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Using sport to support vulnerable communities and promote sustainability

Boys playing soccer in a city
Copyrights: Mosa Moseneke/Unsplash (Photo)

Using sport to support vulnerable communities and promote sustainability

There is too much emphasis on the commercialisation of sport and not enough focus placed on the meaning, values and principles that sport is made up of.

With the rising popularity of elite sport due to aggressive advertising, money making potential and prestige, the definition of, “sport” has indeed been blurred. Sport is not all about what is shown on television. In fact, in 2003, the UN defined sport, for the purpose of development, as “all forms of physical activity that contribute to physical fitness, mental well-being and social interaction, such as play, recreation, organised or competitive sport, and indigenous sports and games.” Have we, as a global sporting community, upheld this definition?

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused us all to re-evaluate everything that is around us. This is the time to seek transformation and renewal. Now that all else is stripped away, we are learning what is truly essential and what isn’t. We are starting to notice the cracks in our systems of governance and the vulnerabilities that previously lay hidden from plain sight. The struggles of vulnerable communities that we see on the news every day is a wakeup call for the global sporting community to take action and help reimagine a world that is kinder, gentler and more supportive of the weak, the sick and the vulnerable. There are a number of ways that sport can play an instrumental role to achieve this. 

  1. Greater efforts to mobilise fans, athletes and sports federations to give their support to helping vulnerable communities
  2. Greater support for the work of NGOs, businesses and government agencies throughout the world who are using sport to promote a more just world, personified by the UN Sustainable Development Goals
  3. Recognise the impact that sport has on the environment and encourage the wider sports sector to adopt more sustainable sourcing practices. Examples of such practices include embedding sustainability clauses into contracts, conducting due diligence and managing the performance of manufacturers and supplies of sporting equipment
  4. Allocation of more funds by NGOs and government institutions to the development of community sporting programmes in the countries with the lowest GDP per capita. The 10 countries with the lowest GDP are as follows: Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Madagascar, Central African Republic, Niger, Malawi, Eritrea, Burundi and South Sudan

Definitely, the world of sport should not go back to business as usual. Periods of adversity yield new habits of mind. COVID-19 has forced everyone to slow down, spend more time in personal reflection, away from the noise and heave of the world. As a global sporting community, we can start afresh and re-organise our priorities.

There is too much emphasis on the commercialisation of sport and not enough focus placed on the meaning, values and principles that sport is made up of. Sport has so much potential to heal, teach and regenerate. Using it solely as a profit-making tool is not only counterproductive but it also deprives us the opportunity to create a generation of good citizens who are resilient and prepared with the necessary competencies to face present and future challenges.

K B Ryan Joshua Mahindapala (L.L.B, M.B.A Candidate) is a lawyer (non-practicing), entrepreneur and founder of Thinking Movement, a Medium publication focussed on solution and strategy formulation. He has represented his country, Singapore, as a Triathlon Technical Official and is a regular contributor to online sports magazines and publications.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2020 - 16:36