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Banging heads together

by Liz Terry, Leisure Media | Published in Sports Management 2013 issue 4
Read on turning pages | Download PDF of this issue

The recent report – Keeping the flame alive; the Olympic and Paralympic legacy – from the House of Lords Select Committee, was produced following a pretty exhaustive investigation involving 53 live witnesses and written submissions from 67 organisations and individuals. Basically, if anyone had anything to say about legacy, this was their chance. (See our report in Leisure Management 2013 issue 4 on page 20.)

The committee was equally thorough in the scale of its recommendations, with 41 made across all levels of sport.

The most important of these is the urgent call for the appointment of a cabinet-level minister to be given overall responsibility for legacy across the UK. Toby Harris, chair of the select committee told Sports Management: "Only someone with senior clout will be able to bang heads together across different departments; like education, with its role in school sport and funding; health, which is supposed to be getting us all more active and healthier; and DCMS, with its responsibility for the sports governing bodies."

This statement highlights the horrible fragmentation of the various departments charged with duties relating to legacy and explains in part why it's been a bit of a struggle to date.

The biggest issue is that every agency, government department and quango is safeguarding and justifying its own budgets, jobs, power base and territory. This inevitably leads to conflicting aims, behind the scenes wrangling and an element of bad decision-making, while the actual sport – particularly school sport – doesn't get enough of a look in.

We think with the right person in the job, a minister would be a great idea and if their powers of influence and diplomacy were up to the task they could function like the conductor of an orchestra – channeling skills, controlling egos and with their eye firmly on the end result rather than the process.

And now the final report's been published, everyone's had their say and the calendars are turning to 2014, please we can put the word legacy behind us?

The aim now must be to focus on indicators based on health, participation and inclusion – on engaging children and young people and enabling them to keep good sport and exercise habits for life. Will we still be looking wistfully back to 2012 in 10 years time and wrangling about legacy? I hope not. It's time to move on.

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