In July 2015, the government launched a consultation document to tackle the fall in sport participation across the country. Sports Minister Tracey Crouch stressed that funding must be better targeted towards the drop in people participating in regular exercise following the post-2012 Olympics surge.
Despite statistics revealing there are 1.4 million more people playing sport in England since 2005, the current trend is one of general decline - the only rise in figures was recorded just after England won the bid to host the Olympics 2012 and just after the games themselves. In fact, recent figures have shown that there are now 1.2 million more people doing no sport at all, in particularly those from lower socio economic groups.
Following the launch of the consultation, Tracey Crouch said: "There are challenges to address to help further improve sport in this country. Sports participation figures have declined recently and the government wants to ensure that public funding is targeted at those organisations who can deliver in encouraging people to get involved in sport and physical activity.”
The new strategy
Following a period of 4 months which Crouch spent consulting all relevant bodies, the new strategy released in December 2015 outlines the need for sports government bodies to demonstrate projects that have a "meaningful, measurable impact” on improving people’s lives in order for them to receive funding.
The strategy redefines what success in sport means, with a new focus on five key outcomes - physical wellbeing, mental wellbeing, individual development, social and community development and economic development.
Crouch said; "We will invest in sport and physical activity that shows how it can have a positive impact on people's lives, how it brings communities together, while ensuring it continues to make a significant contribution to the economy too."
Key features of the new strategy include:
- A focus on getting younger children active, with investment starting at five years old (as opposed to the previous 14 years and above).
- A shift in emphasis away from only funding formal sport to more general fitness.
- More cooperation between government and sport on improving our major team sports at grass roots level, safety and winning bids for events.
- Investment prioritised towards initiatives encouraging physical activity among the inactive and projects that help young people gain skills to aid employment and tackle social exclusion and mental health problems.
- Sport England, alongside UK Sport and other Home Nations Sports Councils, adhering to a sports governance code by September 2017 in order to continue to receive public funding.
- A new business strategy developed by the government to help support growth, improve access to finance and develop skills in the Sport Sector.
Improvements to elite sport included:
- Non-Olympic sports will be supported through grassroots investment, and by sharing UK Sport’s knowledge and expertise.
- Sport England, responsible for grassroots sport, will now share its £1bn budget more widely.
- "Increased exchequer funding” will be provided to support Olympic and Paralympic athletes through to the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
- ukactive chair Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson will lead an independent working group which will focus on alternative career plans for elite athletes.
Will the new strategy improve sports participation in England?
Only time will tell if the new strategy will make the necessary impact intended - "to maintain Britain's reputation as one of the leading nations in the world for putting on major sporting events, while making sure we are the best in the world on good governance. " (Crouch)
So far, sporting and government bodies are commending the strategy. Emma Boggis, chief executive of the Sport and Recreation Alliance said, the government and sport were in agreement the "good work" already being done needed to be more "joined up" and "effectively measured", whilst Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore said the new strategy recognised the league's efforts to invest in community sports.
Double Gold winning GB Champion Dame Kelly Holmes, added; “It is fantastic that the social benefits of sport are being recognised at the highest levels of government.
"This strategy recognises the bridge between sport and improving people’s lives.”
Do YOU think the government's new strategy will improve sport participation in England? We'd like to hear your views below.