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Published in Sports Management Nov Dec 2017 issue 134
Read on turning pages | Download PDF of this issue

Robust data can help sports organisations attract government funding

Julia Grant,

Chief Executive,

Pro Bono Economics

It was encouraging to see columns in the July/August issue of Sports Management by Andy Reed and editor Liz Terry advocating the protection of team sport.

The challenges of daily life are placing ever greater levels of stress on young people. In fact, 80 per cent of 12- to 16-year-olds say they have experienced a mental health problem. If such issues are not dealt with at an early stage, they can easily become more serious in later life.

Young people can build valuable mental and physical resilience through active participation in sport. Not only does it benefit their current health and happiness, it can establish lifelong good habits. Currently, inactivity and the resultant ill health costs the nation £20 billion a year. Beyond improving physical health, organised sport reaps social rewards too. In particular, team sports can help young people feel less isolated, stay out of trouble and acquire the confidence and life skills that can make all the difference to getting a job.

Demonstrating value
Over recent years, Pro Bono Economics has built a strong body of robust, peer-reviewed economic evidence to prove that investment in sport can produce quantifiable social capital. For example, we worked with Street Soccer Academy, a small charity based in Greater Manchester that uses football and fitness to help people with complex needs.

The charity wanted to produce a compelling ‘business case’ to secure funding for its future. Pro Bono Economics’ volunteer economists gathered and processed a wealth of valuable data. Quantifying the longer-term social benefits to Street Soccer Academy’s participants, with many going on to lead more productive lives, the initial findings showed that the charity, working with an income of £209,000, could be generating up to £2 million in net benefits.

Overcoming obstacles
Generally speaking, it’s not a lack of interest that prevents people from participating in sport. A national survey carried out for Pro Bono Economics suggested that among the major obstacles are the expense of participation and local facilities that are either inadequate or simply do not exist. Yet many leading health experts are now recommending that the government expand public wellbeing programmes and even offer exercise on prescription.

This all suggests that there is a need for more consistent statutory investment in making sport more accessible and affordable for people of all ages. It could prove a cost-effective way of building a more resilient and productive society. When it comes to presenting a compelling case to government, robust data, analysed according to recognised economic principles, will help to win the game.

"More consistent statutory investment is needed to make sport more accessible"

Involvement in team sports helps young people to build mental and physical resilience / © shutterstock/ Fotokostic
Involvement in team sports helps young people to build mental and physical resilience/ © shutterstock/ Fotokostic

Sports clubs should be aware of their legal liabilities around safeguarding

Chris Webb-Jenkins,


Weightmans LLP law firm

When allegations of abuse are made by former sports players, such as Andy Woodward who spoke out last year about the abuse he experienced as a young footballer (see Sports Management July/August p30), the fragmented nature of the sports landscape comes under the microscope. It’s made up of different organisations, clubs and groups, and a huge number of individuals, such as coaches and physiotherapists, who operate independently on either a self-employed or voluntary basis.

This makes it difficult, but all the more important, for sports organisations to know how far their legal liabilities extend when it comes to safeguarding. If a self-employed specialist coach or volunteer safeguarding officer is negligent or abusive, is the organisation that engaged them responsible?

Setting a precedent
This year, a judgement on a High Court case dramatically expanded the number of circumstances in which a club or group would bear responsibility, making it imperative for organisations to review their arrangements.

The case has, on the face of it, little connection with the sports world. It was brought against Barclays Bank by victims of sexual abuse at the hands of an independent GP, contracted by the bank to conduct medical assessments. Barclays refused to accept it was responsible for the actions of the doctor, who died in 2009, but Mrs Justice Nicola Davies ruled it is indeed vicariously liable for the doctor’s abuses after he was engaged by the bank on a consultancy basis between 1968 and 1984.

The GP was a classic example of an independent contractor carrying out assessments in his own premises, with his own insurance cover, and working for multiple organisations at the time. Despite this, the court found that the bank was responsible for the sexual assaults he committed while conducting his medical assessments.

Be prepared
The ruling is likely to have very far-reaching consequences. Previously, the limit of an organisation’s responsibility fell short of self-employed contractors. Now sports organisations will need to review their relationships with such individuals.

The nature of the sports sector makes it unrealistic for organisations to stop working with individuals on this basis. Instead, the focus must be on managing risk and carefully reviewing all people working with them and coming onto the organisation’s premises.

Clubs should also be mindful of the potential for claims as a result of any misconduct that takes place, ensuring they have adequate insurance cover for deliberate assault and negligence, should the worst happen. Crucially, in the Barclays Bank case the GP was not worth suing: he was dead, his estate had been distributed, and his insurance did not cover deliberate abuse. Suing the bank was the victims’ last chance to recover compensation. Sports organisations will want to ensure that, in the event of a claim, they are not the last one standing.

"Organisations weren’t considered responsible for the conduct of independent contractors until now"

Sports clubs should review all independent contractors / © shutterstock/ Pressmaster
Sports clubs should review all independent contractors/ © shutterstock/ Pressmaster
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