The Government’s Sporting Future strategy, published in December 2015, set out a radical new vision for our approach to sport and physical activity, including how we value and measure their immense contribution to the nation’s health and wellbeing. It placed five key outcomes at the heart of everything we support and invest in—physical wellbeing, mental wellbeing, individual development, social and community development and economic development. It identified tackling inactivity and getting people from underrepresented groups more engaged as key priorities. It was a bold new strategy for an active nation and marked the biggest shift in Government policy on sport for more than a decade.
Participation and physical activity
In the third full year of the strategy we have continued to deliver significant achievements. We have seen good progress against the 2020 physical activity targets set by Sport England and will continue to build on our understanding of active lives adult survey data to define robust successor targets for 2025.
A key focus has been developing our understanding of children’s engagement with, and attitude towards, physical activity. The December 2018 publication of the first year’s results of Sport England’s new active lives children survey was a significant milestone in terms of our understanding of how children engage with and think about sport and physical activity. The data on children’s inactivity levels was a wake-up call both for Government and the sector, and has prompted a substantial new focus across Government on improving sport and physical activity for young people. This will be manifested through the cross-government school sport and physical activity action plan which will be published in spring 2019.
Culture and integrity of sport
We have also continued to focus on the culture and integrity of sport. What matters is not just what we do to win medals and enjoy sporting success, but how we go about it. We have continued to work with UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) to implement the findings of the tailored review of UKAD and will be launching a consultation on revising the UK’s national anti-doping policy. We have launched a mental health and elite sport action plan, and UK Sport has reported on the first set of findings from its culture health check, which monitors how athletes and staff in the elite sport system feel they are treated.
Ensuring people feel safe when participating in sport is a significant part of improving and strengthening the culture and integrity in sport. Over the course of the year we have worked across Government and with the sports sector to look at existing processes and strengthen them where possible, integrating sport into the Department for Education’s working together and keeping children safe in education guidance. The governance of sport remains a critical issue and Sport England and UK Sport continue to embed the code for sports governance and work with the sector to improve on issues such as diversity in leadership.
International sport and Global Britain
We have continued our work to ensure that the UK remains one of the big hitters in elite and international sport. UK Sport launched its consultation on its future funding strategy beyond the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, the results of which will be available in February 2019. UK Sport also successfully launched its aspiration fund which will provide invaluable financial support to those sports that do not have immediate medal potential, but which we want to support to improve and develop. We have also revised the gold framework, which provides guidance to partners and agencies seeking to bid for and deliver major sporting events in the UK. The revised framework strengthens the UK’s ability to put on world-class sporting events that will help to further cement its reputation as a world leader on the sporting stage.
Priorities for the future
Looking to the future, cross-government working will be a key priority. Sport and physical activity has an immense role to play in a range of important agendas across Government, be that supporting the NHS to become more prevention focused, joint working with the Department for Education to make sure that a robust sport and physical activity offer to children is available both in and out of school, supporting and informing investment in transport infrastructure so that we are encouraging more people to walk and get on their bikes, or investing in sport and physical activity interventions to help reduce social isolation and strengthen community cohesion.
Supporting underrepresented groups including women and girls, people from BAME backgrounds, disabled people and people from lower socioeconomic groups to get active will continue to be a central focus. These are the groups in society who will benefit the most from getting more active and we remain committed to focusing on these groups as a priority. Equality in sport also applies to what we are able to watch. We can look forward to a number of sporting events on free-to-air TV this year, including the women’s netball world championships and the women’s football world championships. We want sports and broadcasters to continue to work together to ensure sports can continue to grow their appeal and find new audiences.
Preserving and strengthening the integrity of sport will continue to be at the forefront of our work. People having faith in the sports they know and love and athletes having the belief that they are competing on a level playing field are vital pillars of Sporting Future. To this end our focus on ensuring we have robust anti-doping and governance regimes will continue.
One of my highest priorities going forward will be for Government and the whole sport and physical activity sector to work together to ensure that we create the conditions for anyone to get involved and to enjoy the transformative power of both physical activity and witnessing live sport. It is vital that we direct our efforts not only at providing people with sufficient opportunities to get, and stay, active, but that the atmosphere and environment in which that activity takes place—be it grassroots or at the elite level—is safe, supportive and free of discrimination. In recent times, we have seen some worrying instances of discriminatory behaviour across the sporting landscape, notably in football, and I will be bringing together the footballing authorities and other organisations with an interest, to agree what action must be taken to stamp out all forms of discrimination at sports events. I am clear that we must not, and will not, tolerate any form of discrimination in sport and sport administrators, clubs and fans must continue to embrace diversity and tackle racism whenever they encounter it.
As we leave the European Union, we will also continue to work closely with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Department for International Trade, to maximise the great contribution sport can make to our international profile and our vision for Global Britain. Our hosting of the cricket World cup, with an expected global audience of over a billion people, will be a wonderful opportunity to showcase our country in 2019.
We want to make sure absolutely everyone can benefit from the power of sport and physical activity. It can deliver tangible benefits for people’s physical and mental health, support the delivery of other vital agendas such as improving employment and educational outcomes, and it can act as a powerful tool for bringing communities closer together. I am grateful to all those across Government and the sport and physical activity sector who are working to make the ambition of Sporting Future a reality.
There is much more to do to ensure that the UK becomes, and reaps the benefits of, a truly active nation. I will be laying the formal report of the third annual report to Parliament in spring. This will allow us to incorporate the findings of the third full year of Sport England’s active lives adult survey data results due for publication in April 2019.