A dozen sports clubs are demanding €30 million compensation from the government for loss of earnings due to coronavirus restrictions and rising energy prices.
In a letter the clubs said they are being forced into debt and to lay off employees.
"We need state support immediately. The minimum required support for all Estonian clubs is €30 million," they wrote.
A letter sent on November 11 has not been replied to, they said: "Every day is critical. It is not the market that is to blame, but the government's poor choices and inaction."
The clubs believe their turnover is down approximately 40 percent due to coronavirus restrictions. Record energy prices are now playing a part.
"Today's terrible energy and heating prices, for which you have no solution, make our difficult life even more difficult," the clubs told the government.
The letter, addressed to Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) and Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center), asked them to find empathy and "to see the seriousness of the situation".
"We are waiting for a very quick decision that will ensure the sustainability of Estonian fitness and sports clubs. We are waiting for €30 million," the letter ended.
My Fitness AS / Gym Eesti OÜ, 24-7 fitnessklubi OÜ, Gym Eesti OÜ, Impuls EE OÜ / Lemon Gym OÜ, Lasnamäe Spordikeskus OÜ, Spa Tours OÜ (Viimsi SPA Spordiklubi), Tervise ja Spordi Edendamise Seltsi, Arigato Spordiklubi MTÜ, Crossfitest OÜ, Power OÜ, Aqva Spordikeskuse (Viru Spordikeskus OÜ) signed the letter.
Culture ministry: No additional support measures unfortunately available
Ministry of Culture sports undersecretary Tarvi Pürn responded to the letter and said the ministry understands that the current situation is complicated, but the government has not allocated any additional measures to support the entrepreneurial sector.
The undersecretary said the government has based its decisions on the principles that support measures are implemented when complete closures are established.
"Compared to neighboring countries, the coronavirus restrictions in Estonia have been milder and so have the support measures," Pürn noted.
The ministry official added that several sectors have lost a majority of their revenue during the crisis. "The Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Education and Research, the Unemployment Insurance Fund and Enterprise Estonia has allocated more than €20 million in crisis aid for 2021. The culture ministry's sports budget for 2021 was €49.8 million," Pürn wrote in response.
He said the sports sector has handled the crisis sustainably. "Compared to 2019, the number of sports clubs, the number of enthusiasts, the number of recognized trainers, the total revenue of organizations and labor taxes to the state have all grown. The coronavirus crisis will certainly affect the sports sector going forward, but it is hard to predict how it will do so," Pürn said.
Editor's note: This article was updated with the culture ministry's response.
Editor: Helen Wright