Build Back Better

Posted: Mon, 22 Jun 2020 10:15

Build Back Better

At the start of Lockdown it felt as though our world had been turned upside down and there was a desire to get back to normal as quickly as possible. We will review the timing of lockdown and handling of the Coronavirus pandemic by the UK government at some stage in the future, but as the first few weeks passed you could feel an excitement that things had changed forever and everything would be different when we returned to that now over used phrase - a 'New Normal'

But as we head into the further easing of Lockdown restrictions between now and early July when the government is expected to announce wholesale opening up of the economy with lower restrictions I wonder how much of that heady idealism of mid lockdown is being lost in the dash to get back?

Of course there are financial pressures to get back to the old way as quickly as possible. Nobody underestimates that pressure. None more than us here at the Think Tank. But hopefully there have been those who have kept a wider perspective and will build back better rather than just the same.

Given that the old system had multiple problems why would we rush back without using this crisis as an opportunity to reboot? Here are some issues that needed addressing and many have been made worse by Covid and exposed the inequalities. Should we go back to rewarding poor behaviours?

Some professional sports are unsustainable on their current models. Football below the Premiership and Rugby Union have showed this. We have known the problems in Rugby League and Cricket in the Counties for a long time. The government even recognised this with a bailout for RL. Strangely Basketball didn't get the £1m it asked for.

As the BLM campaigns gathered pace they allowed the nation to see the inequalities in leadership and Boards for the BAME community. Nothing new for those of us who have been campaigning for years on this issue with organisations like Sporting Equals. Why would we want to go back to normal where only 4% of leaders in sport are from the BAME community?

And it is not just this one issue. The crisis has exacerbated the inequalities in delivery, provision and participation in sport and physical activity that already existed. Sport and PA are part of the wider problems in society of inequality and social justice. So if we just go back to normal these will be just perpetuated.

There have also of course been some positives. Recognition of the benefits in sport and physical activity have increased and some groups have increased their level of participation (we will see how much of this is time and weather!), but if we build back society differently the issue of time is something we could address. If we are all only commuting 1-2 day per week this may ease other parts of life!

As we have always argued the sector can help in getting the nation active but it is not the solution. This comes from building activity back into our daily lives in other ways. The explosion of temporary cycle lanes could be a game changer... or it could just wither away in the winter.

The other programmes of government about re building community need to be embraced. There are call for a new localism agenda. What impact will that have? The New Towns Deal monies and rebuilding our High streets give us an opportunity to build back differently. In some recent consultation work we were involved in on economic recovery and regeneration it was disappointing to see sport and PA and leisure featured lowly in people's priorities. We too often over claim how central we are to our local communities. We have to be honest and realistic. When I hear claims that club XYZ is the heart of the community I want evidence! I am not sure many of us really are!

School sport and PE, the Sport for Development sector, the Trusts handing back contracts to local authorities - all struggling in lockdown. On the flip side innovation and online materials available for us to work out at home... which was already one of the big societal trends we needed to embrace.

At this stage there are far more questions swirling around our work than answers. But one thing we do know is that racing to get back to the old normal is not the answer to the problems we had before!

Tags: DCMS, Featured, Governance Code, PE, Sport England, Sports Policy, Sports Think Tank, school sport, sport