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The future of sport and development: Turning challenges into opportunities

A young man working out on outdoor sporting equipment
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The future of sport and development: Turning challenges into opportunities

We have identified ten themes that authors emphasised in our recent call for articles on the future of sport and development.

The future should be bright for those in sport for development who have risen to the occasion and the offered a pathway and leadership for others to follow to really show the true worth of sport to the community.

– George Halkias, Street Soccer Movement and the Big Issue Community Street Soccer Program

As the coronavirus pandemic has profoundly affected sport, including professional leagues and competitions, many have begun to question the role of sport in society. Should we be seeking to go back to business as usual? or is it time for sport to change? What needs to be done?

sportanddev recently published a call for articles on the future of sport and development, receiving a record 55 responses from writers across the world and from a range of backgrounds and sectors. We have analysed the published articles and identified 10 key and interlinked themes. The theme for this article is the need to build a more equitable and inclusive sport for development and sport sector.

sportanddev also hosted a webinar on the future of sport and development on 23 June, International Olympic Day with over 300 attendees! Click here to watch the recording.

Turning challenges into opportunities

The current crisis presents challenges and opportunities. A global economic recession will mean even more limited resources, including among sport bodies and funders. Things may well get worse for the sport for development sector. As Lauren Schwaar says: “The real possibility exists that an event as cataclysmic as COVID-19 could create an even wider schism between established high-level sport and emerging sport due to depleted resources.”

The future of sport for development may be at stake, especially for smaller and less well-resourced actors who may struggle to adapt and survive. This may even consolidate power and resources in the hands of a few, reinforcing current inequities in the global sport ecosystem. To combat this, sport for development actors need to mobilise to ensure that their actions are seen as critical in the relief, response and recovery efforts – and beyond. This requires greater commitment from donors, partners and governments. In this regard, we welcome the creation of a Sport for Good Relief fund by Laureus and other partners.

On the other hand, this crisis presents an opportunity for the sport for development sector to increase its profile. While elite sport has generally been on pause, many sport for development organisations are directly involved in relief efforts. These actors have innovated and adapted their programming, and they continue to engage communities. This marks an opportunity to gain greater recognition and visibility, illustrate the value and viability of sport for development policies and programmes, and ultimately promote the widespread use of such approaches.

In fact, there may be positive outcomes that emerge from this crisis. These include the localisation of sport and physical activity, and trends (e.g. regular home exercise) that may continue beyond the pandemic and provide a means for communities to be more physically active, engaged and healthy.

Whatever the case, it is clear that sport for development needs to plan and mobilise for a 'new normal' – there is no going back to business as usual, and reducing risks and enhancing opportunities is urgently required.

What are the other topics writers emphasised? Find out more.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2020 - 15:44