The B.C. provincial government has announced that they are providing increased support to help local sport organizations with fixed costs during the pandemic.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Lisa Beare stated that B.C. will be investing $1.5 million in sports teams across the province.

Local sports organizations include baseball and soccer teams, gymnastics and swimming.

“We want people of all ages, backgrounds and levels of ability to be able to gain the physical and mental benefits sport offers,” said Lisa Beare.

“People in the sport community have felt the effects of COVID-19 profoundly. This funding will help local organizations pay their bills and keep our communities active.”

British Columbia houses over 4,100 local sports organizations, and the COVID-19 pandemic has led to many of them facing financial challenges due to the absence of registration fees, event revenues and sponsorships.

According to Beare, rural and remote communities, as well as underrepresented populations like Indigenous peoples, girls and women, low-income individuals, persons with disabilities and newcomers are more adversely affected by the lack of physical activity opportunities as a result of COVID-19.

“Many amateur sport clubs in British Columbia are volunteer based and rely on membership fees, events, tournaments and competitions to fund sport activities in their communities,” said Charlene Krepiakevich, CEO, viaSport.

“COVID-19 has especially impacted their ability to do that. This funding will help local clubs at the most financial risk to maintain operations until, and as, their communities and facilities can slowly reopen.”

On top of the $1.5 million bring provided by the province, Canadian Heritage is also investing $3.4 million in sports organizations in British Columbia.

This funding is a part of the $72 million COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund for Cultural, Heritage and Sport Organizations and looks to benefit B.C.’s provincial, disability and multi-sport organizations.

Funding will be distributed through viaSport to ensure support is provided across the sport sector.

54 sport-specific plans to rebound from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been completed by provincial sport organizations as of July 27, with 50 of those being summer and fall sports.

As organizations are ready to welcome participants back to activities safely, over 500,000 British Columbians will be able to return to sport.

As of April, the Province in partnership with viaSport has provided $10.5 million in accelerated funding to provincial, disability and multi-sport organizations.

On questions regarding exactly when B.C. will see larger sporting events return, Lisa Beare reiterated that the province is following the direction of Dr. Bonnie Henry, and until gatherings over 50 are permitted, will remain in Phase 2 of return-to-play.