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Thought leader: Andy Reed

We need to get creative in the ways we receive and use sports funding if we are to remain sustainable, says Andy Reed

by Andy Reed | Published in Sports Management Nov Dec 2017 issue 134
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Reed has called for some of the government transport budget to be directed towards cycling
Reed has called for some of the government transport budget to be directed towards cycling

This has been a tough year for a number of sports organisations, with Sport England shifting its funding focus to tackle inactivity and UK Sport cutting the funding of 11 elite programmes ahead of Tokyo 2020.

According to sports minister Tracey Crouch’s answer to a recent written parliamentary question, local government funding for sport and leisure now stands at around £1.1bn. It’s still far more than the combined investment of £168m from Sport England, UK Sport and Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), but in 2010 that figure was around £1.4bn. It doesn’t sound like a huge difference, but that’s a £300m reduction in recent years.

However, I fear we focus too heavily as a sector on the Sport England, UK Sport and DCMS and even local government funding figures, as these are only a small part of the overall picture. To put it all into perspective, the overall sports economy impact is around £35bn GVA (gross value added) and contributes £39bn to the UK gross domestic product.

Looking for alternatives
I have long argued that altering a small percentage of other government budgets – such as targeting some of the transport budget towards walking and cycling – will have a far greater impact than taking funding away from sport, if the aim is to improve physical activity levels across the population.

Looking further afield for new revenue streams, I’ve been working hard to get some traction in the sector around Social Investment Bonds and the creation of a Sport Impact Fund similar to that operated by Arts Council England. This would allow investment in projects that are capable of delivering on the government’s agenda for sport, health, social justice and emotional health and wellbeing.

Other alternative funding streams remain relatively underdeveloped. Leading the way in philanthropy is the Juan Mata Common Goal initiative, which asks professional footballers to put 1 per cent of their salary into a fund that’s distributed to football charities. A sports betting levy is also still on the table as a possibility, with the idea recently raised in parliament.

Making it count
There are growing concerns about why public sector investment continues to be made in sport when the perception is that it’s failed to grow participation. I think we as a sector need to be far clearer about the reasons to invest in sport and physical activity and what can be expected from it. Proving our impact will be the biggest challenge when faced with competing demands on public finances.

There are not likely to be any great new investments in the sector from the public finances anytime soon.

It’s possible that we’ve reached ‘peak funding’ for sport. If this is as good as it gets, we’ll have to be a lot smarter about how we use our existing funding and resources.

Andy Reed is a former MP for Loughborough, the founder of Sports Think Tank and chair of SAPCA
csportsthinktank.com

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