With the Covid-19 pandemic lingering, the sports sector continues to be heavily impacted by fears of the virus and the city’s social distancing measures. Earlier this year, the government closed public sports venues for several months and implemented strict gathering limits. Under the limitations, many coaches and institutions saw reduced livelihoods or faced closure.
Although most fencing clubs benefit from having their own venues, they are still subject to the city-wide Covid-19 regulations. Despite being an individual sport, athletes typically train as a group to maximize the effectiveness of the drills. FSA, a club located in Kwun Tong, closed for one month in March to comply with social distancing measures.
Since the reopening of the club, measures have been taken to ensure the safety of people visiting the club. According to co-founder Yu Chui Yee, students must fill out health declaration forms before attending classes, and masks are required at all times for coaches except private lessons.
“Shaking hands with your opponent is a long-standing tradition in fencing. However, it is not suitable to do so in a pandemic situation. Instead, we have opted for a ‘foot-shake’, which retains the element of respect while minimizing risk,’ Yu said.
From October 30 to November 30, local sports premises are able to apply for a one-off subsidy of HK$30,000 as part of the Anti-epidemic Fund. The subsidy aims to relieve financial pressure placed on clubs after the closure of venues. FSA had previously applied for another HK$100,000 government subsidy, but was rejected after not qualifying as a fitness centre.
However, the subsidy serves little purpose in the eyes of Yu. “It was announced too late. Most of the impact happened earlier this year, and the amount we’ll receive is far from enough to cover the loss,” Yu said. “We would much rather be able to continue operating our business normally than receiving a monetary sum.”
The club is currently developing alternative measures such as online classes to cope with the changing landscape and provide students with more opportunities. Similarly, other physical activities such as running and yoga have taken to online platforms for training. As Hong Kong continues its battle with the virus, the shift in business model represents a trend in creative change and innovation for the city’s sports institutions.