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'An open goal': Sports stars urge policymakers to build on growing investment in sport for development
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Athletes call for greater investment
The UK Sport for Development Coalition launches report with key recommendations to capitalise on sport’s contribution to tackling inequalities
  1. Stars lend support as Coalition publishes first annual report to coincide with the UN’s International Day of Sport for Development and Peace on April 6th.
  2. Report showcases how sport and physical activity is being used across the UK to address key health and societal inequalities.
  3. Research shows one young person attending a sport for development programme is worth at least £2500 per year to society.

Ahead of the publication of a new Government sports strategy, a group of sports stars have urged policy-makers not to miss the ‘open goal’ presented by the growing UK-wide movement of charities using sport to tackle some of society’s most pressing problems.
 
On 6 Aril, the Sport for Development Coalition, which comprises almost 400 members based across the UK ranging from Premier League football club foundations to local community groups, will mark the UN’s International Day of Sport for Development and Peace with the publication of its first annual report.

In the 20-page report, which can be viewed here, Coalition members describe how they are collectively using sport and physical activity-based interventions to reduce crime and unemployment, improve physical and mental health and wellbeing, and increase educational attainment and social cohesion. The report also shows how the Government is increasingly investing in sport for development to address health and societal inequalities, for example through a recent Ministry of Justice sport fund.
 

  1. Lawrence Dallaglio OBE, the former England rugby union captain and founder of Coalition member Dallaglio RugbyWorks, helped to launch the #OpenGoal framework in 2022. He said: “It’s been an amazing year for the Coalition with growing recognition of the value of investing in sport-based projects which can prove how they can help to solve some of society’s most pressing pressing problems.”
  2. Susie Rodgers MBE, Paralympic gold and bronze-medallist swimmer and global technical advisor on disability inclusion, added: “Sport is not necessarily the answer to every single problem globally, but it certainly plays a role.. Sport has the potential to bring people and communities together and is an important tool in our own general health and wellbeing, both mentally and physically. We are only now starting to see how sport and physical activity can be used to harness positive outcomes, from health and employment to criminal justice. We must build on this momentum - sport for development really is an open goal!”
  3. Jobi McAnuff, Sky Sports presenter and ambassador for the Tottenham-based charity Thru Life which supported the launch of the MoJ fund in January, commented: “I know how important activities and places like Thru Life are, and to have positive role models, particularly in areas like this where I grew up. There will be tough times in life, so if you have a passion for something like sport, it can help you to stay positive and committed.”

Research conducted by State of Life for the Coalition, based on HM Treasury guidance, shows that a young person being part of a sport for development programme is worth at least £2,500 per annum to society. In communities facing the greatest disadvantage and deprivation, that value is often much greater and sport for development can play a role to help stem spiralling public expenditure. The Coalition is calling for relevant funding from across Government to be ring-fenced to support proven sport-based interventions, since a single programme can support multiple health and societal outcomes.
 
The Coalition’s #OpenGoal framework, on which the report is based, was launched in April 2022 and has so far produced two policy reports (Moving for Mental Health supported by Mind, and Active for Employment) which include key recommendations for policy-makers on how to capitalise on sport’s contribution to tackling inequalities.
 
A third policy report will follow later this year in the wake of the Ministry of Justice’s £5million Youth Justice Sport Fund, which was launched by the Deputy Prime Minister in January and has been distributed by Coalition partners StreetGames and Alliance of Sport in Criminal Justice to 220 community-based organisations across England and Wales.
 
Other recent funding announcements supported by the collaborative efforts of the Coalition and national sector partners include the £57million Opening Schools Facilities fund from the Department of Education, and the £63million set aside in the Spring Budget to support publicly-owned leisure centres with swimming pools.
 
Hitesh Patel, Executive Director of the Coalition, said: “Since the Coalition launched its Open Goal framework last April, sport in all its forms has featured prominently in the UK - from the Lionesses' Euro 2022 victory to the hosting of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games and the Rugby League World Cup tournaments. While the sector keenly awaits a new Government-wide sport strategy this year, it has been heartening to already see an acknowledgement of how sport and physical activity - much of it delivered by the Coalition's member organisations - can positively impact and support a wider Government agenda, such as the new funding we've recently seen made available for school sport, swimming pools and the Youth Justice Sports Fund We've achieved a lot by working effectively with our members and partners over the last 12 months and this gives the Coalition a solid foundation on which to build over the coming year.”
 

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