Covid-19 leaves amateur boxing fighting for survival

Written by Jack Williamson

Amateur boxing clubs can now tap into £4.6 billion of government funding made available during the January 2021 national lockdown. Changes to the criteria for Sport England’s ‘Return to Play Fund’ have made it easier for clubs to now access up to £10,000 in grants.

Sheffield City Amateur Boxing Club, based in Old Sharrow Junior School, are a not-for-profit club who provide talent for the University Varsity and national amateur shows.

They have already made use of the new support and received £4800 from the government last week, via Sport England. This is the first time during the pandemic Sheffield City ABC has had access to government funding which directly helps amateur boxing.

The club already have their rent subsidised by the council and received some funding from Sport England for equipment last year.

Brendan Warburton, 49, is the Head Coach of Sheffield City ABC, he said: “We got a bit of funding from Sport England for eleven punch bags and some hanging clamps which we hung on girders, we then began doing sessions outdoors.”

When the first lockdown of 2020 began to ease, the club originally invested in making their indoor gym covid secure, however social distancing meant the capacity was limited to 14 people. Up to 50 people had attended sessions prior to the pandemic.

Head Coach, Brendan Warbuton, gives out hand sanitizer at the final gym session before the March 2020 lockdown.

Instead of choosing who could attend, Mr Warburton created an outdoor gym using the Sport England funds. Outdoor sessions focus on fitness and technique with no sparring or pad work allowed since last March. The lack of combat has led to some boxers not returning to the gym.

Mr Warburton said: “We’ve lost a fair few good boxers and the worrying thing for us is around our area during lockdown there were eight shootings. That’s the worrying thing that they can easily drift into going down the wrong path.”

The risk of losing young boxers to crime has not been overlooked by famous promoter Eddie Hearn. Who has been calling for financial support for the sport since last November. In an interview with The Independent he said: “It’s so disgusting that the government are not supporting grassroots boxing.”

Despite amateur boxing being overlooked for so long but Mr Warburton remained optimistic, he said: “I’m fed up, but if everyone is vaccinated by summer then I hope we can start the boxing season again in September.”

Now the sport has access to the £4.6 billion of funding made available last month, amateur boxing at least has a fighting chance of survival.

 

 

Written by Jack Williamson

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