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Time for Change?

This Week, I was fortunate to be granted an invitation, to one of the workshops, on the new “Local Delivery Pilots” by Sport England. I was delighted to be accompanied by Client, Metro Swimming Club and local sports trust, Life Leisure, both from Stockport. Here I reflect on some lessons learned and deliberations having thought about the content and discussions.

For those unaware, as I guess many sports practitioners may be: Three or four location-based physical activity projects will be funded by Sport England in March 2017 as part of its local delivery pilot scheme. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s arms-length body has set aside £130m (US$162.2m, €153.5m) of Exchequer and National Lottery funding to encourage physical activity in specific areas over the next four years. A handful of pilot projects will be selected next spring before Sport England begins work on 10 further projects that will “require further development” during 2017.”

The outcomes that are sought from this changing regime are consistent with former hierarchies, namely: physical and mental well being, individual development, social and community development and economic considerations. There is no hiding from the fact that the prime objective remains trying to counteract the remaining substantial inactivity in populations in the United Kingdom (UK). Such inactivity also to recognise and affect the ‘under represented’ groups .

25.6% of us do less than 30 minutes of exercise a week. The under represented include evidence of: socio-economic shortcomings (i.e. higher = higher uptake), disability or impairment, with some additional variations by ethnicity and gender. Thankfully the new strategy starts with an evaluation of recognition that we are all ‘individuals’ with life cycle factors that impinge upon our uptake of exercise. The desire is to move more away from the treatment of markets as homogeneous groups or market segments without an acceptance of variations. ‘One size doesn’t fit all’. Taking this interpretation, naturally a geographical or spatial evaluation follows this same hypothesis. Hence, ‘local’ should in theory lead to better understanding and better results in sports strategy.

Unfortunately, many involved with sports will not have had the benefit of this workshop. Though, all clubs should be involved and try to understand when funding recipients are announced, how they might play a part in developmental plans. In addition, my opinion is that Sport England, should not ‘throw out the baby with the bath water’. The spokespeople announced that county sports partnerships (CSPs) would not expect to be applicants. In my opinion, they should be allowed to, as in some areas, not all, the CSP might be the best suited to create new models. In other areas, ‘localised’ could be a Borough-wide initiative. That same ‘baby’ might be wise to stay in place with adoption or growth of existing tactics that work. Witness for example, the Sportivate and I Wish I’d Tried in my Home Town of Stockport that has led to my successful projects of tacking inactivity and increasing sports participation in rugby and volleyball.

Sport England has announced that it seeks a ‘whole system approach’ with applications for funding to clearly illustrate: the individual, social environment, organisations, physical environment and policy. All to be expanded upon in the publication: “Sport England – Towards An Active Nation”. It remains to be seen if the funding decisions allow real innovation, as I feel is needed, and if decision makers have the cahoonas to award finance to new and inspirational ideas and new recipients in cases, rather than be influenced by ‘political’ motives and present ‘loudest voices’.

This could be a great opportunity for change – and I for one don’t want to be sat here in the next ten years’ describing once again how we are no further forward.

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