CHAPTER 2: The Societal Role of Sport |
11. The Commission's Communication highlights
a number of ways in which sport can contribute to the targets
set out in the Europe 2020 Strategy: "sport has a strong
potential to contribute to smart, sustainable and inclusive growth
and new jobs through its positive effects on social inclusion,
education and training, and public health."
This chapter first considers the evidence received about the range
of outcomes sport is capable of delivering, before moving on to
consider where the EU could act to provide added value to its
existing actions and those of Member States in order to maximise
sport's potential in these fields.
12. The Committee received a wide range of submissions
which drew attention to the variety of ways in which sport can
be used to deliver benefits for individuals, specific groups of
individuals and communities. These could be broadly classified
into benefits relating to: health; education, skills and personal
development; and social inclusion. These are all areas in which
the EU already acts. In the areas of combating social exclusion
(Article 153(j)), public health (Article 168) and education (Articles
165-6), the EU's competence is largely restricted to a supporting
one whereby it complements the actions of Member States and encourages
cooperation between them. It can adopt incentive measures and
recommendations to Member States, excluding any harmonisation
13. There was broad agreement amongst our witnesses
that the evidence base was strongest and most well-established
around the positive physical and mental health outcomes that can
result from regular participation in sport. These include reduced
risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, strokes, certain types
of cancer, osteoporosis and obesity, amongst others.
Evidence documenting sport's role in improving mental health for
those who suffer from depression and anxiety was also highlighted.
14. Participation in sport can therefore have
particular benefit for groups at greater risk of developing these
conditions. For example, the English Federation of Disability
Sport (EFDS) highlighted that the prevalence of mental illness
is around three times higher amongst those with a disability than
in the general population
whilst Sport England noted that individuals of African Caribbean
origin have a significantly higher risk of developing diabetes.
The Royal National Institute of Blind People also drew attention
to the role physical activity can play in improving balance, mobility
and coordination for those with a visual impairment.
Education, Skills and Personal
15. A number of witnesses drew attention to sport
as a tool in engaging individuals at all stages in the educational
process, contributing to improved academic performance and assisting
in the development of skills and attributes which can help move
individuals further along the path to employment.
16. Examples of personal development included
confidence building and improved self-esteem. Groups particularly
identified as benefiting from this included young women,
individuals from disadvantaged communities
and those with a disability.
It was also stressed that despite these benefits, these were all
groups which are currently under-represented in terms of participation
17. With regard to outcomes in the education
system, a number of witnesses drew attention to studies which
have suggested a positive correlation between participation in
sport and improved academic success in school.
Others focused on the use of sport as a tool in increasing motivation
and attendance. The Rugby Football Union (RFU) cited a project
which has used sport as a means of facilitating the return of
14-16 year old young offenders to mainstream education.
The Premier League highlighted an innovative programme run in
conjunction with schools which uses football as a method of engaging
pupils and encouraging uptake of languages at GCSE. Football related
resources are used in language teaching in the classroom, followed
by football coaching in the language.
18. Participation in sport can also help develop
soft skills, such as communication and confidence-building, which
can assist individuals back into employment or in their progress
towards it. A project run by the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA)
in association with the Prince's Trust and Gosling Tennis Academy
aimed at developing skills essential for employability such as
teamwork and leadership. In their pilot project 98% of participants
were classified as educational under-achievers and 30% were ex-offenders.
Following the programme 89% either continued in education or went
into training or employment.
The Football Foundation had similar success with a project run
in conjunction with an NHS mental health partnership which combines
football with educational activities. Evaluation of this project
revealed that following the programme 75% of participants went
into education, volunteering or training.
19. Participation in grassroots sport also offers
opportunities for educational and personal development to volunteers.
StreetGames described how for those from disadvantaged communities
volunteering "can significantly improve their life chances
and help achieve their full potential through teaching leadership
and life management skills, as well as providing a route to recognised
qualifications." These included Sports Leader and Coach awards,
first aid and lifeguarding qualifications. Surveys of participants
revealed that these opportunities were highly valued, with individuals
reporting that the experience had provided "a doorway to
the future ... a practical way of learning" and had "helped
me get back on my feet ... before, there were some days I couldn't
leave the house."
The opportunities available for educational and personal development
were also highlighted by Nary Wijeratne, a Volunteer Coordinator
to whom we spoke in the course of our visit to Swiss Cottage School.
She provided an example of a volunteer programme designed as a
personal empowerment and leadership scheme for young girls.
20. We also received evidence regarding the role
sport can play in awareness-raising. For example Premier League
Health is a programme which aims to harness the popularity
of sport to promote health issues. Run by clubs working with local
health agencies who are able to identify the needs of a particular
locality it aims to target individuals, many of whom may otherwise
be hard to reach, within settings which are familiar and accessible
to them. Work as part of the scheme has included bringing health
professionals into stadiums on match days to talk directly to
fans. Sport Wales
also emphasised the usefulness of sport, particularly in isolated
rural areas, as a vehicle for bringing people together which could
then be capitalised upon for other purposes, for example to broaden
access to education and technology.
The European Non-Governmental Sports Organisation (ENGSO) and
Supporters Direct considered the potential of sport as a vehicle
for non-formal learning could be extended even further to promote
more intangible concepts including European citizenship and democratic
21. The Commission Communication draws particular
attention to the potential of sport as a vehicle "to promote
social inclusion of minorities and other vulnerable or disadvantaged
groups and contribute towards better understanding among communities,
including in post-conflict regions."
The societal role of sport is one of the areas where the Government
express their clearest support for the Commission's objectives.
In their Explanatory Memorandum they state that they support the
Commission's desire "to derive clear benefits for EU citizens
and the continuing and effective use of sport as a positive policy
instrument" and that "on that basis, the Communication
should be regarded as a particularly constructive and welcome
narrative of EU sports policy goals and ambitions in this area."
22. The role sport can play in helping to integrate
individuals excluded or isolated from society was highlighted
by a number of our witnesses. The Sport and Recreation Alliance
and ENGSO drew attention
to the benefits of participation for older people and the minister
described increasing their levels of participation as "a
huge area of possibility."
The Football Foundation, which funds a project aimed at addressing
physical and social inactivity of those aged over 55 and the Jubilee
Hall Trust, which runs a dance class for those over 50, both highlighted
feedback from participants which suggested its role in reducing
feelings of social isolation in addition to increasing their sense
of physical and mental wellbeing.
23. A number of our witnesses spoke of the potential
role of sport in bringing together diverse or fragmented communities.
Sport Northern Ireland described the "vital role" sport
had played in "bringing the peoples of Northern Ireland together
in an area that was safe and secure and in which there was mutual
respect for their traditions and identities." The EU Programme
for Peace and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the Border
Region of Ireland acknowledged sport's potential in this area,
funding projects aimed at community cohesion and good relations.
Leon McCollin, a volunteer with StreetGames, explained how sports
activities in his community had brought together individuals from
a diverse range of religious and cultural backgrounds
and how this had had success in encouraging integration beyond
the time of the formal sessions. The football project Kickz, funded
by the Football Association and the Premier League and run in
association with the police, has also had success in bringing
together individuals from diverse ethnic groups in areas of deprivation
where gangs often pose serious problems.
24. We also received evidence which stressed
the effectiveness of sport as a method of reaching disengaged
young people, particularly at "jeopardy ages." StreetGames
described the ways in which they tailored their programmes in
order to address directly the protection and risk factors which
affect young people falling into criminal or antisocial behaviours.
These are set out in Box 3. StreetGames also provided a number
of practical examples of where their projects had contributed
to measurably reduced rates of offending. For example data provided
by Greater Manchester Police indicated that reported figures of
antisocial behaviour in two wards where StreetGames targeted its
projects were reduced by 39.7% per month in the course of a year.
Such projects can help local communities and businesses affected
by offending whilst also providing opportunities for the police
and other authorities to build up trust and relationships with
young people and their families.
A report published by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport
(DCMS) in 2009 concluded that "there is a clear association
between levels of trust in a community and membership of sport
and cultural groups."
Using sport as a method of preventing
|Risk factors are those which are known to increase the likelihood of subsequent involvement in youth crime. These can include weak communities, social alienation and attitudes which condone offending.
Grassroots sports projects can help mitigate these through creating stronger communities and helping build a sense of pride and belonging particularly through competitive events. Participation can also bring different communities together, helping to relieve tensions. Coaches and leaders can be used to transmit social understanding to participants, highlighting unacceptable behaviours and presenting the message that offending is unacceptable.
Protection Factors are those that buffer children and young people against the risks to which they are exposed.
Leaders of grassroots sports projects can provide positive role models within communities. Participation in sporting activities can also provide opportunities for individuals to develop social and intellectual skills and self-esteem. In addition it can provide a forum in which participants are able to learn to deal with setbacks.
25. We believe that the EU could gain most from the new
competence, particularly at a time of financial constraint, by
regarding sport not as a peripheral policy area but as a powerful
and effective tool in the delivery of objectives across the policy
spectrum, notably in the health, social and educational spheres.
We welcome the Commission's focus on this in the Communication.
26. With particular regard to EU policy, sport can make
a strong contribution to the achievement of three out of the five
headline targets of the Europe 2020 Strategy, namely those on
employment, education and poverty and social exclusion. Increasing
levels of participation in grassroots sports should therefore
be a priority in the field of sport for the Member States, and
for the EU within the limits of its competence.
27. Our evidence also highlighted that participation in sport
can bring particular benefits to groups whose participation rates
are lowest. These include women and girls, those with a disability,
the unemployed, older people, migrant communities and those from
disadvantaged communities. Particular effort should be devoted
to increasing participation of these groups. We welcome the Commission's
proposal to support projects promoting their inclusion.
10 COM (2011) 12 Back
Recommendations of the Chief Medical Officer cited in Q 41, Q
121, Department of Health Be Active, Be Healthy, 2009,
cited in GSEU 29 and GSEU 14 Back
GSEU 20, GSEU 19, GSEU 29 Back
GSEU 14 Back
GSEU 29 Back
GSEU 13 Back
GSEU 15 Back
GSEU 11 Back
GSEU 14 Back
GSEU 31, GSEU 29 Back
GSEU 7 Back
GSEU 17 Back
GSEU 27 Back
GSEU 20 Back
GSEU 34 Back
Appendix 3 Back
GSEU 17 Back
Q 212 Back
GSEU 30, GSEU 32 Back
COM (2011) 12 Back
EM 5597/11 Back
GSEU 1 Back
GSEU 30 Back
Q 231 Back
GSEU 20, GSEU 23 Back
QQ 210, 224 Back
Q 101 Back
GSEU 17 Back
GSEU 34, Youth Justice Board, Risk and Protective Factors,
GSEU 34 Back
GSEU 17, GSEU 11 Back
DCMS, Lifting People, Lifting Places, 2009 Back