Government Strategy Finally Lands with little fanfare
Posted: Fri, 01 Sep 2023 09:41
The government wants to help build a more active nation. This will be done by tackling the high levels of inactivity, and by making sure that the sport and physical activity sector is accessible, inclusive and sustainable.
This strategy sets out how the government will work together with the sector to achieve these aims by ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to get active.
Central to this will be a focus on ensuring that children establish a lifetime of engagement with sport and physical activity, with the introduction of national targets for participation to help hold government and the sector to account for delivering the change that is needed.
Get Active is a call to arms for organisations across the country who deliver sport and physical activity to go further to ensure they are prepared for both future challenges and opportunities.
This strategy updates and builds on Sporting Future, the previous sport strategy which was published in 2015.
So that's the official blurb. But what do people really think?
That's been easy to decode. Everyone in the sector rushed out their 'we welcome this strategy ' statement to the press? Actually who were these statements meant to be read by? I guess people like us at the Sports Think Tank are interested in working out what they really think. I guess officials in DCMS will hope to see their years of hard work putting this together have been recognised and Ministers will love to see if their prized document has landed well or not! But behind the welcome statements you sense a lack of enthusiasm and a general malaise. Basically there was no new money announced, some ambitious targets without the details of how these will be achieved without new money and a general sense that this is a government that won't be around in 2030!
This general sense of being underwhelmed was captured in the Guardian Holes picked in Conservatives' new activity strategy for UK sport | Sport | The Guardian
We would echo these sentiments. There are a lot of words. A lot. Behind closed doors, however, and there is frustration that the strategy does not deliver concrete proposals for effecting change that will enable such ambitious targets to be reached in just seven years. The job of defining the details i left to a 'TaskForce' being co-chaired by SoS Lucy Frazer and Ugo Moyne. We really like Ugo Moyne and will wait to see if this high profile former athlete choice will work. We know delivery is really boring and technical. But we also know politicians like high profile names! Sometimes it works. Mostly it doesn't. The membership of the Taskforce will set the tone. It can't be stuffed with profile names, but also needs to avoid just being the same producer interests. Accountability for investment and failure needs to be really clear.
Labour's shadow sports minister, Jeff Smith, said: "This long delayed report continues the tradition of words but no substance from this government on sports. Instead of another taskforce, the government should come forward with a substantive plan to get our country more active. Labour would include a greater emphasis on sports in schools to set young people up for active lives."
Sadly despite all the work and year long delays perhaps Jeff is right. We have lots of fine words, claims to be ambitious but no plan. Yes this is a strategy for 2023-30 but with less than a year to go before the general election we are doubtful much will happen in those 12 months. Perhaps a sprinkling of some money in the Autumn statement or March Budget but nothing to make up for a decade of austerity.
Still, we have something to work with and there are some clear but subtle messages. Ministers have 3 sections, two of which are effectively asking the sector to do better. Indeed even the section on increasing echoes what we have been saying. If you want to drive up equity in and levels of participation doing more of the same with the existing partners isn't going to work. A fresh approach investing in deeply committed groups within local communities and populations will be the way forward to tackle inequalities. The NGBs will be worried by some of the tone of this Strategy I suspect.
We look forward to sharing more detailed analysis from our commentators and contributors over the next couple of weeks. We are in the fortunate position not to be a lobby organisation vying for attention. So excpect some sober and critical thinking over the next few weeks as the details are absorbed.
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