Some of the key policy concerns of the last decade have been about increasing activity, promoting community spirit, increasing connectedness and volunteerism, skills promotion and more recently combatting loneliness.
For me, community sport has helped with all of these. I play myself and support my son’s age group at my local rugby club. Through the club, I’ve increased my social network, become more fit, gained skills like First Aid and coaching, and become more connected to my local community. I’ve made strong friendships which has increased my personal resilience. The Sport and Recreation Alliance says that joining a sport club adds to life satisfaction as much as a £3,600 pay raise. I’ve written in a personal capacity about what rugby has given to me, but I’m not sure I could put a value on what I’ve gained.
My son has made great friends, too – and I’ve found a community of adults who take an active interest in my son’s development and bring skills, experiences and connections that I don’t have. I do the same for their kids, too. Beyond that, there’s value in learning physical skill, discipline and dare I say it – good sportsmanship and healthy competition.
Councils are now responsible for public health and they’ve long played an important role in providing support for community sporting clubs – through recreation grounds and leisure facilities, although there’s no statutory responsibility for sport. In a time when councils are worried about meeting statutory obligations, this makes sport particularly vulnerable to cuts.
There’s a growing acknowledgement that councils need to be conveners in their communities, a platform for support and managers of demand on high-cost services. And while community sport doesn’t provide all the answers, it certainly has a contribution to make on a number of key policy agendas.
At LGiU, we’d like to explore how councils and community sport can contribute to each other’s goals more effectively. How councils can support sporting activities for all ages and abilities and how sporting clubs can work more closely with councils to add community value, cohesiveness and skills and tackle the damage of isolation and inactivity. Let’s get the ball rolling.