It is clear government is aware of the power of this sector – the Conservatives have pledged £500m for grassroots football, Labour has voiced its support for a 2030 World Cup bid and the Liberal Democrats have promised to reinstate funding that was cut from the public health budget.
However, sport and recreation has so far been limited to a very narrow physical activity debate, with its benefits largely underestimated.
As part of the manifesto, the Alliance is calling for a nationwide audit of facilities, including green and blue spaces. This ask has now been supported by Swim England.
Our members at Swim England recently released a report on the ‘Value of Swimming’, showing how positively swimming contributes to physical and mental wellbeing. It adds to individual and community development and saves our health and social care system a staggering £357m a year.
Yet according to the governing body, only a quarter of swimming pools in England will remain open in 30 years if they do not receive extra investment, leaving little opportunity for people to maximise the rewards of taking to the water.
Jane Nickerson, Swim England Chief Executive, said: “Our Value of Swimming report showed just how valuable swimming is, both to individuals who are happier and healthier because of water-based activity, but also to society through savings to the NHS and more connected communities.
“However, none of that can happen without the appropriate facilities. That’s why we’re delighted to see the Sport and Recreation Alliance’s manifesto calling for the next government to properly fund sport and recreation, including a long-term investment plan for facilities.
“An ageing pool stock coupled with a growing population means this issue is absolutely crucial for all our aquatic disciplines and something we will continue to champion.”
With pressures on our health care system at an unprecedented level and the nation facing an inactivity epidemic, these findings simply cannot be overlooked.
Government must commit to additional funding and a long-term investment plan for facilities, as stated by our manifesto asks, to make sure more individuals nationwide can reap the benefits of sport and physical activity.
Swimming is just one example of how physical activity is having a significant social impact on the population. With widespread, high-quality facilities and a well-mapped pathway, more communities will be able to fulfil longer and happier lives.
To read the full Sport and Recreation Alliance Election Manifesto, head here.