A coalition of leading organisations across sport, recreation and physical activity has come together for the first time to call for radical reform to support the growth and development of the sector.
A landmark report, ‘Unlocking the potential’, proposes a clear strategic vision for how to fully harness the sport, recreation and physical activity sector to improve the physical, mental and social wellbeing of the nation and support our renewal as a country post-pandemic.
The report argues the sector can be integral to successfully delivering a number of key government priorities, including ‘levelling up’, driving economic growth, achieving net-zero and supporting the NHS.
Senior health leaders have consistently called physical activity the ‘miracle cure’ which can tackle the growing burden of preventable illness.
The report also proposes a range of systemic interventions, including access to investment, tax and regulatory changes and wider policy reform which the coalition believes are key to maximising this role.
Collectively, the National Sector Partners Group (NSPG) and its members help deliver £85bn per annum in social value through improved health and wellbeing, educational attainment, community cohesion, reduced crime and economic impact. The physical activity sector supports more than half a million jobs and engages more than six million volunteers.
If anything, the current political instability in Westminster brings into sharp focus what we are calling for in the report, reinforcing the need for a different approach built on substantive, long-term policy solutions to the challenges we collectively face.
The NSPG includes Active Partnerships, the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity, the Local Government Association, the Sport for Development Coalition, the Sport and Recreation Alliance, ukactive, and the Youth Sport Trust.
Leaders of the NSPG organisations said: “As leading voices in the sector, we are united in calling for fundamental change that will transform the role our sector can play in the national renewal.
“We believe that ours is a sector that needs to be empowered, supported and protected so that it can grow and realise its full societal potential.
“We also firmly believe that, by working more collaboratively with all arms of government and its agencies, sport, recreation and physical activity can make a far greater contribution to the key public policy challenges the Government now faces.
“In the context of the ongoing review of the Government’s sport strategy ‘Sporting Future’ and the ‘School Sport and Activity Action Plan’, we believe this is the right time to make a positive and constructive contribution to the debate.
“We hope this report can help shape that debate within government and beyond, and support further dialogue on the kinds of interventions we believe are necessary to unlock the potential of our sector.
“Fundamentally, we are asking for two things with this report:
“Firstly, securing a greater recognition of the enormous potential of sport, recreation, and physical activity across Whitehall and for this to be connected explicitly to the delivery of key cross-government priorities, including levelling up, strengthening public services, driving economic growth and net zero.
“Secondly, that the sector is given the right tools and operating environment to succeed. This means recognising we are a dynamic, interconnected economic sector which requires the same vision, investment and policy reform as any other.”
Examples of proposed reforms to support the sector’s growth and development include:
- Dedicated support to stabilise public sport and leisure to support physical activity levels alongside long-term investment to develop modern, inclusive and sustainable community facilities and places and spaces for people to be active.
- Fundamental reforms to the tax treatment of sport, recreation and physical activity, encompassing changes to VAT, business rates, corporation tax and wider tax, and giving measures to reduce burdens and incentivise investment and growth.
- An ambitious national strategy for PE, school sport and physical activity supported by long-term funding and clear accountability measures designed to drive up activity levels, health and wellbeing of children and young people across all age groups.
- Ring-fenced investment in sport-based programmes as part of key government plans to cut crime, improve health, raise educational attainment and enhance the skills and employability of young people.
- Greater access to investment through explicit inclusion of sport, recreation and physical activity in key levelling up funding streams.
- Improved understanding of the availability and accessibility of built facilities and the natural environment at local level to identify risks and opportunities and target investment effectively.
- Greater emphasis on the role of sport, recreation and physical activity in reducing the burden of preventable disease at national level through the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) and locally through newly-formed Integrated Care Systems.
The National Sector Partners Group will continue to work constructively with the government, along with its members and wider stakeholders, to take forward the recommendations in this report.
To read the full report, click here.