The London Olympics and Paralympics created a once-in-a-generation opportunity in the UK to inspire people to get active and play sport. With a year to the Rio 2016 games, it is clear that that the government has wasted this opportunity. The latest figures show that that fewer people are active in sports than in 2012.
Instead of using the 2012 games to inspire young people, they scrapped the ring-fenced funding for school sport whilst abandoning the school sport survey, making it impossible to get a true indication of what was really happening on the ground.
It is a shame that we have had to wait five years for this government to recognise their failure on sport policy, but I hope that they will now begin to follow Labour’s calls for a long-term, cross-departmental sports strategy.
Our overriding priority must be to get more people active, whether through sport or physical recreation. In order to achieve this we must trust the people who organise and deliver sports activities in our local communities.
David Cameron’s former adviser, Steve Hilton, advocates empowering local people to make real decisions for themselves in their communities. They have the local knowledge and skills to make the most efficient use of resources and to get the best outcomes. Too many government initiatives, driven from the centre, fail to last much longer than their initial launch and press release. They are often only funded for a fixed term after which they inevitably run into the sand.
The Government needs to agree a long-term plan for sport that cuts across government departments in partnership with people at all levels of sport, bringing together schools and local clubs and including all the local stakeholders: the volunteers; the coaches and people who run local clubs; PE teacher; school games organisers; mums and dads; and local representatives of national sporting governing bodies. They must have oversight of local sports plans that are designed to address local needs.
If we are to bring about the change we need to get more people active then we are going to have to accept that some radical steps have to be taken. The impact of winning the Games and the magic of the events themselves has begun to wear off and participation in sport has fallen since 2012. I hope the government is prepared to listen to the people at the grass roots, because they are clear and consistent in what they say needs to be done.