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ukactive update: CEO Steven Ward on the opportunities ahead for the sector

As the nation prepares for its next political chapter, ukactive’s newly-appointed CEO, Steven Ward, looks at opportunities ahead for our sector

By Steven Ward, ukactive | Published in Health Club Management 2017 issue 6
Ward (right), seen here at ActiveLab, has been appointed CEO
Ward (right), seen here at ActiveLab, has been appointed CEO
Our industry has gone from being a niche lifestyle sector to a £7.7bn behemoth integral to the future health of our nation and economy

When I think of the huge momentum and strides taken by the physical activity sector in recent years, I see tremendous scope over the coming years for us to be a driving force in building a healthier and wealthier society.

From a personal perspective, the past few weeks have seen me reflect on my career at ukactive with particular focus. Having joined the then-FIA as a policy intern back in October 2006, I’ve witnessed both ukactive, and the physical activity sector it represents, change beyond recognition over the past decade and the progress has been staggering.

Driven by the growth of ukactive’s members, our industry has gone from being perceived as a niche lifestyle sector to a £7.7bn behemoth acknowledged by government as being integral to the future health of our nation and economy.

Time for change
So it was with immense pride last month that I accepted the ukactive board’s invitation to become the CEO of this great organisation. I’ve greatly enjoyed my past two years as director, working with our chair, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, to build on the legacy of Dave Stalker and Fred Turok, without whom nothing we’re doing today would be possible.

The green shoots of progress from new ukactive initiatives – such as ActiveLab and Future Leaders – are already starting to sprout, and we remain rooted as ever in adding value to our members by delivering against their core commercial agenda.

A culture shift
Where once we were living in the dark, our sector is now on the verge of being blinded by the light, thanks to the sheer amount of information available. This is the age when evidence-based initiatives such as the DataHub in partnership with 4Global (see page 72) and the ukactive national aggregated Exercise Referral Database, in partnership with ReferAll, will empower operators to make better, data-driven business decisions.

I also see a significant cultural shift ahead as the maturation of CIMSPA provides our sector with a workforce of skill and diversity to power it forward.

Partnerships
ukactive will work to consolidate its position as the heartbeat of the physical activity agenda, upweighting our sector as the solution to society’s most pressing problems, such as an overstretched NHS, ageing population and unproductive workplaces.

This will bring greater opportunities for impactful partnerships with organisations such as Sport England and Public Health England, a wider pool of funding streams and an expanded market to serve.

And then there’s the work in play to stimulate innovation and breakthrough thinking across the sector with ActiveLab. If we can demonstrate the UK’s potential as a hotbed of innovation, there’s a massive opportunity for it to find its place on the world stage.

A new political dawn will break on 9 June this year. But whatever its colour, we as a sector must be ready to unite to create a society where physical activity becomes the population’s natural choice from cradle to grave.

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ukactive's newly-appointed CEO, Steven Ward, says a significant cultural shift is ahead for our sector...
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