31.This chapter sets out the case for a national plan for sport, health and wellbeing. We begin by looking at the current policy and delivery landscape. We then consider arguments for a national plan and look at changes to the delivery and funding structures needed to successfully implement the vision of the national plan. We also look at how we monitor and evaluate impact, and how to use data more effectively.
32.The sport and recreation landscape has many moving parts. Government sets high-level policy but it does not prescribe which organisations, sports or activities should be supported or funded. Although Government policy seeks to make physical activity easy and accessible, being active is a matter of individual responsibility. NGBs, professional and amateur local sports clubs, private businesses, charities, and voluntary, community and social enterprises deliver sport and recreation on the ground. Sport England and UK Sport, as National Lottery distributors, are mandated to make funding decisions and identify areas for investment and support. This includes distributing funding to NGBs and other sports bodies and organisations. Regulation of individual sports lies with NGBs.
33.DCMS leads on sport policy in England but it is not the only department dealing with physical activity. The Department for Education (DfE) covers sport and physical activity in schools, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) covers physical activity as it relates to health outcomes and the Department for Transport (DfT) is responsible for active travel including walking and cycling routes. Other departments also have remits which impact on physical activity. For example, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) plays a key role in managing access to the countryside, fresh air and clean water, and the Treasury controls the purse-strings. DCMS convenes meetings with other Ministers to discuss sport and recreation policy where there is crossover but there is no overarching structure in place to coordinate cross-departmental working.
34.Sport England began as the Sports Council, established by Royal Charter in 1972. An amended Royal Charter in 1996 established the English Sports Council and the organisation was rebranded as Sport England in 1999. It is one of five Sports Councils in the UK along with Sport Scotland, Sport Wales, Sport Northern Ireland and UK Sport. Sport England is responsible for growing and developing grassroots sport and getting more people active across England. It was given responsibility for promoting recreation along with sport as part of the Government’s Sporting Future strategy. UK Sport is responsible for investing in Olympic and Paralympic Sports and is the lead agency for major UK sporting events.
35.Public Health England (PHE) was established as an Executive Agency of the (then) Department of Health in 2013. PHE was responsible for overseeing the local delivery of public health services and for dealing with population-wide health issues. The Government announced the break-up of PHE in August 2020 and a new Office for Health Promotion was proposed. The Office has since been renamed the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities and was established in October 2021.
36.Local authorities are the biggest investor in sport and recreation, providing pitches, facilities and leisure centres. They are responsible for a third of all swimming pools, 31 per cent of grass pitches, 13 per cent of sports halls and almost a fifth of all health and fitness facilities. They spend money on sport and recreation directly, for example on development and maintenance of leisure facilities and parks, or indirectly through different budget streams such as health and wellbeing, and youth services.
37.Devolution deals and the introduction of metro mayors have given expanded powers to combined authorities over policy areas that impact physical activity and active lifestyles including transport and housing and, in the case of Greater Manchester, responsibility over health and welfare budgets. Local and combined authorities also have responsibilities including safeguarding, rights of way and the provision of parks and other green and blue spaces. Central government and local authorities also engage in joint spending, primarily on investment in capital facilities.
38.However, despite the important role of local and combined authorities in the delivery of sport and recreation and in investing in infrastructure, local government expenditure on parks, recreation and leisure centres has fallen from £1.6 billion to £1 billion since 2010 and there is no statutory provision for local authorities to provide facilities or sporting activity in England.
39.Delivery of sport primarily takes place through grassroots clubs. Clubs can be amateur local sports clubs affiliated to a relevant NGB or other community clubs run by charities, voluntary and social enterprises which may or may not have a relationship with an NGB. Clubs are essential for organising grassroots sport and physical activity, whether it is administering a local or regional competitive league or more informal activity groups. Amateur sports clubs and other community groups often generate their own income through membership fees, fundraising endeavours or by applying for sponsorship and grants. Property-owning clubs may have other means of making money including hiring their facilities to other groups or through bar profits from the club house. A defining characteristic of local grassroots club is their reliance on volunteers to manage and run the club.
40.Other important players in the policy and delivery landscape are Leisure Trusts and Active Partnerships. Leisure Trusts, often set up by local authorities, manage approximately 43 per cent of public leisure provision in England. Active Partnerships (formerly known as County Sports Partnerships) are networks of local delivery agencies and local representatives of NGBs that work together to increase participation in sport and physical activity and play a role in coordinating activities. There are 43 Active Partnerships across England.
41.DCMS published its cross-departmental strategy, Sporting Future: A New Strategy for an Active Nation in 2015, aimed at tackling flatlining levels of sport participation and high levels of inactivity. Several strategies sit under the Sporting Future umbrella. These include Sport England’s Towards an Active Nation strategy, published in 2016 and related strategies covering the sport and recreation workforce, coaching and volunteering and its new ten-year strategy, Uniting the Movement, published in January 2021. The DfE, DHSC and DCMS School Sport and Activity Action Plan, which was also developed in response to the Sporting Future strategy, and DfT’s Gear Change strategy on active transport are discussed in Chapters 4 and 5 respectively.
42.The Sporting Future strategy identified five priority outcomes—physical health, mental health, individual development, social and community development, and economic development. These outcomes are linked to a set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure and monitor progress and to guide decision making on where and how to spend resources.
43.The Sporting Future strategy also examined the role of central Government and devolved authorities and looks at ways to engage more people from different backgrounds, abilities and ages, as participants, volunteers, workforce and spectators. It expanded the remit of Sport England to include responsibility for sport outside school for children from the age of 5 (previously Sport England’s remit was from the age of 14) and to physical activity beyond sport. The Sporting Future strategy also covers elite and international sporting success and financial sustainability of the sport sector.
44.The Government published an annual update on the strategy in 2017 and 2018 and tabled a Written Ministerial Statement for its third annual report in 2019. No updates have been published since. DCMS told us that it is refreshing the Sporting Future strategy with a view to countering the impact of the pandemic.
45.As part of its Towards and Active Nation strategy, Sport England announced 12 local delivery pilots in 2017 across the country to test new ways of using “local identities and structures to deliver sustainable increases in activity levels”. It allocated £100 million to the pilots over four years starting from January 2018. Under the scheme, each area is tasked with looking at the challenges within specific areas and communities and bringing together a broad range of stakeholders to tackle inactivity and reach underrepresented groups. By way of examples of how the local delivery pilots are working, Sport England told us about work in Exeter supporting the creation of new housing and infrastructure to lower congestion and shift travel patterns, and in Calderdale which is building physical activity into client care plans for older adults.
46.Sport England’s new 10-year strategy Uniting the Movement builds on the theme of improving diversity and inclusion which was introduced in its Toward an Active Nation strategy. The 10-year plan sets out three overarching objectives:
47.We heard that Government strategies that are relevant to improving rates of physical activity exist in a siloed and disjointed system. Cross-departmental work is not happening on the scale that is required, the strategic links between Government and local authorities are inadequate, and infrastructure, delivery and quality of provision is unevenly distributed.
48.There was broad agreement in favour of a national plan. Witnesses saw the plan as an opportunity to improve cross-departmental working and to set out the Government’s COVID-19 recovery plans. Others drew attention to its potential scope. Witnesses who were less convinced on the need for a national plan raised concerns that it would duplicate existing work and questioned whether the plan would add value.
49.Ukactive, an industry association, said a national, long-term plan was “essential” for supporting the COVID-19 recovery, alleviating health inequalities, combatting obesity and improving people’s quality of life. The English Football League (EFL) Trust, the charitable arm of the EFL, called COVID-19 a “wake up call” that “has only accentuated” the need for a national plan. BASES saw an opportunity for a national plan to support the post-COVID-19 recovery and to improve coordination, collaboration and consistency.
50.The MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge, suggested that it should be a “national plan for active lives” rather than for “sport and recreation”, to encompass wider environmental and structural elements in the plan. The National Lottery Community Fund proposed that “a national plan for community wellbeing” which looks at the role of sport and recreation in supporting and strengthening local communities would be more appropriate. The Richmond Group of Charities, a collection of national charities focussing on England’s health and care system, suggested calling it a national plan for sport, recreation and physical activity to make it more inclusive and relatable to the wider population.
51.British Cycling told us that a national plan needs to go “far beyond” sport and recreation to encompass planning, transport, education, business and other policy areas which have an impact on public health. Playing Out, a charity promoting safe streets activities for children, felt that the plan should take a broad view and consider, for example, planning, transport, housing, community, local government and environmental policies. Richard Baldwin MBE, a tax adviser specialising in the sport sector, suggested that a national plan “should encourage financial self-sufficiency in sport based on a more favourable tax regime”.
52.We heard how a national plan could facilitate better coordination across the sector. Active Partnerships suggested that a national plan could “provide guidance, direction and a shared purpose” to coordinate working. Heather Douglas, Head of Policy and Impact at UK Coaching, called for the plan to help foster collaboration over competition among stakeholders.
53.The Youth Sport Trust called for a long-term, cross-government plan to “tackle the crisis of inactivity and poor wellbeing in young people.” Girlguiding wanted the national plan to consider the experiences of girls and young women. Baroness Campbell of Loughborough, Director of Women’s Football at the Football Association (FA), told us that a national strategy should place high importance on school physical education and school sport.
54.Regarding elite sport, Dr Seema Patel, Senior Lecturer in Law at Nottingham Trent University, saw a role for a national plan to provide the regulatory framework for protecting athletes’ rights. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Sport, Modern Slavery and Human Rights told us that a national plan should “ensure equal treatment within a safe sporting environment and equal access to sporting opportunities” including equal pay.
55.We heard how a national plan could support stakeholders in establishing best practice and improve monitoring and evaluation. Sporting Communities, a Community Interest Company called for the national plan to include a detailed map of provision to ensure that investment can be targeted and prioritised accordingly. Goalball UK suggested that a new strategy could be used to monitor investment through close interaction with non-Government bodies and utilising a central database on sports and recreation participation. Kirsty Cumming, CEO of Community Leisure UK, called for a national plan to outline joint principles and targets which could then be monitored.
56.However, some witnesses were equivocal on whether it would improve cross-departmental working or add value. For example, Swim England and UK Learning Disability questioned how a national plan would fit with existing strategies. StreetGames, a charity that delivers community sport projects, and England Athletics and UK Athletics also expressed concern that a national plan risked duplicating existing strategies. British Cycling and Dr Iain Lindsey, Benjamin Rigby, Professor Brett Smith, Dr Emily Oliver and Dr Caroline Dodd-Reynolds argued that the focus should be on adapting the policymaking process surrounding sport and recreation rather than creating a new plan.
57.Sport England agreed that a national plan would be a duplication of what is already in place but conceded that there was room for greater cross-government planning “to bring complementary, existing strategies together” which span sport and physical activity, preventative health, national wellbeing, education, community and infrastructure design, planning and the protection of green spaces. The Government was clear that it did not see any need for a national plan, saying that it would “duplicate existing published strategies”.
58.We are calling for the development of a long-term, cross-government national plan for sport, health and wellbeing. The national plan would form an over-arching framework document which would set out the Government’s vision, aims and objectives over a multi-year period and would bring together disparate strategies covering physical activity, health promotion, planning, housing, education, transport and more. This will mean that some existing strategies such as Sporting Future will need to be incorporated into the national plan and refreshed to reflect the new way of working, but not abandoned.
59.The Sporting Future strategy and Sport England’s Uniting the Movement strategy were both seen by witnesses as being positive steps forward. However, we also heard that the current delivery and funding systems are fragmented and that much more needs to be done to improve cross-departmental coordination and to streamline overly complicated and bureaucratic processes for accessing funding.
60.Robert Sullivan OBE, CEO of the Football Foundation, told us that Sporting Future “has set a very clear framework” and has targeted those social and demographic groups that are currently underrepresented. The Rugby Football Union (RFU) praised the strategy for establishing a longer-term set of goals and measures which provided the sporting sector with consistency. However, Active Partnerships described Sporting Future’s implementation as “inconsistent”.
61.The Sport for Development Coalition said that Sport England’s Uniting the Movement strategy is “a model” of commitment to tackling inequalities. The Sport and Recreation Alliance described Uniting the Movement as an “important milestone”.
62.We also heard that, despite these strategies, the sector remains fragmented and confusing for those trying to access funding and deliver sport and recreation services on the ground. Dr Lindsey et al, members of the Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences at Durham University, called the sport and recreation policy landscape “very fragmented”. The Local Government Association (LGA) described Government funding for public leisure initiatives as “frequently fragmented and accompanied by bureaucratic and burdensome bidding processes”. Paul Owen OBE, Sporting Ambassador for Sport in Mind, and Sally Munday OBE, CEO of UK Sport, thought the landscape of the sector was “complicated” or “complex” rather than fragmented.
63.Frustrations around funding went beyond the lack of coordination between government departments. Richard Baldwin told us that the tendency of public sector funders such as Sport England to by-pass NGBs and deal directly with local clubs was creating a postcode lottery for grassroot sport funding. The Police Community Clubs of Great Britain and the British Mountaineering Council felt that NGBs should be a key channel through which funding is distributed.
64.However, Sporting Communities said that Government needs to be less risk averse in its funding decisions and proposed that funding go directly to the voluntary sector through a series of volunteer-led regional consortiums made up of smaller and mid-sized voluntary organisations. Active Communities Network, which brings together groups operating in communities, called for funding to find its way to trusted community groups. The UK Sport Association for People with Learning Disability called for funding structures to “better reflect the needs of underrepresented groups”.
65.Lisa Wainwright MBE, CEO of the Sport and Recreation Alliance, told us that “if you are in the system, you know how the system works” and that this knowledge can give organisations an advantage when it comes to accessing funding.
66.Rebecca Donnelly MBE, CEO of Fight 4 Change, told us that the short-term nature of funding means that some projects can only be delivered for a short period of time and are then stopped, which she said can cause more harm than good when you are trying to build up relationships with people and communities. Professor Rosie Meek, Professor of Criminological Psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London, made the same point about projects delivered in criminal justice settings, telling us that short-term funding and time-scales do not allow for any meaningful impact and can be detrimental. Mind called for longer-term investment to avoid the “start stop nature of physical activity projects”.
67.Lee Mason, former CEO of Active Partnerships, highlighted Sport England’s Tackling Inequalities Fund, which distributed funds via trusted local organisations and bodies to speed up delivery, as a positive example of reaching out to communities. He told us that the Fund is “a fundamentally different way of working”. In October 2021, Sport England announced that the Tackling Inequalities Fund was to become the Together Fund, with £20 million of National Lottery funding being made available to tackle inequalities in physical activity levels.
68.We heard how funding could be better used to widen access to sport and leisure facilities for individuals and organisations. Yashmin Harun of the Muslimah Sports Association noted the high price of hiring venues and pitches and suggested concession rates for charities and community groups. The Chief Cultural and Leisure Officers Association advocated for a grant to local authorities on a match funding basis to provide concessions in leisure centres and for outdoor activities.
69.The LGA called for a strategic partnership between DCMS and local government to “tackle fragmentation”. The Chief Cultural and Leisure Officers Association drew attention to the Local Government Physical Activity Partnership and suggested that it be made a statutory consultee for Government strategies and policies involving physical activity.
70.Swim England expressed support for making leisure provision a statutory requirement for local authorities. Women in Sport called on the Government to develop a long-term solution to pools and leisure facilities including giving local authorities a statutory responsibility for provision and the necessary funding. However, the LGA countered that making leisure provision a statutory service would not resolve the funding challenges faced by local councils or necessarily lead to more money being dedicated to leisure.
71.Hon. Grant Robertson, Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, Minister for Sport and Recreation and Finance Minister, told us about New Zealand’s efforts to promote cross-departmental working through the Government’s “wellbeing budget”, which uses a set of indicators beyond Gross Domestic Product , to derive the Government’s annual budget and against which to measure success.
72.Mark Davies, former Director for Population Health at DHSC, told us that Government departments work collectively on all aspects of physical activity including co-funding services and gave the examples of the DHSC’s contribution to the PE and Sport Premium (discussed in Chapter 4) and school games organisers. The Minister for Sport, Tourism, Heritage and Civil Society at DCMS, Nigel Huddleston MP, told us that he is “more than happy” to engage and work more closely with local authorities.
73.Some witnesses noted the challenges of having sport based within DCMS. Andy Reed OBE, Co-Founder and Director of the Sports Think Tank, called DCMS “a very small department in a big government”. Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, told us that “there are limitations” on what DCMS can deliver within its remit. Nigel Huddleston MP noted that other countries provide examples of different structures including Australia where the Sports Minister reports to the Department of Health. He told us that he is “not too bothered” where the Minister for Sport sits “as long as we [Government] are well-coordinated”.
74.We heard several ideas on what structure might best promote a more coordinated and coherent approach to funding and delivery of sport. Sarah Mitchell, CEO of Cycling UK, called for a “central owner” for existing strategies who can oversee the work across multiple departments. British Cycling suggested that leadership needs to come from the Cabinet Office and the Prime Minister. British Canoeing made the case for a Secretary of State for Sport within Cabinet. Andy Reed suggested that leadership would ideally come from the Treasury. Baroness Campbell of Loughborough proposed a national commissioner role to bring the various policy strategies together.
75.Based on the evidence we heard and the long-standing nature of the challenges around cross-departmental coordination and delivery, we are calling for radical and ambitious change. The framework map in Figure 8 illustrates our vision for creating a new structure across Government to deliver the national plan. It is explained in further detail in the conclusions and recommendations below.
76.Delivery of sport and recreation is uncoordinated and fragmented from the top down, and delivery and funding structures are not fit for purpose. There needs to be a new architecture to embed genuine cross-departmental working and to reset delivery and funding.
77.The establishment of the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities represents a timely opportunity to make ambitious changes within Government to match the ambitions of the national plan. As a first step, the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities should be renamed the Office for Health Promotion and it must be placed on a statutory footing to give it the surety of purpose and authority to truly deliver cross-departmental working, and ensure that all departments are prioritising physical activity, health and wellbeing.
78.We also propose the establishment of a new ministerial post for Sport, Health and Wellbeing. This role will sit within DHSC and will have responsibility for sport policy, which will be moved from DCMS to DHSC. The role will have joint responsibility with the Office for Health Promotion to develop and oversee implementation of the national plan.
79.The Minister for Sport, Health and Wellbeing will chair a regular Strategic Forum of central and local government and other key stakeholders to discuss the formation and implementation of the national plan. The national plan must have buy-in and support from local government, metro mayors and Active Partnerships, and it must incorporate the views of the broad range of stakeholders involved in delivering sport and recreation on the ground including grassroots organisations and NGBs.
80.To establish consistent Parliamentary scrutiny of progress of the national plan, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care must coordinate and submit an annual report to Parliament setting out the Government’s performance against the national plan and table a motion in both Houses to debate the annual report.
81.Funding needs to coalesce around the national plan. The Government should look to New Zealand’s wellbeing budget model for inspiration on how to coordinate departmental agendas and budgets around delivering a shared programme of work. The Treasury should review the tax environment for the sector, including for sports clubs, to create a more favourable tax regime that encourages self-sufficiency and reduces dependency on public funding. The Government must also introduce a statutory requirement on local authorities to provide and maintain adequate facilities for sport and physical activity. This will need to be backed up with adequate financial support from the Treasury.
82.To deliver the national plan to the grassroots effectively, Sport England should improve its funding and support for organisations delivering to underrepresented groups by implementing bespoke funding timelines for targeted interventions to allow programmes to become embedded and sustainable. Sport England should also provide ringfenced financial support for local authorities and metro mayors to implement concessions for access to facilities.
83.In this section we look at the quality of the data collected in the Active Lives surveys, how Government is measuring and evaluating progress of the five priority outcomes set out in the Sporting Future strategy, and ways to improve access to facilities through standardisation and collation of data from multiple sources.
84.As noted in Chapter 1, Sport England monitors activity rates through its Active Lives surveys for adults and children. The Active Lives surveys monitor the population’s activity levels, attitudes towards sport and physical activity, and social outcomes. The adult’s survey has a sample size of over 175,000 people each year. Randomly selected households are invited to respond although there is a minimum number of 500 households from each local authority to ensure geographic coverage. According to Sport England:
“the scale of the survey, and the geographical and demographic data it captures, ensures that the survey supports our understanding of key variations in engagement with sport and activity at a local authority level and across a range of characteristics”.
85.The Active Lives Children and Young People surveys question around 100,000 children across years 1–11 from randomly selected schools. The schools are asked to arrange for up to three mixed ability classes in up to three randomly chosen year groups to complete the survey. Parents provide information for pupils in years 1–2.
86.Jamie Foale, CEO of Playfinder, an online platform that allows people to book local sports and leisure facilities, told us that the voluntary nature and sampling approach of the Active Lives surveys is likely to exclude higher education students and young people and “like asking people how much they drink”, it is unlikely to get the most reliable information from respondents. The Yorkshire Sport Foundation told us that sample sizes are too small for robust local analysis.
87.Dr Kyle Ferguson, Reader in Sports Coaching and Management at Ulster University, said that more qualitative data collection would enable better analysis and evaluation of sport programmes. British Canoeing supported greater use of qualitative data to better understand the “motivations, barriers, influences and behaviour of participation”. Stonewall and Mermaids told us that improvements could be made in the data collection of how LGBT+ people participate in sport and recreation activities.
88.The Centre for Movement and Occupational Rehabilitation Sciences, Oxford Brookes University, wanted to see regular monitoring of children and young people’s levels of cardiorespiratory fitness and physical activity. The FA told us that monitoring playground activity would lead to a better understanding of the emerging sedentary trends among children. Active Partnerships suggested the Active Lives Children and Young People’s survey would benefit from getting all schools to take part.
89.The Welsh Institute of Physical Activity, Health and Sport recommended the use of “research-grade devices” to monitor physical activity and sedentary behaviour to back up the findings of the surveys. Dr Liz Durden-Myers, Past Chair of the International Physical Literacy Association and Senior Lecturer in Physical Education, Bath Spa University and University of Gloucestershire, also supported use of complementing survey data with other forms of objective monitoring.
90.PHE noted that applying “objective measurement” would involve additional costs. Sport England told us that it has plans “to explore how wearable devices might be used in future measurement to further improve and/or validate the quality and relevance of the data collected.”
91.There were witnesses who felt that the Active Lives surveys were effective. England Athletics and UK Athletics described the surveys as an “established and robust method” of measuring physical activity at the national level. Lisa Wainwright said she was “confident that the Active Lives data that we receive is a true and accurate reflection of the increases and decreases in participation”.
92.The Government monitors and evaluates progress of the Sporting Future strategy against the five priority outcomes along with its KPIs.
93.The Sport for Development Coalition said that “the ambition of the [Sporting Future] strategy to ‘redefine’ what success means, with a focus on five key social outcomes, was impactful”. Mind described the inclusion of mental health as “a landmark moment for sports policy” which has led to significant improvements across the sector. The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) told us that Sport England and UK Sport have coordinated “some good work on measuring outcomes”.
94.However, the National Futsal League saw the potential for the five priority outcomes to come into conflict and gave the example of social versus economic development. The Sport for Development Coalition said that the breadth of the outcomes makes it difficult to define and measure success. Active Partnerships said there was a lack of clarity over whether the focus should be on delivering the five priority outcomes or on physical activity levels. The LTA and Yorkshire Sport Foundation noted the difficulty of measuring social impact. Paul Owen drew attention to challenges around measuring changes in people’s mental health, attitudes and state of mind.
95.The Sport and Recreation Alliance noted that there are 25 KPIs underpinning the five priority outcomes but that they have not been updated recently. Mark Lawrie, CEO of StreetGames, suggested “a set of agreed standards rather than KPIs” so organisations would know if they deliver sport in a certain way that they are having an impact on defined outcomes.
96.Professor Aiden Doherty, Professor Heidi Johansen-Berg, Mr Alberto Lazari, Dr Karen Mansfield, Mr Thomas Wassenaar and Dr Catherine Wheatley, a team of researchers at the University of Oxford, said there was scope for “careful and appropriate linkage and sharing of existing data between researchers, local authorities and the Department of Health and Social Care” to improve understanding of patterns of physical activity. The LGA told us that there “are opportunities to better cross-reference, or even integrate, with other government surveys and data collections.” The British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES) recommended establishing a Physical Activity Observatory to provide “a single point of contact for wide-ranging authoritative information on data, evidence and practice”.
97.Data are collected to improve access to sport and recreation opportunities, including by making it possible for people to find out what is happening in their area and to book facilities online. The first annual report on the Sporting Future strategy set out Sport England’s two-year programme to develop common data standards, help data sharing, improve data literacy and encourage more effective and customer-focused use of data across the sports sector. The second annual report set out work on using data to improve access to facilities including the Open Data Institute’s Open Active programme which publishes open data about where, when and what activities are taking place to make it easier for people to find and book activities online.
98.Jamie Foale told us that there are over 140,000 different sports facilities in the country managed by over 30,000 operators. He highlighted the findings of a Football Foundation survey which revealed that 46 per cent of funded venues were using pen and paper or Microsoft Excel to manage bookings and research by the Sport and Recreation Alliance showing that only 35 per cent of sports clubs have online bookings. He noted that as more people move away from affiliated team sports it may be more difficult to track participation in individual physical activities and suggested that technology could play a role in tracking recreational usage of facilities through online bookings.
99.The FA noted that data collected by organisations are not easily comparable and that Open Data practices offer the best potential for bringing everything together in a usable format. It suggested Government could play an important leading role by creating a standard list of data points and categories that must be used by all sports when recording participation. The LGA told us that councils collect all sorts of data about the use of their services but there is limited scope to integrate this at a larger level due to differences in methodologies.
100.Several witnesses called for a standardised and central database relating to physical activity. Jamie Foale called for a publicly accessible central repository of data from operators of sports venues and recommended that operators be encouraged, or possibly mandated, to contribute their non-sensitive data to the repository. Conservatives for Women, comprising of Conservative Party members and supporters, advocated for the development of a register of sporting facilities, clubs and programmes. Surbiton Hockey Club said an online centralised resource would be useful to local communities, local authorities, local NHS Trusts and GP surgeries.
101.We do not have full confidence in data currently collected and do not believe there is a suitable evidence base for effective monitoring and evaluation. While we recommend keeping the five priority outcomes from Sporting Future for the national plan, we agree with BASES on the need for a Physical Activity Observatory to act as a single point for independent analysis of data, evidence and practice related to physical activity for the sector. The Observatory would be responsible for developing objective and robust measures in collaboration with public and private sector partners, and collecting and analysing non-sensitive data from the public and private sectors.
102.The new Physical Activity Observatory should seek to collect data consistently and regularly from publicly funded organisations. To do this, it should develop a standard approach for collecting non-personalised data that will provide a clearer picture of how and when people exercise and support efforts to improve access to facilities. Sport England should make funding to organisations contingent on them providing information for the Open Data initiative.
26 DHSC, Office for Health Improvement and Disparities and the Rt. Hon. Sajid Javid MP, ‘New body to tackle health disparities will launch 1 October, co-headed by new Deputy Chief Medical Officer’ (3 September 2021): [accessed 15 November 2021]
27 Dr Chris Mackintosh, Foundations of Sport for Development, 1st edition (Routledge, 2021), p 101
28 Written evidence from the LGA ()
29 Blue spaces mean waters where recreational activities, such as canoeing or kayaking, can take place.
30 (Ian Brooke)
31 ‘Councils must back leisure and cultural trusts’, Local Government Chronicle (21 November 2018): [accessed 15 November 2021]
32 Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Triennial Review of UK Sport and Sport England: Report (16 September 2015): [accessed 15 November 2021]
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35 Sport England, Uniting the Movement: A 10-year vision to transform lives and communities through sport and physical activity (January 2021): [accessed 15 November 2021]
36 Department for Education, Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, and Department of Health and Social Care, School Sport and Activity Action Plan (15 July 2019): [accessed 15 November 2021]
37 Department for Transport, Gear Change: A bold vision for cycling and walking (July 2020): [accessed 18 November 2021]
38 Cabinet Office, , pp 17 and 76–80
39 Supplementary written evidence from DCMS ()
40 The pilot areas are Birmingham and Solihull, Bradford, Calderdale, Doncaster, Essex, Exeter, Cranbrook, Greater Manchester, Hackney, Pennine Lancashire, Southall, South Tees and Withernsea.
41 Sport England, ‘Local delivery’: [accessed 15 November 2021]
43 Written evidence from Sport England ()
44 Sport England, Uniting the Movement: A 10-year vision to transform lives and communities through sport and physical activity (January 2021): [accessed 30 November 2021]
45 Supplementary written evidence from ukactive ()
46 Written evidence from the English Football League Trust ()
47 Written evidence from the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES) ()
48 Written evidence from the MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge ()
49 Written evidence from the National Lottery Community Fund ()
50 Written evidence from the Richmond Group of Charities ()
51 Written evidence from the British Cycling Federation ()
52 Written evidence from Playing Out ()
53 Written evidence from Richard Baldwin ()
54 Supplementary written evidence from Active Partnerships ()
55 (Heather Douglas)
56 Written evidence from the Youth Sport Trust ()
57 Written evidence from Girlguiding ()
58 (Baroness Campbell of Loughborough)
59 Written evidence from Dr Seema Patel ()
60 Written evidence from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sport, Modern Slavery, and Human Rights ()
61 Written evidence from the Sporting Communities Community Interest Company ()
62 Written evidence from Goalball UK ()
63 (Kirsty Cumming)
64 Written evidence from Swim England () and UK Sports Association for People with Learning Disability ()
65 Written evidence from StreetGames () and England Athletics and UK Athletics ()
66 Written evidence from British Cycling Federation () and Dr Iain Lindsey, Mr Benjamin Rigby, Professor Brett Smith, Dr Emily Oliver and Dr Caroline Dodd-Reynolds ()
67 Written evidence from Sport England ()
68 Written evidence from HM Government ()
69 (Robert Sullivan)
70 Written evidence from the RFU ()
71 Supplementary written evidence from Active Partnerships ()
72 Written evidence from the Sport for Development Coalition ()
73 Supplementary written evidence from the Sport and Recreation Alliance ()
74 Written evidence from Dr Iain Lindsey, Mr Benjamin Rigby, Professor Brett Smith, Dr Emily Oliver and Dr Caroline Dodd-Reynolds ()
75 Written evidence from the LGA (), see also written evidence from Malcolm Wallace ()
76 (Paul Owen) and (Sally Munday)
77 Written evidence from Richard Baldwin ()
78 Written evidence from the Police Community Clubs of Great Britain () and The British Mountaineering Council ()
79 Written evidence from Sporting Communities, Community Interest Company ()
80 Written evidence from Active Communities Network ()
81 Written evidence from UK Sports Association for People with Learning Disability ()
82 (Lisa Wainwright)
83 (Rebecca Donnelly)
84 (Professor Rosie Meek)
85 Supplementary written evidence from Mind ()
86 (Lee Mason)
87 Sport England, ‘Continued support to tackle inequalities with £20m Together Fund’ (6 October 2021): [accessed 30 November 2021]
88 Notes of roundtables with community sport organisations:
89 Supplementary written evidence from the Chief Cultural and Leisure Officers Association ()
90 Written evidence from the LGA ()
91 Supplementary written evidence from the Chief Cultural and Leisure Officers Association ()
92 Written evidence from Swim England ()
93 Written evidence from Women in Sport ()
94 Written evidence from the LGA ()
95 (Hon. Grant Robertson)
96 (Mark Davies)
97 (Nigel Huddleston MP)
98 (Andy Reed)
99 (Huw Edwards)
100 (Nigel Huddleston MP)
101 (Sarah Mitchell)
102 Written evidence from British Cycling Federation ()
103 Written evidence from British Canoeing ()
104 (Andy Reed)
105 (Baroness Campbell of Loughborough)
106 Written evidence from Sport England ()
108 Written evidence from Jamie Foale ()
109 Supplementary written evidence from Yorkshire Sport Foundation ()
110 Written evidence from Dr Kyle Ferguson ()
111 Written evidence from British Canoeing ()
112 Written evidence from Stonewall and Mermaids ()
113 Written evidence from the Centre for Movement and Occupational Rehabilitation Sciences (MOReS) Oxford Brookes University ()
114 Written evidence from the FA ()
115 Supplementary written evidence from Active Partnerships ()
116 Written evidence from the Welsh Institute of Physical Activity, Health and Sport ()
117 Written evidence from Dr Liz Durden-Myers ()
118 Written evidence from Public Health England ()
119 Written evidence from Sport England ()
120 Written evidence from England Athletics and UK Athletics ()
121 (Lisa Wainwright)
122 Cabinet Office, , pp 17 and pp 76–80
123 Written evidence from the Sport for Development Coalition ()
124 Supplementary written evidence from Mind ()
125 Written evidence from the LTA ()
126 Written evidence from the National Futsal League ()
127 Written evidence from the Sport for Development Coalition ()
128 Supplementary written evidence from Active Partnerships ()
129 Written evidence from the LTA () and supplementary written evidence from Yorkshire Sport Foundation ()
130 (Paul Owen)
131 Supplementary written evidence from the Sport and Recreation Alliance ()
132 (Mark Lawrie)
133 Written evidence from Professor Aiden Doherty, Professor Heidi Johansen-Berg, Mr Alberto Lazari, Dr Karen Mansfield, Mr Thomas Wassenaar and Dr Catherine Wheatley ()
134 Written evidence from the LGA ()
135 Written evidence from the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES) ()
136 Cabinet Office, Sporting Future: First Annual Report (9 February 2017), p 14: [accessed 15 November 2021]
137 Cabinet Office, Sporting Future: Second Annual Report (January 2018), p 10: [accessed 15 November 2021]
138 Written evidence from Jamie Foale ()
139 (Jamie Foale)
140 Written evidence from the FA ()
141 Written evidence from the LGA ()
142 Written evidence from Jamie Foale ()
143 Written evidence from Conservatives for Women ()
144 Written evidence from Surbiton Hockey Club ()