Sport England is in the midst of a significant transformation process. Since launching its new strategy in 2016 under previous CEO Jennie Price, the organisation has radically reconfigured the way it funds projects.
Much more emphasis is now being placed on getting people physically active by any means possible, rather than simply providing facilities and opportunities to play a particular sport. This has opened the door for public funding to be awarded to anything from fitness and wellness-oriented programmes to digital-based technology initiatives.
Since taking up his role last year, the new CEO, Tim Hollingsworth, has continued this transformation process. He has made no secret of his intentions to re-evaluate the approaches the organisation adopts to get people active, especially when it comes to “hard to reach” parts of society. He is also big on using innovation to assist the push to get the nation moving and wants technology to be at the heart of what he has referred to as “Sport 2.0”.
I was at the Elevate conference in London, where Tim spoke passionately about the need for continued change in the way Sport England goes about its business. He particularly singled out the need to tackle the “stubborn inequalities” that result in parts of society – including women, those with disabilities and people from south Asian, black or other ethnic origins – being less active.
During his speech, he issued a call to arms on behalf of the inactive, urging the entire sport and physical activity sector to rethink its efforts and to ensure people from all backgrounds can become more physically active. It is worth noting that Tim made his speech to an audience consisting of a large number of fitness and physical activity professionals. Another sign that Sport England is widening its remit – and its focus of funding.
As I sat listening, I considered the possible implications of the ongoing changes at Sport England and how they might affect SAPCA members.
What is certain is that we need to answer Sport England’s call. We need to make sure we highlight our important role in building an active nation for all. It is crucial that we remain part of the conversation when it comes to getting people moving. Sport and play must remain on the agenda, whenever getting people more active is discussed.
In order to achieve this, we need to shout loud about the work we do – and take every opportunity to highlight the ways in which we are already making a difference.
For this, the help of members is very much needed. What are our best innovations, for example? Is anybody within the SAPCA family doing anything new – or “slightly different” – that we can proudly present to Sport England?