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Imagine rolling out of bed and being able to head next door for sports training at the weekend, or playing sport after work right on your own doorstep. The reality of living an integrated sporting lifestyle is about to come to fruition thanks to sporting legend Rio Ferdinand

by Liz Terry, Leisure Media | Published in Sports Management Mar Apr 2017 issue 130
Read on turning pages | Download PDF of this issue

With its amateur origins, the world of sports participation has struggled to commercialise and most sports activity is still either government funded, run by trusts or or organised by a tireless army of volunteers.

There are huge pockets of wealth in sport of course – professional teams exist in a separate universe of affluence and it’s increasingly possible to plan a rewarding and lucrative career in a wide range of sports.

Similarly, sports broadcasting, sponsorship and betting have become vast wealth generators, with their own markets and successful, mature businesses.

However, although we’ve seen the emergence of a few successful branded private sector operators who make profits from a sports participation offer, essentially, participation remains the poor relation when it comes to its place in the overall market.

Finding ways to monetise participation, while at the same time keeping it inclusive, is something which has largely eluded us to date. However, in this issue, we’re delighted to be talking to Rio Ferdinand about his new venture, The Legacy Foundation (page 30), which looks set to open up a whole new sports sector in the area of specialist residential real estate.

Ferdinand and his partners, footballers Mark Noble and Bobby Zamora are rewriting the rule book in relation to both residential development and social housing. They plan to build new-style housing developments and undertake urban regeneration projects based around sport: the idea being to mix high-quality social housing with privately-owned homes and sports facilities.

The project is attracting heavweight investors and advisers and seems likely to kick off with a £400m development in Bedfordshire which will include 1,300 homes, a sports hub and leisure centre, swimming pool, football pitches, a health centre, a new education campus, subsidised creche and large, open green spaces.

Combining sport and residential is a new model and it will be very interesting to see how much value it adds.

In the spa and wellness market, we’re seeing the addition of wellbeing services to residential real estate adding anything up to 30 per cent to property values – how much of an uplift will the addition of sport give?

Ferdinand is passionate about the social good that The Legacy Foundation will achieve and this is a vital part of the equation, but if sports participation can also find some true and fair economic value through this model, then it will be an exciting outcome for the industry.

It’s simply vital we find more ways to make positive economic impacts that involve sport participation.

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