Championing grassroots sport

Blog from Justin Tomlinson MP, co-chair of the APPG for Sport, about the benefits of grassroots sport and the role MPs have to play in championing their local sports scene.

My passion for sport                                                                                                              

I went to a school which was bottom of the league table where some of my ex-classmates ended up in prison. The reason that I managed to stay out of trouble is because I was too tired after playing sport with my friends every day. Sport has amazing potential; whether it’s disability sport, as portrayed heroically by our utterly inspiring team of Paralympians; whether it’s delivering sport to disadvantaged backgrounds, so that youngsters stay out of trouble; or whether it is simply promoting a range of skills including teamwork, competitiveness and motivation; as well as general health & well-being – both mentally and physically. The power of sport is huge.

APPG for Sport

Having previously chaired the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Sport before, I was delighted to be put forward again in this Parliament to become Chair for another spell. APPGs are informal groups of MPs and members of the House of Lords, brought together by a common interest. Together with my Co-Chair Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and colleagues across all parties, we campaign in Westminster to raise the profile of sport and its many benefits to individuals, communities and society at large. We also aim to make sure that organisations such as the Sport and Recreation Alliance and its many members have a voice in Parliament.

Parliamentary Sports Fair

Today I hope to see many of my fellow MPs at our Parliamentary Sports Fair. The Sports Fair is a celebration of the achievements of the APPG for sport over the past year and will bring together a number of sport and recreation APPGs, including mountaineering, running, angling and cricket. There will be plenty of activities for members to try, at what I hope will be a fun-filled afternoon.

#GetYourKitOn – a campaign for long term sustainability, support and funding for grassroots sport and recreation

The Sports Fair also coincides with the launch of the Sport and Recreation Alliance’s Guide to Grassroots Sport and Recreation. The Guide’s publication follows on from the #GetYourKitOn (#GYKO) campaign that was launched by the Alliance last November to highlight the value that the public places on government investment in sport, and to protect funding for the sector. Encouraging the development of grassroots sport is something we at the APPG feel passionately about and we were delighted when the Chancellor of the Exchequer confirmed in his Spending Review that funding would be protected in real terms throughout the rest of the current Parliament.

I strongly believe that there is a place in politics for sport, and that sport has a place for politics. #GYKO demonstrates this relationship in action. As politicians, we have a duty to consider the wider implications of the spending decisions and legislation that we create, and the impact it will have on our constituents. We should be encouraging discussions about the vast social, health and economic value of participation in sport, and we should be supporting our colleagues to do the same.

How parliamentarians can make a difference

As a voice for our constituents, all MPs have a responsibility to champion issues and campaigns that will have a positive effect in local communities across the country. That's why we have teamed up with the Alliance to ask both MPs and Peers to become champions of grassroots sport and recreation – to celebrate success, share best practice, and support local clubs and individuals to embrace new opportunities and tackle any challenges facing them head on.

What can the sector do to ‘get involved’

Political engagement isn’t just for lobbyists, it’s a process that more groups and organisations should feel able to get involved with. That’s why I'm also calling on national governing and representative bodies of sport to engage with political decision-makers. By working together, and with the support of organisations like the Sport and Recreation Alliance, the benefits of grassroots sport can be celebrated and challenges can be tackled head-on.

At a local level, clubs and community groups should be encouraged to engage with their MPs and look to them for support when needed. Lastly, and most importantly – individuals and volunteers at the grassroots – don't forget to invite your MP to visit your projects and clubs. Show them the positive influence your club has on your community and what support you need to make a bigger impact. Ask them to "Get Their Kit On" and inspire them to become champions of sport and recreation both in Westminster and in their own constituencies.

Related content

Get Your Kit On - Grassroots Guide