Sports Think Tank Interview Shadow Sports Minister Clive Efford

Posted: Thu, 31 Jul 2014 08:39

Sports Think Tank Interview Shadow Sports Minister Clive Efford

Earlier this week Shadow Culture Secretary Harriet Harman and Shadow Sports Minister Clive Efford released the 'More Sport for All' document, Labour's public consultation on government backing for sport and physical activity. Charlie Macey subsequently interviewed Mr Efford to find out what this would mean, should they find themselves in government from May 2015.

1. What are the three key priorities that you would like to take forward from the More Sport for All report into government?

'We want to get in place a long-term plan so that we can bring an end to the constant change of direction of sport policy. The other, is to engage people at the grassroots level, the people who really know how things are delivered within our communities, so they can have an influence over organisation and planning at local level.'

'I would encourage people to get involved in local networks and sport. Where I have seen them in place, they are very effective.'

2. You discuss the need to ensure all children have at least two hours a week of physical activity in schools and the success of the previous Labour Government's School Sport Partnerships. Would you fund SSPs again if you got into office?

'How we organise sport within schools will be a matter for discussion. We must use the resources we have most effectively but also identify sources that could provide additional funds, such as the levy on sport betting and ensuring the Premier League invest the agreed 5% of their domestic television rights into grassroots sport.

Most of all, it is how we organise at the local level. We would encourage schools to cooperate with one another and use the sport premium money to deliver sport by working together and ensuring better value for money. Ironically, in spite of what the government did to School Sports Partnerships, where they survive, the evidence suggests that the sport premium money is being spent most effectively. We would encourage much more of that working.

At this moment in time, we cannot promise any extra resources to say 'we will return to a patchwork of School Sports Partnerships that cover every school in the country like we had when we left office in 2010'. It was a tragedy that the structure was destroyed, even though there are things we could learn from that and improve in the future. It wasn't perfect, but it was working very well. We need to get back to that structure, but within the resources that we have.'

3. How would you implement your cross-governmental approach to sport and physical activity policy?

'We are talking about having a cross-departmental committee chaired by myself. This is an idea that we came up during our time in government and would involve all the relevant departments to try and coordinate, as best as we can, the resources from the centre.

For example, we do not want the Department of Health acting in a silo where it is starting to get a community programme together to get more people active and tackle health issues, whilst the Department of Justice is trying to do something to tackle anti-social behaviour, whilst the Local Government is cutting back on facilities that they need to deliver that. This is the insane situation that we have at the moment. We will want to get that better coordinated and start to build a relationship with the sports networks out there, so that they can help us find the most effective way to use our resources out there in the community.'

4. Do you think the public, as consumers, are listened to enough by the sports sector? How would you change this?

'No I don't think they are but we need to ask the question, who is the consumer in this? Is it either the people who are running very small organisations within the community that are looking for grants so that they can build on what they are doing? Or, is it someone that want's to turn up and use a sports facility? The word consumer covers a wide-range of people who want to engaged in sport or organise more.

I believe we need to better understand what people at the local level think, to help them expand the amount of activity that is wanted at that level.

We also want to create an environment where volunteers are able to get involved in organising sport in their local communities.

5. The evidence indicates that many National Governing Bodies are not innovating enough to increase participation in their sport, whereas many other organisations are doing this successfully. Do you support SE's current policy to also invest in those organisations which deliver increased participation, or as some believe, funding should go to the NGBs regardless?

'Sport England is beginning to talk about other partnerships to drive forward participation and I think that is the right thing to do. National Governing Bodies do have a role to play. I would want to sit down and talk to them about how we measure participation; how we set targets; what are realistic targets; and where we can make a difference in the most deprived communities, to make sure people being least active get active.

To achieve this we have to do this by developing partnerships between local organisations, sports governing bodies, Sport England, the government and everybody else.'

6. There is a significant technology revolution going on which is changing the way the public interacts with the world around them, including in sport and physical activity. How will you encourage the sports sector to adopt technology and use the data this generates to help achieve your community policy aims?

'I think new technology can make a major contribution to engaging young people. Innovations like apps that tell young people about calorie intake and the amount of exercise that they are doing, all which can be recorded in personal logs. This can help educates them and to examine their daily lifestyle: to learn about the implications of eating far too much or not burning enough fat.

Young people are also engaging with new technology through social media in a way that past generations never had the opportunity to do. This also has an enormous contribution to make to ensure people are aware that being physically active and the way they go about their daily lives can make a difference to their wellbeing.

We also have to get away from the issue about body image. It is about having a healthy lifestyle. There people who say it is better to be active and fat, than thin and inactive. This is the important message that we have to get across and technology can help us do this - this is about an active and healthy lifestyle, and enjoyment. It is not about fitting into the latest fashion or trend.'

7. What has been the Premier League's response to your idea to enforce the 5% broadcasting levy they agreed to be invest in grassroots sport? Should this money be spent by the Premier League or distributed via other organisations?

'This is a voluntary agreement that the Premier League went into in 1999. They have not fulfilled the agreement that 5% of domestic television rights would go into grassroots sport.

They argue about how you define grassroots. I am quite clear about that: it is outside of the professional game and it is about what happens in communities. I would want to see the Premier League, through the Football Foundation, to mainly invest in facilities. Decent quality facilities within local communities would benefit not only grassroots football but would also provide facilities for other sports.

8. For the moment, are you trying to resurrect the 5 percent agreement, but are you aligned with David Crausby's campaign for 7.5 percent of domestic television revenues going into grassroots sport?

'If we could get 5% of roughly £1.1 billion of revenue a year, this would give you in the region of £55 million per year to invest. That is a considerable increase on the money that is being spent at the moment. I would like to see that.

Others have asked 'why are you stopping at domestic television rights because there is an extra £2 billion over the next three years that is coming in from overseas rights – why don't you have 5 percent of that as well?' I am willing to open up that dialogue to increase it to 5% across both domestic and international revenues.

We should hold their feet to the fire and ensure that they pay that 5%. Once we get them there, if we want to get to 7.5 percent, we can then have that discussion. I would like them to hold up to the agreement that they have already given.'

9. Looking five years ahead, how do you think the sports landscape will change in that time and what is the future for DCMS?

'I think DCMS has got a vital role in coordinating all of this. It is an essential role for bringing together the strategies of government and sport community, to engage more people and capture the next generation of young people; broaden the pool of talent from which we are drawing tomorrow's elite; giving people the broadest experience of sport at the earliest age so that they can make informed choices when finding the right sport for them, and supporting them if they are returning to sport later in life.

I also believe we will need to expand the leisure industry. By creating more demand this sector will need to grow significantly and this will also be good for the economy. DCMS, in terms of its sport, and physical and recreational activity, will be right at the heart of that, driving this agenda forwards.'

10. You mentioned yesterday that this is a consultation on community sport and physical activity for all. Is this the first of a series of consultations about sport more broadly that we can expect in the run up to Labour's sports manifesto?

'No. This report on sport is one that I've been working on for a long time and it's very much about engaging with people at the grassroots of sport, setting out our ideas and thinking about how we are going to take things forward.

We plan to publish the results of this consultation, responding to the comments people make. There are things that I know people in the sports community want that are not in this document and I would be keen to have the discussion around those issues. For example, we didn't include school sports coordinators in primary schools. I believe we need to have the responsibility and the oversight for that in the same we do for literacy or maths. I want to encourage the public and the sector, to come back to us and say 'we think this is a sensible way forward.' We are interested to hear all those ideas.

Of course, more broadly, Labour does have a series of documents that we are consulting people on. We also have manifesto commitments that we signed off last week at our policy forum. These commitments will be coming out over the course of the next year, setting out the Labour Party's policies that it would take into government.'

Tags: DCMS, Health, Olympic legacy, Sport, participation, sport policy