A winning case for sport in South Africa
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A collaborative study provides evidence to inform policy and support investment in sport, showing its cost-effectiveness and impact on social and economic development.

Sport and development has often been critiqued for being unable to demonstrate tangible impact, especially in economic terms, prompting questions over whether it provides a significant enough return on investment. A long-term research study in the Western Cape, South Africa has shown that sport not only has a clear social impact but makes a significant contribution to the economy.

While the emerging sport and development field has demonstrated the potential of sport to contribute to various outcomes beyond the playing field, there is limited evidence on proven cost-effective and impact-driven approaches. Various actors have attempted to remedy this, with studies focusing on economic contributions of sport, social return on investment and other such modalities.

In South Africa, sport has the potential to play a vital role in the world’s most unequal country, with a range of public and private sector actors seeking to utilise sport to achieve developmental goals. The Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport (DCAS) provides sport and recreation opportunities to communities across the province. In order to determine the impact of its work, and the broader contributions that sport can make, the government partnered with the University of the Western Cape’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Sport Science and Development (ICESSD).

The study, named the "Case for Sport", undertaken by DCAS and ICESSD, showed that sport has contributed to an excess of 2.2% of the Western Cape's Gross Domestic Product (R8.8 billion) since 2012. In addition, the sport sector supports 60,000 jobs in the province with clear potential to increase economic growth and tourism, while continuing to promote social inclusion and physical activity.

Minister Anroux Marais of DCAS welcomed these findings, stating: “The evidence-based research now makes it possible to make informed decisions at an executive level and will certainly assist us in reviewing current policy to be redeveloped with maximum citizen impact in mind.” Marais further suggested that such research shows that investment in sport is too low, adding that “there exists a disconnect between the positive impact of sport and the budget often allocated to its programmes.

The research project, led by Professor Christo de Coning, began in 2012 and has collated data from a range of sources, including the public, private and non-profit sectors, providing a comprehensive overview of the sector. While focused on one province within South Africa, this study may provide a benchmark and resource for future studies on the impact of sport in the region and globally.

It is clear that resources are constrained worldwide, especially in developing countries such as South Africa. As such it has never been more important for public investments to demonstrate cost-effectiveness. These findings are vital in establishing the value of investments in sport in this context, providing rationale for increased resources to be dedicated towards certain sporting initiatives.


Executive Director


South Africa

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