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Editor's letter: Getting more ambitious

It’s time to step up and challenge ourselves to take a more strategic look at how sport can raise its game if we are to make a meaningful impact on society and on the lives of all citizens

by Liz Terry, Leisure Media | Published in Sports Management 2019 issue 2
Read on turning pages | Download PDF of this issue

The sports sector has the opportunity to identify a new and vital role for itself and to develop a world-changing, meaningful plan, says industry thought leader, Andy Reed.

Writing on page 27, Reed says other areas of public life are being ambitious in their thinking in terms of impact, scope and vision and urges the sports sector to follow suit and imagine more audaciously.

He relates an exchange with Sport England’s Nick Pontefract and cites the concept of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) as an example of how a sector – in that case, social policy – can think big and give stakeholders a fresh stimulus and focus for discussion and direction.

UBI is prompting conversations about how we organise ourselves to ensure social cohesion and wellbeing for all in an era of increasing wealth inequality.

Reed says that while other sectors are pro-actively envisioning disruptive change in their quest to be useful, the sports sector is mainly ‘tinkering around the edges’.

This is a very valid point and must provoke an energetic response. We’re fortunate to have many passionate and creative thinkers in our sector and with sport locked in mortal combat with inactivity, there’s never been a more important time to take our mission to a higher level.

Recent numbers from Active Lives (page 58), show that while more people are active, with nearly 500k more doing at least 150 minutes of activity a week, compared to 12 months ago, traditional sports such as football are seeing numbers declining. Had we been using the original Active Lives parameters, which focused more on pure sports, we’d be looking at a worse set of numbers.

Clearly, we’re doing OK, but it’s patchy and with a Comprehensive Spending Review coming up, there’s never been a more important time to take action.

So what’s the big idea? Should we encourage sports agencies to stop defending their turf and merge to create one sports superpower? Should our sports agencies step up and take action, instead of trying to effect change through funding and monitoring? Should we become completely consumer-facing? Perhaps make sport free at the point of use, like the NHS? Pay people to take part? Merge with the fitness industry? Or do we need a new word? Should we abandon the term sport altogether?

Last year in Gijon, Spain, I was overwhelmed with what I was seeing. Older people cycling the beach full of kids learning to surf for a school lesson, people out running and the town bristling with sports shops. It was extraordinary and showed what it looks like when it works. Perhaps challenging towns to drive participation and creating competition between them might also be a way forward.

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