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Nurturing the Grassroots

Sport is an increasingly important part of the global economy. It's important, however, that those working in the industry don't lose sight of what makes economic success possible in the first place – the health of grassroots and community sport

by Tom Walker, Leisure Media | Published in Sports Management 2015 issue 3
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Sport is growing globally, as developing nations thrive and generate middle classes eager to spend their newly found disposable income on sport and recreation. Evidence of this can be seen in the way global sports market revenues are projected to reach US$145bn (€128bn, £94bn) by the end of 2015 – a 7 per cent increase from US$121bn (€107bn, £79bn) in 2011.

Advanced economies are benefiting too. The sports industry is now responsible for 2 per cent (€330bn) of the EU’s total GDP and the number of people employed by sports-related activities within the EU is estimated at 7.3 million – equivalent to 3.5 per cent of total employment. In the UK alone, sport has become a £20bn-a-year industry, supporting 450,000 jobs.

The impressive figures mean that the riches available for those reaching the top of the sporting tree are becoming unimaginable. Earlier this year the English Premier League – where top players earn up to £250,000 a week – secured a £5.14bn TV rights deal, the largest in history. On an individual level, tennis star Roger Federer earns an estimated US$58m (€51m, £38m) from endorsements alone, while the net worth of the world’s richest athlete, boxer Floyd Mayweather, is estimated at US$300m (€265m, £195m).

While sport is generating wealth across the globe, we shouldn’t, however, forget what makes elite sport possible and feeds interest in sports in general – the grassroots.

In this issue, we celebrate community sport and highlight ways in which we can ensure a healthy future for all by making children active. We ask whether the industry is doing enough in using technology to increase participation (page 32) and also look at programmes that have successfully tackled inactivity (page 58).

Government support for community sport operators and facilities is crucial. In the UK, the new Conservative government has wasted no time in making its case for a fresh sports strategy. Sports minister Tracey Crouch – a qualified grassroots football coach herself – has launched a consultation, A New Strategy for Sport which will look to ensure that precious resources are used in a more targeted way to get people more active.

"The strapline of London 2012 was Inspire a Generation," Crouch says. "Participation levels among 16- to 25-year-olds remain steady across most sports. That’s good, but not good enough. When the last Active People Survey results were issued in June (2015), I made it clear that I wasn't happy with the decline in the number of people participating in sport." (To read more, see our profile of Crouch on page 38).

Both Crouch and secretary of state for sport, John Whittingdale, have been vocal in their calls for the English Premier League – now the richest football league in the world – to share more of its spoils with those further down the tree. Asked by MPs whether the Premier League – which currently invests around £60m a year on grassroots – should share more of its TV revenue with grassroots football, Whittingdale replied: "Without question. I believe the Premier League should at least double what it currently contributes."

Whittingdale has a point. It's vital that everybody involved in sport nurtures the roots – it's the only way to ensure the rest of the tree will stay healthy.

Tom Walker, managing editor

twitter: @sportsmagtom

email: [email protected]

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