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Editor's letter: Will the sports sector be ready for the government spending review?

We’re in the middle of a radical shake up of the way Sport England funding is deployed, but while this is bedding down, we’ve also got a government spending review to get through

by Liz Terry, Leisure Media | Published in Sports Management 2018 issue 1
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The sports team at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has little more than a year to produce a strong, well-evidenced case for continued government funding for sport and physical activity before the next government spending review.

That was the stark message from Andrew Honeyman, head of sport at the DCMS, speaking at Willmott Dixon’s ‘Future of Leisure’ conference on 31 January.

Honeyman said the team at the DCMS has been hard at work preparing evidence, so when the time comes, the case made to the Treasury will be a strong one. Sport is accepted to have done well from the 2015 review.

However, with so much change to crunch through since Sporting Future hit people’s desks, I have to ask if we’ll be ready for the review? Will we have gathered enough evidence? Will the new strategy have worked? Will it have had enough time to bed down? If not, will the government and the treasury allow more leeway to prove the concept, or will we be subject to cuts?

Change takes time – evaluating and setting up new schemes and then monitoring and refining them is a big process, so being ready with hard evidence to prove the new set-up within three years of such a big shake-up is a huge ask – not only of Sport England, its partners and the DCMS, but also of the whole sport and activity sector and others who are now involved.

Last week DCMS released Sporting Future: Second Annual Report, giving an update on progress. Amazing work has been done in areas from safeguarding to mental health, but we’ll know more about the important numbers on 22 March when the second batch of data from Active Lives is published.

The first 18 months of Active Lives data, released on 12 October 2017, showed 27.1 million people (60.6 per cent of the population) are active, meaning they do 150 minutes or more activity per week and meet the chief medical officer’s guideline, while 11.5 million (25.6 per cent) are inactive, meaning they do less than 30 minutes of activity a week. The industry will be watching to see how much the needle has moved.

Honeyman gave a few clues as to how DCMS is building the case. One was talking about the value of sports spectating, so although spectating isn’t mentioned in Sporting Future: Second Annual Report, perhaps it will make its debut soon as a measure of engagement?

The sports minister took a risk shaking up the status quo, but it was a good risk and we must do everything we can as an industry to ensure its success.

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