This strategy is published in extraordinary times. Every one of us has seen our lives changed in some way by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, and community grassroots sport and physical activity is no exception. In the months and years that lie ahead, all of us, together with the communities we live in, will be adapting and rebuilding. Collectively we need to reimagine how we keep movement, sport and activity central to the lives of everyone. Because if we harness its power, we’ll be able to improve people’s lives in so many ways. That’s why, despite such an uncertain time, we are publishing a strategy for the next decade.
Even before the pandemic we knew we needed a new way of doing things. 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.
Adapting our strategy and upgrading our approach for the times we’re in, and the future we want to build, is crucial. 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.
This doesn’t mean we’re starting from square one. We’ve achieved a great deal and learned a huge amount over the past five years of our previous strategy.
One of the important things we’ve learned is there’s a common misconception about what drives someone to engage: that people are almost solely responsible for their activity levels. It’s assumed that deciding to take part in sport or fitness are lifestyle choices people make for themselves, driven by motivation and willpower. In other words, ‘if people just understood the benefits, they’d find a way to make it happen’.
But while people’s motivations and attitudes are part of the picture, we now understand that what’s happening in our lives day to day, and in the places we live and work, are much bigger factors.
This means we can’t simply tell people about the huge benefits being active brings and then expect them to do something about it.
We need to respond to people’s real lives and circumstances, to make sure that everyone has both options and opportunities that work for them.
That’s why our vision is for the next 10 years, rather than the four or five- year investment plans that have been the norm. This strategy is also different because it focuses on how we need to change as a sector and an ecosystem, so that we can give people the opportunities they need, informed not only by what we’ve learned from the past, but work we’ve done to look at what trends we can see longer term that will shape the next decade.
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.
Tim Hollingsworth OBE
Chief executive, Sport England