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Published in Sports Management 2015 issue 3
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What are the Conservative government’s plans for sport?

John Goodbody, journalist, Sunday Times
John Goodbody, journalist, Sunday Times
John Goodbody,

Journalist,,

Sunday Times


Tracey Crouch, the new sports minister, has certainly not been hesitant in voicing strong opinions and concerns since being appointed in June (see interview with Crouch on page 38-40).

Given her background as a coach of a girl’s youth football team, it was not surprising that her first pronouncements dealt with the national game and specifically how little of the Premier League’s television income goes to the grass-roots to improve facilities. The new TV deal is expected to exceed £8bn from 2016-17, once foreign rights are signed, and Crouch wants the Premier League to increase the £1bn it is planning to distribute to clubs and facilities, saying that she is “genuinely appalled” at how small amount this is.

She says: “The £1bn includes parachute payments for relegated clubs, so we can expect around a third to go to the grassroots. That is divided in various ways so by the time you get down to talking about artificial pitches, it’s not very much money at all. I want to see a lot more from Europe’s wealthiest league.”

The Premier League says it already distributes more in “good causes” than any other football league, that it’s not a charity and the clubs need to keep so much money to retain and attract the best players. Whenever there has been a stand-off between the government and football authorities in the past, there has always been the implied threat of the imposition of a Football Commissioner on the game unless the government gets its way. It will be fascinating to see how long it will be before this idea resurfaces.

Crouch was equally outspoken about the drop in mass participation in physical activity. Sport England in June reported that 220,000 fewer people were taking regular exercise than 12 months ago, although the number of regular participants still exceeded 15.5 million, more than it was before the 2012 Olympics.

Most striking was the drop in swimming with 144,200 fewer people swimming on a weekly basis than six months ago, although it remains Britain’s most popular participation activity with 2.5 million people taking part. Attending a gym fell by 150,000. Running, basketball and tennis slightly increased their numbers while figures for most of the standard team games were static.

Crouch said: “The recent downward trend in participation has demonstrated the current approach has had its day. It’s not the return we expect for a large investment of public money. I’m going to develop a new strategy for sport as a matter of urgency.”

Part of this formal review, which is already underway, will involve a more joined up approach to sport and physical activity across Whitehall, especially the Ministry of Health. Crouch will also be talking to officials from national governing bodies, organisations such as Sport England, and anyone else who is considered relevant. It is expected to last several months with a possible conclusion at the end of 2015.

Among the areas the review could look at is how to use social media, such as Facebook, to attract youngsters into sport. Swimming, where the ASA has a new CEO in Adam Paker, needs to encourage more swimming pool operators to develop team-based activities for adults, particularly the elderly.

At the moment, swimming is largely divided between clubs, which cater for competition, leaving the vast majority of recreational swimmers to their own devices. Athletics, with the success of the Saturday Park Runs, should point the way for swimming. More pools should have recreational sessions for groups of people, with attendants helping individuals improve their stroke.

One of the legacies of 2012 was meant to be a rise in the number of people becoming active. Crouch’s review must ensure that this takes place.

New sports minister Tracey Crouch has announced there will be a new strategy for sport (for more, read interview with Crouch on page 38-40)
New sports minister Tracey Crouch has announced there will be a new strategy for sport (for more, read interview with Crouch on page 38-40)

Sport is gaining traction – and the best is still ahead

Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, chair, ukactive
Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, chair, ukactive
Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson,

Chair,

ukactive


Coming from a background of sport and competition, I’ve had to adjust to my new day job sitting in the House of Lords. It’s an incredible place and I feel honoured to be able to make a mark on the decision making process – but one thing is clear: the pace of the decision making can be tediously slow.

We’re in the business of getting things right, of visiting and re-visiting policy and making what seem like endless amendments to legislation. But, we’re making new laws, so it’s right that we get into the detail. Personally though, I think there’s something to be said for taking risks, for being bold.

Businesses within the physical activity sector have an incredible role to play as innovators and incubators of new ideas, programmes and practices. We’ve made some excellent progress in highlighting the issue of physical inactivity at the highest levels of government. We’ve created tangible benefits for the sector, like the doubling of public health spend; the growth of National Fitness Day and continued partnership of Change 4 Life. But, I sincerely believe the best is yet to come.

Physical activity will play an increasingly prominent role in society, including the fundamental design of cities and housing. Recent market developments have made the City of London prick up its ears, and powerful backing could help accelerate progress. The growth of what we have to offer will attract investors and speculators which will give the sector an even bigger wingspan.

In future, physical activity will play an increasingly prominent role in society / www.shutterstock.com
In future, physical activity will play an increasingly prominent role in society/ www.shutterstock.com

Time for the sports sector to get fit for the future

Emma Boggis, CEO, Sports and Recreation Alliance
Emma Boggis, CEO, Sports and Recreation Alliance
Emma Boggis,

CEO,

Sports and Recreation Alliance


Figures from Sport England’s latest Active People Survey show a very mixed picture. There are 1.4m more people playing sport regularly than in 2005, when London won the bid to host the 2012 Games, but the number has fallen since the Games.

Sports clubs and organisations continue to face a difficult environment when it comes to increasing participation, including countrywide falls in local authority funding which have implications for local facilities, and real average incomes only just returning to the levels they were at seven years ago. The fact is that many people wanting to play sport face increasing costs, while having less money in their pocket. Many are also time poor – with a range of competing demands on their time.

In response to the latest figures the new minister for sport, Tracey Crouch, has announced she’s going to bring forward a new cross government policy for sport which joins up government objectives. This is welcome news. Like many organisations the Alliance has been advocating a cross-departmental sport and physical activity strategy for some time. It is an obvious step for our sector and it makes sense for government, so we look forward to working closely with our partners at DCMS to ensure the views of our members are reflected in what is produced. Importantly we want to see something which reflects both the breadth of the sport and recreation sector and the benefits it can bring.

The picture of delivery is a complex one and that is why we have just launched a new programme of activity to identify and address the key challenges for the sector. At our Sports Summit in June we published the first in what will be a series of reports to help our members become Fit for the Future. The aim is to help NGBs to become better equipped to increase participation in their sport and help keep the nation active.

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