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EDITOR'S LETTER: New funding streams for fitness thanks to UK government's sports strategy

By Kate Cracknell, Health Club Management | Published in Health Club Management 2016 issue 2
Kate Cracknell, Editor
Kate Cracknell, Editor

Sport is just one part of a far larger entity that is physical activity, observed Jennie Price at the ukactive Summit in November – hardly a shocking revelation in itself, but nevertheless an interesting perspective coming from the CEO of Sport England, whose mission up to this point has been to develop grassroots sport across the UK.

So was Sport England about to change tack and embrace other forms of activity? Were we about to enter an era where all those involved in getting the nation active would abandon their silos and work co-operatively and collaboratively in the centre ground? After all, we’d already seen a similar move in the fitness sector: the 2012 rebrand of the Fitness Industry Association to become ukactive, which simultaneously allowed the organisation to spread its wings and take a much broader approach to getting ‘more people, more active, more often’.

In December we got our answer in the shape of the new DCMS Sporting Future: A New Strategy for an Active Nation. Finer details are yet to come – Sport England will unveil its plans in April – but we already know the government is eyeing a far wider remit for the organisation.

For example, we know investment will be earmarked for initiatives that encourage physical activity among the inactive; demographic groups that generally have low participation rates – including women, older and disabled people, and those from lower socioeconomic groups – will be targeted with financial backing. There will also be projects to help young people gain skills that aid employment and tackle social exclusion and mental health problems.

Meanwhile sports governing bodies will have to demonstrate that projects have a “meaningful, measurable impact” on improving people’s lives if they want to continue to receive funding.

We also know that – spurred on by Sports Minister Tracy Crouch’s comment that the current distinction between sport and broader physical activity is “unhelpful, outdated and irrelevant” – Sport England’s Active People survey will be replaced with Active Lives, embracing activities like cycling, dancing and walking alongside traditional outdoor sports.

So what does all this mean for operators of gyms and leisure centres?

Perhaps the most immediate point, as ukactive Steve Ward points out on page 75, is that it marks an end to ‘them and us’ and a new era of working together to deliver physical activity outcomes for local communities.

But it’s not just about idealistic hand-holding: the new strategy puts very practical measures in place that will play into the hands of the fitness sector. As Ward explains: “All future funding will go to any organisation that can achieve one or more of the core aims of the strategy” – and these aims fit hand-in-glove with what the fitness sector is geared up to deliver: mental, physical and economic wellbeing.

The challenge and opportunity for our sector is therefore to think creatively about the way we package our offering, and the organisations we partner, so we tap in to this new funding stream. What best practice can we roll out in terms of working with troubled youths, disabled people, the sick and elderly? How do we prove the positive impact of our offering on mental health or workplace productivity?

We have an opportunity to play our part in the delivery of government policy. Let’s seize it with both hands.

Kate Cracknell, Editor

katecracknell@leisuremedia.com

@HealthClubKate

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