Sporting Future: Actions speak louder than words

Last week, DCMS launched Sporting Future’s second annual report to share progress against the 2015 sport strategy. The Alliance’s Policy Adviser, Ben Jessup, considers government’s actions to date.

The publication of this second annual report marks the start of the third year of delivery of the government strategy. As we pass this threshold, we must recognise progress in some areas, but also remind ourselves, and government, of the lack of tangible outcomes to date.

Reflecting on the past two years, the governance of sport has seen a great deal of change. A Code for Sport Governance has really pushed the sector to challenge ourselves, and greater diversity and transparency will only improve our decision-making as we work to make sure we are fit for the future.

Similarly, when the Finance Bill was passed into law last November, statutory corporation tax relief for grassroots spending was confirmed. This welcome legislative change has the potential to incentivise additional investment into the sector, and should not be understated.

That being said, broader, evidence-based outcomes have been limited to date.

Although the report's narrative is positive, I am mindful that we must act as a critical friend to government.

This means recognising how progress towards achieving Sporting Future is already benefitting the sector, but also by holding it to account for lack of action.

Cross-government working

The report references cross-government working – such as the recently established Inter-Ministerial Group on Healthy Living – sharing a welcome insight into how government works. The concern will be that collaboration across departments doesn’t appear to be transitioning into significant action.

Such cooperation is integral to real progress, and whilst meetings indicate the beginnings of this, clear outputs have not been presented within the report.

We must now press for government policy to recognise the contribution which sport and physical activity can make across society – sport has the power to change lives and bring communities together.

Healthy Pupils Capital Fund

An item of particular note, the reduction of the Healthy Pupils Capital Fund (HPCF) from £415m to £100m p.a. in July 2017 should not be forgotten.

We were disappointed that the decision to reduce HPCF by more than 75% was not transparently reported, with the limited action around the Childhood Obesity Plan’s recommendations also not referenced. Both were real opportunities to have a positive impact on wider society.

We call on government to be more objective in its reporting if it is to effectively engage and empower the sector and wider stakeholders.

Mental health

Mental health within sport is one area where government is working with the sector, and the Alliance continues to work with DCMS and Mind, amongst others, to develop a really positive action plan around elite sport and mental health.

We look forward to supporting these outputs, but with the Mental Health Charter setting out how sport and recreation organisations should tackle the stigma of mental health and adopt good practice, we are seeking for government to next address grassroots activity. The potential impact is even greater here.

Duty of Care

It’s important to also challenge the timeline for action from the Duty of Care report. We are nine months on from publication of the review, and government has still not published concrete actions in response to the recommendations in the review.

The Alliance will examine a number of key areas mentioned above over the coming weeks. We will be seeking to identify further opportunities for government and the sector to work together to achieve tangible outcomes and change.

After all, actions speak louder than words.

You can read Sporting Future: Second Annual Report in full here.