England & Wales Culture, sport and tourism

New Year resolutions on getting fit – can councils help us to keep them?


CC0 license via picography.co

Friday 22 January, three weeks into the new year, is when our resolutions generally get discarded – on “Fail Friday” – roughly 75 per cent fall by the wayside. Perhaps a different approach will bring more success, writes Chris Hayes.

As many of us begin to think about how we are going to shed those extra pounds we have put on over the festive season, the sports sector will be looking at new approaches to connect more of us with sport and fitness projects that not only get us more active, but also give us new skills, improve our physical and mental health, and improve the communities we live in: a win-win situation.

The government, after a four-month consultation, has launched its new sports strategy to encourage more people to get involved in a broader offer of sport and physical activity.

Sporting Future: A new Strategy for an Active Nation extends the remit of Sport England to invest in sport and physical activity for children and young people from the age of five through to pensioners in a bid to create a more active nation.

The sports agency will be expected to spread its £1 billion budget more widely and more efficiently, targeting sports projects that have a measurable impact on improving a broader range of life outcomes for people, rather than those focussed on increasing participation for its own sake. Projects that have educational, economic or societal benefits or target groups of people less likely to engage in sport such as people with disabilities, girls and women, disadvantaged communities and pensioners, will also benefit.

That is good news for sports projects like Access Sport, Greenhouse Sports, parkrun, Sported, StreetGames and Street League, while National Governing Bodies of sport (NGBs), which have traditionally benefited from a greater share of Sport England’s budgets, will have to work harder to demonstrate the wider impacts of their sports.

Other features of the strategy include:

  • The Premier League will at least double their investment in grassroots football to help improve local facilities and projects
  • The Active People Survey measure will be replaced by Active Lives, a wider survey that will also measure activities such as dance, rambling and cycling to work
  • A new UK wide sports governance code by September 2016, mandatory for sports bodies applying for public funding from 2017, to improve board composition, representation and transparency
  • A working party to look at ways to make sport safer
  • Co-operation between Government, the sports councils, NGBs and UK sport – the agency that funds elite sport – in bidding for world-class events.

The strategy has received a broad welcome by the sports sector. The Local Government Association (LGA) has also welcomed the strategy while continuing its call for more sports funding to be devolved.

We all know making resolutions in January to get fit don’t always work – but being involved in groups, community sports and activities isn’t just for January – and it doesn’t have to mean going to the gym. Councils have a major role here – in all kinds of ways – let’s hope the new strategy will go further in devolving funding to where it can be most effectively used.

LGiU will produce a full briefing on the Sports Strategy in the New Year.