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Andy Reed: Sports policy expert to lead review of the County Sports Partnerships

Former Labour MP Andy Reed was awarded an OBE for services to sport in 2012. The sports policy expert has now been appointed to lead a review of the County Sport Partnerships. Reed will become a columnist for Sports Management from the next issue

by Tom Walker, Leisure Media | Published in Sports Management 18 Apr 2016 issue 118
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Practising what he preaches – Reed in action at Twickenham
Practising what he preaches – Reed in action at Twickenham

“Being a sports nut definitely helped me develop lasting political friendships during my time as a member of parliament,” says Andy Reed who – as MP for Loughborough – spent 13 years pacing the corridors of power at Westminster. “While in office, I helped run parliamentary rugby, swimming, football, cricket, tennis and hockey teams and had the honour of playing rugby at Twickenham, football at Wembley and tennis at Wimbledon – as well as travelling the world to play against other parliamentary sides.”

SETTING OUT
Reed was elected Labour MP as part of Tony Blair’s landslide victory in 1997, having spent 10 years working for Leicester City and Leicestershire County councils. During his 13-year career, he spent time working as a front bench aid as well as a back bencher.

While he’s best remembered for being the first government member to resign over the invasion of Iraq in 2003 – ”it got global media attention”, he says “I arrived home to satellite vans outside my house” – it was Reed’s love of sport which defined his parliamentary career.

He worked as parliamentary private secretary (PPS) at the DCMS and was also a member of a number of sport-related parliamentary groups and select committees. He chaired all-party parliamentary groups on leisure, rugby and hockey while sitting on committees on sport, athletics and health and wellbeing in schools.

“I was a PPS to Kate Hoey from 1998 to 2001 – basically a bag carrier for a minister,” he recounts of his time at the DCMS. “It meant being the department’s political eyes and ears inside parliament, as ministers spend a lot of time out of parliament.

“We were involved in some massive, high profile projects at the time. We had the rebuilding of Wembley, the bid for the World Athletic Championships, the Commonwealth Games in Manchester and the building of the Dome.”

Reed says helping to secure the London Olympic Games – and increasing UK Sport funding ahead of 2012 – are the things he was most proud of during his time on the front benches. “The increased funding for UK Sport was crucial in allowing us to reach third place in the medal table at London 2012,” he says.

“I was involved in the process from start to finish. First through my DCMS role and later after I’d moved to work at the Treasury, where I was able to make the case for increased funding for sport. It was a proud moment when the additional £300m was announced by Gordon Brown.”

Among his other victories for sport was the introduction of the Community Amateur Sports Clubs tax relief scheme (CASC) .

“I moved a 10-minute Rule Bill and helped it through parliament,” Reed says. “It still saves sports clubs millions of pounds each year.”

LEAVING WESTMINSTER
After he lost his constituency seat to current education secretary Nicky Morgan in 2010, Reed found himself with time on his hands and in need of a new challenge. He decided to combine his political experience with the love of his life – sport.

He set up his own company, Saje Impact, and within months of leaving parliament joined the board of the Sport & Recreation Alliance (SRA). He was elected chair of SRA the following year. “The SRA was supposed to be a one-day-a-week voluntary role, but I threw myself at the task as there was so much do and change,” Reed says of the role which he held until earlier this year (2016).

Through Saje Impact, Reed has been able to involve himself in a number of sports-related projects in a wide variety of roles – from consulting on policy to helping with fundraising.

“I’ve worked with some really interesting clients, ranging from Nike and the Bible Society to the rugby TV series School of Hard Knocks.

“I also serve on the board of Special Olympics, chair the Leicestershire County Sport Partnership and am involved with the Rugby World Cup 2015 legacy group.”

Reed is also active in the academic side of sport. He is an adjunct professor at Liverpool John Moores University, helped set up an MBA in Sports Management at Loughborough University and co-founded the Sports Think Tank in 2011 – an organisation looking to bridge the gap between academic research and policy decision making. “The main focus of the think tank is to ensure that academic research conducted on sport and its influence on society reaches Whitehall and those drawing up laws on sport,” he says.

CPS
As a sign of his influence in sports policy, last month (March 2016) Reed was assigned to lead the review of the role played by County Sports Partnerships (CSP) – as called for in the government’s new sport strategy.

He will look at the roles and functions of CSPs against the backdrop of a changing political landscape of devolved local government and increasingly insight-led sports provision.

Reed, who has chaired his local Leicestershire and Rutland Sport CSP since 2004, said the review “comes at an important time”, and that he intends to approach the process “with an open mind”.

“The government asked me to take charge of it because they knew I had a deep understanding of CSPs – so didn’t need to get up to speed in the short time we have to complete the review,” he says.

“Hopefully, they also see me as a ‘disruptive thinker’ – one who’s never satisfied with ‘OK’ or the status quo in a changing world. I’d also like to think I have the policy experience of dealing with the politics of this sort of review.”

Describing the review, Reed says it will assess what CSPs can do in the future and what form they will take going forward. “The review is not about their performance, but an appraisal of what the CSPs should look like and what they should be doing in the new era of the government’s new sports strategy. Lets face it, the strategy will fundamentally change a lot of relationships at local level.

“What I’m looking for is greater local collaboration and leadership – and I’ll say more about this through the consultation. I believe we work in silos far too often in the sports sector. The CSPs are a good example of where we need to align the facility strategies of local authorities, the private sector, national governing bodies, schools – everyone. That is – of course – much easier said than done.”

STRATEGIC APPROACH
The CSP review is being undertaken as called for by the government’s new Sporting Future strategy. Reed is positive about it and says he’s encouraged by the way it defines the role of sport in society – as a vehicle for getting people more healthy.

“I was involved in the last sports strategy in 2001, so it’s thrilling to see a new strategy 13 years later,” he says. “Sport has had its moments in government, but individual ministers have often had their own preferences for what funding for sport means. With this strategy we have some clarity of purpose about why we fund sport, even in times of austerity.”

He says the work is far from finished: “I think the physical activity message is hitting home, but we need to see a fundamental shift in so many aspects of government policy to achieve the right levels of change. Sport and physical activity needs to be seen as part of a rounded solution which also includes dietary advice and other lifestyle choices.”

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