Sport England launched its new long-term strategy 'Uniting the Movement' this week with a pledge to tackle inequalities and provide opportunities "to people and communities that have traditionally been left behind".
The 10-year plan lays out how the funding body intends to “transform lives and communities through sport and physical activity”, and follows an extensive consultation with a wide range of partners and communities over the last 18 months.
As well as pledging to tackle inequalities, the strategy focuses on the wellbeing and welfare of young people, improving health and wellbeing across age-groups, connecting communities and active environments – creating and protecting the spaces and places that make it easier for people to be active. A section entitled ‘Recover and reinvent’ also looks at if and how sport and physical activity providers can recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We believe sport and physical activity has a big role to play in improving the physical and mental health of the nation, supporting the economy, reconnecting communities and rebuilding a stronger society for all,” it reads.
“For too long, people with the most to gain from being active have been the least able to take part. As a result of the huge disruption 2020 has caused, and the inequalities it’s reinforced or even exacerbated – such as those around socio-economic status and ethnicity – our drive to do things differently and confront these inequalities head on is stronger than ever.
“This strategy is different not just because it’s a vision for the next 10 years. It sets how we need to change as a sector and an ecosystem, so that we can give people the opportunities they need now and in the future.
“More than anything, it seeks to tackle the inequalities we’ve long seen in sport and physical activity. Providing opportunities to people and communities that have traditionally been left behind, and helping to remove the barriers to activity, has never been more important.”
The Chair of the Sport for Development Coalition, Andy Reed, welcomed the inceased focus on social outcomes, and called for a “new social contract with sport and physical activity” for communities, policy-makers and funders as part of a reset of what sport and physical activity means in the country.
Andy said: “The impact of the pandemic, growing social challenges and subsequent widening inequalities mean we urgently need a new social contract with sport and physical activity, focused on the wider social outcomes that sport can deliver.
“Therefore we welcome the ambition of Sport England’s strategy to maximise the contribution of sport and physical activity to changing lives and improving communities, and long-term commitment to removing the barriers to sport and activity that exist for so many individuals and communities.”
Earlier this week, the Coalition launched its own ‘Adapt Support Respond’ initiative to showcase the contribution of organisations across its network, who are adapting their services to continue delivery throughout lockdown, preparing to support the recovery from the pandemic, and getting ready to respond to many of the big societal challenges that lie ahead.
He added: “Sport and physical activity have an important role to play as we seek to recover from the pandemic, and respond to the new challenges and realities which will follow it.
“We must expand understanding, recognition and investment in the contribution that sport can make beyond health and wellbeing, to addressing loneliness and social isolation, improving educational attainment and employability, to community cohesion, and reducing anti-social behaviour and entry into the justice system.
“As a growing Coalition of more than 160 charities, governing bodies, community groups, clubs and foundations, we are fully committed to supporting Sport England’s vision to maximise the contribution of sport to changing lives and improving communities, and welcome the vision and ambition of this long-term strategy.”