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Editor's letter: Making a global impact

Two new studies have put the spotlight on the economic value of sport, giving us further ammunition when it comes to fighting our corner for decent levels of funding

by Liz Terry, Leisure Media | Published in Sports Management 2019 issue 3

The UK’s sports sector has had a battering during the years of austerity, with cuts to local authority budgets hitting key services.

However, as we head into 2020 and towards another public Spending Round, evidence is emerging that will strengthen our hand when it comes to lobbying the government for funding.

Firstly, a global study by RAND Europe has found that even low levels of physical activity would substantially grow both the UK and the world economies.

As a baseline, researchers found that if all adults aged 18-64 walked for 15 minutes a day, the world economy would grow by an additional US$100bn a year to 2050.

If people who are currently physically inactive were to reach the World Health Organization’s recommended levels of exercise, the world economy would grow by US$220bn per annum in the years to 2050.

Furthermore, if sedentary people increased their activity levels by 20 per cent, global growth it’s estimated would grow by US$360bn a year.

The UK would see economic gains of around £8.5bn (US$11bn) a year to 2050, while a relatively small increase in activity of 15 minutes a day could extend average life expectancy by two-and-a-half years, reduce annual sick leave by five days and add £8.5bn to the UK economy.

Thought to be the first time a multi-country macroeconomic model has been applied to the area of physical activity, the study points to a significant relationship between inactivity and productivity loss.

RAND said: “It’s clear physical activity has a crucial role to play in improving health, so we urge government to do more to support people to lead a more active lifestyle.

A second study from the Global Wellness Institute (GWI) also shows the global impact of sport.

Move to be Well: The Global Economy of Physical Activity found the physical activity economy is now a US$828bn (€752bn, £655bn) market, with its value expected to grow further to US$1.1tn (€1tn, £870bn) by 2023.

GWI drilled down to find the sports and active recreation markets contribute US$230bn a year to this total, with apparel and footwear adding US$333bn and equipment and supplies US$109bn.

Just one look at this issue of Sports Management is enough to demonstrate the incredible impact sport delivers in terms of social good and community outreach, but, unfortunately, when it comes to funding, this can often count for very little in the battle for resources.

These new global impact numbers, if carefully deployed, could lend extra weight to our lobbying by speaking the only language politicians really understand, meaning more people could gain the huge benefits sport can offer.

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