plans to bounce back from last year’s setbacks.
“I already had to deal with a tonne of uncertainty post the first MCO and now a subsequent MCO which does not provide clear directives regarding how a martial arts gym can operate in this climate,” he told TMR.
Goh also emphasised that numerous Covid-19 related deaths that were reported in the country were those who succumbed to pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
Thus, he said gyms and fitness centres should be allowed to operate under a strict adherence to SOPs, so that people can maintain their health and immune system.
“I think shutting gyms down is not the answer and if the government insist on doing so, they should allocate a fund which gym owners can access for financial relief so that we can at least sustain our gyms,” he noted.
Goh added that it is very difficult for a martial arts gym to pivot into online training simply because the whole aspect of martial arts is contact.
However, he said he has been teaching non-contact self-defence classes online with a small scale of students to be able to keep up his business during the lockdown.
“I have only been able to keep my academy alive because of the goodwill and kindness that my students have shown me. If it were not for them, I would have been forced to close a while ago,” he added.
Last week, Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that the Youth and Sports Ministry had provided proposals and SOPs to allow some sport activities during MCO 2.0.
He said this includes sports and recreational activities such as outdoor sports, gyms in residential areas and activities that do not allow contact and spectators.
He added that the ministry had proposed SOPs for quarantine-based approach training for athletes, as well as SOPs for high-impact sports tournaments such as the football, hockey and takraw league.
Read our earlier report