I recently attended the launch of Sport England’s new 10-year strategy ‘Uniting the Movement’ and wanted to collate some thoughts about their strategy and future for the sector.
In a year when the main message has been ‘stay at home’, staring at screens for work or play, their strategy starts from a point of getting us to just stand up and start moving.
With the uncertainties faced by the sport and physical activity sector over the past year, my first thought is that Sport England’s ‘Uniting the Movement’ is ambitious to be looking so far into the future. Organisations have had to be flexible and adapt quickly during COVID-19, creating short term strategies for dealing with unexpected challenges to the way they operate. Therefore it is a bold plan for Sport England to not only look to recover and reinvent after the impact of the pandemic, but also to be setting out plans for the future.
My second thoughts were around the strategy strapline ‘Uniting the Movement’. The word ‘movement’ is defined in two ways:
- An ‘act of moving’ or
- A ‘change or development’
To take the first definition, I find it interesting that Sport England have gone for simply ‘movement’; no mention of sport, or even physical activity in the strategy title. The ambition appears to be just getting us moving! In a year when the main message has been ‘stay at home’, staring at screens for work or play, the strategy starts from a point of getting us to just stand up and start moving.
Sport England’s research found activity levels had been increasing over many years until coronavirus restrictions were introduced in March 2020. This led to unprecedented drops in activity during the first few weeks of full lockdown between mid-March 2020 and mid-May 2020.
Our own research for Sport England throughout the pandemic explored qualitatively the challenges to motivation to be active, with concerns about COVID-19 itself, the economic situation, and trials of lockdown e.g. home-schooling. Our quantitative research also showed declines in levels of physical activity as we entered autumn, and into winter as well. It is no surprise that with restrictions on the sports and activities that are available, Sport England are encouraging us to ‘move’.
The second definition of movement is a ‘change or development’ – implying that the sport and physical activity sector, and the general public, are joining together for something new. I like this as it taps not only into the shock of the pandemic and a desire to do things differently in the future, but also the other societal shift in 2020; that of Black Lives Matter. We can see this is also a focus of Sport England through its commitment to inclusivity, not just in terms of ethnicity but also disability and gender in sport.
It has recently appointed a Diversity and Inclusion Champion, showing commitment to this topic, and is reviewing the Code of Sports Governance, with a focus on D&I. The Code applies to all organisations receiving grants from either Sport England or UK Sport. Savanta ComRes recently completed the consultation on the Code, gathering feedback in a survey and focus groups among stakeholders in the sector. The updated Code is yet to be published but Sport England’s commitment to improving diversity and inclusion in the sports sector is admirable.
Creating change is a long-term project, so maybe a 10-year strategy is the most appropriate one to meet the second objective of ‘movement’.
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