Amateur boxers have been forced to train where they can during lockdown
Amateur boxers have been forced to train where they can during lockdown

Amateur boxing clubs will be forced to shut down unless the government can offer a financial bailout, says promoter Eddie Hearn.

He has written an open letter calling for help after the sport was excluded from a £300m rescue package.

“You will see clubs go out of business and go out of the local community,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live as part of its ‘Save Our Sport’ campaign.

The government says its package helps sports hit by the lack of spectators.

Emergency funding for sports in England impacted by the absence of fans because of the coronavirus pandemic was announced by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) earlier this month.

Both rugby codes and horse racing are among the beneficiaries, but not clubs in football’s Premier League or the English Football League, or sports such as boxing, cricket and snooker.

DCMS minister Oliver Dowden called it “the most generous single package of any country in the world”.

Hearn has written to Dowden and sports minister Nigel Huddleston asking for amateur boxing to be supportedexternal-link, saying that it helps reduce obesity and crime, and improves mental health.

“When you look at the £40m that went into horse racing, the £135m for rugby union, the £6m into motorsport – none of those sports even come close to boxing for providing the kind of facilities, jobs or aspirations for young kids in the community,” Hearn told BBC 5 Live.

“It baffles me, and it always has done, that there isn’t more support for local boxing clubs but when you see the amount of money going into other sports it really makes me wonder if these people do understand or have taken the time to actually look at the roles these clubs play within the community.

“Gun crime, knife crime – these are major, major problems in our cities at the moment. These clubs make people understand how to behave, they give them discipline, they give them some kind of regiment into their lifestyle.

“It’s not about trying to inspire the next generation into becoming a world champion, it’s about shaping the next generation and making sure that they can go on and achieve and be good people and serve well within their community.”

A government spokesperson said: “We recognise how important exercise is for people’s physical and mental health, which is why it has always been an essential activity.

“The package of support last week was to help spectator sports as a result of the decision not to permit fans. Sport England is providing £220m of emergency funding for grassroots sports clubs, and we urge any clubs needing support to get in touch.”

Views from the boxing world

Carl Frampton:external-link, former two-weight world champion: “Amateur coaches are having to put their hands in their pockets. It’s a shame. Boxing is a working class sport. You see all the success stories about taking them away from a life of crime. I don’t see any help or support coming in at all.”

Mike Costello, BBC Radio 5 Live boxing commentator: “I’m surprised it has been overlooked. It’s those spectators, whether they come in dozens or hundreds to the boxing shows – that’s what keeps the club alive. That’s a seriously important part of the income and survival of these boxing clubs. They are suffering from a lack of spectators – not on the same scale as rugby and horse racing, but they are suffering.”

Steve Bunce, BBC boxing pundit: “Amateur boxing clubs aren’t dependent on hundreds and thousands – they are dependent on five, 10, 15, £20,000 per year which they raise from their dinner shows, and tombolas and raffles, to keep them going – it’s really that simple. There’s not an awful lot of money that needs to trickle down to keep the amateur boxing clubs open.”

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