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‘Enormous role’ for gyms in Sports Strategy, says Sport England CEO

By Jak Phillips    23 Mar 2016
Jennie Price said the 'sheer number of people' that use health clubs means they have an important part to play

Health clubs and fitness operators have an “enormous role to play” in helping to achieve the physical activity goals set out in the government’s recent Sports Strategy, according to Sport England CEO Jennie Price.

Describe by Price as the government’s “first thinking from scratch piece for a long time”, the strategy’s objectives will largely fall under the responsibility of her organisation, which is currently piecing together its own strategy in response to the new remit.

Traditionally tasked with funding national governing bodies of sport, Sport England is expected to widen its pool of partners to chime with the government’s ambition of providing grants to any projects that have a “meaningful and measurable impact” on people’s lives – projects that could just as easily come from the fitness sector as from sport.

Price said the “sheer number of people” that use health clubs means they reach a greater proportion of the population than anyone else, aided by their non-gender specific offering which is open to a broad range of demographics.

“I’d like gyms to come and talk to us. We’d like to share some of the insight our research has unveiled around physical activity participation,” she told Health Club Management.

“I don’t think they need to have a generic response to a particular brief – it would just be good to have some structured conversations with the major chains. We’ve had a number of conversations, but nothing concentrated that’s then led to significant change – yet.”

Price added that while conversations with for-profit organisations cannot revolve around government funding for the time being, a passage buried in the sports strategy suggests this could be relaxed if the initiative were right.

“There are no problems in working with for-profit companies, but there are some technical issues about giving them money,” she explained.

“We can’t grant fund them with our National Lottery money at the moment, but that requirement might be relaxed at some point in the future. We’ve already prompted an investigation into whether there are any regulatory problems.”

She said the new strategy will create a climate where “divisions are softer,” adding that the outcome-focused document is “all about delivery” rather than the type of organisation you are or the type of activity you represent.

To read the full interview with Jennie Price, from the March 2016 edition of Health Club Management, click here.

Sports Strategy  Jennie Price  Sport England  gyms 
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