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15 Oct 2020
Liverpool gyms take fight to the government as police officers issue fines to operators who don't comply with closure notices
By Tom Walker
Liverpool gyms take fight to the government as police officers issue fines to operators who don't comply with closure notices
EmpoweredFit is among the gyms to keep its doors open despite the closing down orders
Photo: Facebook/EmpoweredFit
"Dozens" of gyms in Liverpool, UK, have defied the government and stayed open for business – despite being ordered to shut their doors – with one operator visited by eight police officers and slapped with a £1,000 fine.

EmpoweredFit Gym in Wirrall and Body Tech Fitness in Moreton are among the gyms to have ignored the closing down orders, saying that the government have "got it wrong" by going against scientific evidence that gyms are safe.

A Gofundme page has been set up to help pay any fines and legal costs faced by Body Tech Fitness, which was visited today by eight armed police officers, who imposed an on the spot £1,000 fine.

Owner, Nick Whitcombe said: "'They were with us this morning, gave us our warning. Then came back this afternoon with orders from their top boss to issue a fine. They've told us 'close immediately' or I'll take a £1,000 fine.

"We still had quite a lot of members training and I said to the officers, 'I'm not asking anyone to leave. I'm going to let them finish their sessions first', so they issued the fine.

"First one's £1,000. They can come back in three hours and issue a £2,000 fine. Three hours after that £4,000.

"It's disappointing. They sent out seven or eight firearms officers, what a waste of resources."

In an video, posted last night (14 October), announcing his refusal to close the gym, Whitcombe said: 'We will not be closing our doors. We can't.

"If we close our facility we won't have one to come back to. There will be no business, there will be no gym, there will be no jobs."

He continued: 'We need to keep fighting and we need you to keep supporting us. We fight the good fight. Gyms need to stay open."

A statement on Body Tech Fitness' Gofundme page says: "The UK Government took it upon themselves to close gyms in the North West, despite the overwhelming evidence that gyms are not major spreaders of COVID-19.

"We are remaining open, despite the threat of fines and closure, we are going to fight this.

"We respected the last lockdown, although we financially suffered and only survived because of our amazing members.

"We are not staying open now for financial gain, but more for our members' mental and physical wellbeing.

"Gym’s should be supported in fighting COVID-19, obesity, mental health issues and many other conditions and diseases."

A Merseyside Police spokesperson said: 'We can confirm a gym in Moreton has been fined and ordered to close after opening despite the introduction of legislation prohibiting gyms from opening in the Liverpool City Region."

Elsewhere in the region, Chris Ellerby-Hemmings, the co-owner of EmpoweredFit gym in the Wirral, said in an Instagram post: "We will be remaining open, but we aren't doing it in an irresponsible manner, we're following all COVID-guidelines as we have all along.

"The reason we're doing this is to prove that gyms are a safe place to come and a safe place to train."

In a separate Facebook post, Ellerby-Hemmings said that "more than 50" gyms in Liverpool are on board with the action of remaining open, despite the closure orders.

"We (including the other 50+ gyms) will push for change. They can’t and won’t show us evidence to why gyms are being closed over sectors with MUCH higher infection rates," Ellerby-Hemmings said.

"We are safe and we are essential to our members' physical and mental wellbeing."

The government has come under fire from the fitness sector due to its confused and erratic approach to the new three-tier COVID-19 alert system.

As well as gyms and fitness studios fighting the measures, it is likely that the government will face legal challenges over its handling of the issue.

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