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FITNESS, HEALTH, WELLNESS

features

Waves of change

The next few years will be tough, but we could use this as the opportunity for a reset. Martyn Allison asks, do we want to?

Published in HCM Handbook 2023 issue 1
Olympian Nicola Adams (second from left) supports This Girl Can / Photo: this girl can
Olympian Nicola Adams (second from left) supports This Girl Can / Photo: this girl can
We have to fundamentally change the way we work if we are to contribute to reducing the gap in health inequalities by reducing inactivity levels

During the worst of the pandemic there was a real desire to ‘build back better’, but somehow that energy drained away. Now we’re vulnerable to having change forced on us, in the same way as happened following the economic and social turbulence of the 70s and 80s.

Two things emerged during that time: the birth of sports development and the arrival of Compulsory Competitive Tendering (CCT) for public services. These have shaped the sector and underpin its current challenges and opportunities. How we now re-engineer them will shape our future.

Sports development emerged when the social benefits of sport and recreation were recognised and the realisation that those who could benefit the most were missing out. Instead of just investing in facilities, councils and national sport bodies invested in people to reach out to marginalised communities and help them participate in sport.

Despite huge investment the changes didn’t happen at the desired scale, however. Traditional sport providers found it hard to relate to these communities and were often unwilling to adapt the product enough to make it attractive and accessible.

Only after the 2012 Olympics failed to drive up participation was the focus switched from sport to sport and physical activity, creating a closer alignment with health policy and a focus on inactivity.

Campaigns such as Sport England’s This Girl Can and the piloting of place-based working in the Local Delivery Pilots suggested change was happening, but getting the sport and leisure system to behave differently remained an aspiration. It was the pandemic and the after-shocks of the energy and cost of living crisis that finally made us realise we have to fundamentally change the way we work if we are to contribute to reducing the gap in health inequalities by reducing inactivity.

Funding changes
Traditional approaches to sports development are now having to change. With declining resources funders are switching from the traditional sports providers to more diverse organisation- and community-based organisations (called Locally Trusted Organisations) that can reach those with the greatest health needs.

Thinking back to CCT
CCT was brought in by a Conservative government convinced public services could be delivered more efficiently by the private sector when driven by greater commercialism. While it led to huge improvement in management competency and service performance, it also started a trend which made it harder to deliver social objectives, despite councils continuing to subsidise prices to protect access.

The Best Value scheme replaced CCT in the Blair years, refocusing on value, not just cost. Councils were struggling to maintain the subsidies and some were signing up for longer contracts to trigger capital investment from contract operators.

Then austerity struck and massive cuts to council budgets opened up the race to reduce costs and avoid having to pay subsidies altogether, with some contracts even becoming a source of income, enabling councils to use the funds from leisure to pay for other services.

While efficiency improved rapidly, effectiveness in terms of equality and social value declined again. Our ambition and enthusiasm for greater commercialisation inadvertently created a business model which made it harder to deliver on council social priorities. Many facilities were creating usage patterns which were making health inequalities worse rather than better.

Restructuring provision
As councils rethink their priorities over the next few years, we’ll face a restructuring in the provision of public sport and leisure. Many worn-out facilities will not be replaced and contracts will be put aside as councils and operators redefine their relationships. Some councils will take back direct control of their facilities, especially since they became VAT-free when managed in-house (www.hcmmag.com/NBVAT), while others will be handed to different parties to run themselves.

As we seek to pivot from sport and leisure towards wellbeing, facilities will change. The standard leisure centre, based on a pool and gym, may be superceded as we see more multi-service hubs linked closely to health improvement and prevention. Finding the right business model will not be easy. Commercial models which limit access for those who most need it will no longer be as acceptable to many councils.

These ideas are being discussed across the sector and are presented in the recent publication from Sport England, Future of Public Sector Leisure (www.hcmmag.com/FOPL).

The report sets out parameters for changing what we do and how we work. The foundations are correctly defined as aligning better with local health policy and priorities; locally designing services based on places and communities; developing collaborative leadership and engaging with the challenges of climate change and low carbon emissions. By adopting these four foundations we will find ourselves on common ground with councils.

The report defines seven themes to drive change: improving the quality of our data and insight; digital transformation; better coordination and partnership working; improving the leadership skills of the workforce and creating a more diverse workforce; build local trusting relationships with health and other partners and delivering environmental sustainability.

These are immense challenges, yet there are already many great examples of good practice in the sector. It’s not about starting afresh it’s about how we transfer existing learning and best practice at scale.

A new business model is afoot for public sector leisure / Photo: this girl can
A new business model is afoot for public sector leisure / Photo: this girl can
The This Girl Can campaign marked a paradigm shift in marketing and inclusivity / Photo: this girl can
The This Girl Can campaign marked a paradigm shift in marketing and inclusivity / Photo: this girl can
/ Photo: this girl can
/ Photo: this girl can
/ Photo: this girl can
Austerity pushed greater commercialism meaning social values suffered / Photo: this girl can
Austerity pushed greater commercialism meaning social values suffered / Photo: this girl can
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2023/743174_797667.jpg
Challenging trading conditions look set to give public sector leisure provision a shake up. Martyn Allison looks back at how trying times have impacted the public sector previously and talks us through the way things could pan out as councils rethink their priorities and sport and leisure pivots towards health and wellbeing.
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features

Waves of change

The next few years will be tough, but we could use this as the opportunity for a reset. Martyn Allison asks, do we want to?

Published in HCM Handbook 2023 issue 1
Olympian Nicola Adams (second from left) supports This Girl Can / Photo: this girl can
Olympian Nicola Adams (second from left) supports This Girl Can / Photo: this girl can
We have to fundamentally change the way we work if we are to contribute to reducing the gap in health inequalities by reducing inactivity levels

During the worst of the pandemic there was a real desire to ‘build back better’, but somehow that energy drained away. Now we’re vulnerable to having change forced on us, in the same way as happened following the economic and social turbulence of the 70s and 80s.

Two things emerged during that time: the birth of sports development and the arrival of Compulsory Competitive Tendering (CCT) for public services. These have shaped the sector and underpin its current challenges and opportunities. How we now re-engineer them will shape our future.

Sports development emerged when the social benefits of sport and recreation were recognised and the realisation that those who could benefit the most were missing out. Instead of just investing in facilities, councils and national sport bodies invested in people to reach out to marginalised communities and help them participate in sport.

Despite huge investment the changes didn’t happen at the desired scale, however. Traditional sport providers found it hard to relate to these communities and were often unwilling to adapt the product enough to make it attractive and accessible.

Only after the 2012 Olympics failed to drive up participation was the focus switched from sport to sport and physical activity, creating a closer alignment with health policy and a focus on inactivity.

Campaigns such as Sport England’s This Girl Can and the piloting of place-based working in the Local Delivery Pilots suggested change was happening, but getting the sport and leisure system to behave differently remained an aspiration. It was the pandemic and the after-shocks of the energy and cost of living crisis that finally made us realise we have to fundamentally change the way we work if we are to contribute to reducing the gap in health inequalities by reducing inactivity.

Funding changes
Traditional approaches to sports development are now having to change. With declining resources funders are switching from the traditional sports providers to more diverse organisation- and community-based organisations (called Locally Trusted Organisations) that can reach those with the greatest health needs.

Thinking back to CCT
CCT was brought in by a Conservative government convinced public services could be delivered more efficiently by the private sector when driven by greater commercialism. While it led to huge improvement in management competency and service performance, it also started a trend which made it harder to deliver social objectives, despite councils continuing to subsidise prices to protect access.

The Best Value scheme replaced CCT in the Blair years, refocusing on value, not just cost. Councils were struggling to maintain the subsidies and some were signing up for longer contracts to trigger capital investment from contract operators.

Then austerity struck and massive cuts to council budgets opened up the race to reduce costs and avoid having to pay subsidies altogether, with some contracts even becoming a source of income, enabling councils to use the funds from leisure to pay for other services.

While efficiency improved rapidly, effectiveness in terms of equality and social value declined again. Our ambition and enthusiasm for greater commercialisation inadvertently created a business model which made it harder to deliver on council social priorities. Many facilities were creating usage patterns which were making health inequalities worse rather than better.

Restructuring provision
As councils rethink their priorities over the next few years, we’ll face a restructuring in the provision of public sport and leisure. Many worn-out facilities will not be replaced and contracts will be put aside as councils and operators redefine their relationships. Some councils will take back direct control of their facilities, especially since they became VAT-free when managed in-house (www.hcmmag.com/NBVAT), while others will be handed to different parties to run themselves.

As we seek to pivot from sport and leisure towards wellbeing, facilities will change. The standard leisure centre, based on a pool and gym, may be superceded as we see more multi-service hubs linked closely to health improvement and prevention. Finding the right business model will not be easy. Commercial models which limit access for those who most need it will no longer be as acceptable to many councils.

These ideas are being discussed across the sector and are presented in the recent publication from Sport England, Future of Public Sector Leisure (www.hcmmag.com/FOPL).

The report sets out parameters for changing what we do and how we work. The foundations are correctly defined as aligning better with local health policy and priorities; locally designing services based on places and communities; developing collaborative leadership and engaging with the challenges of climate change and low carbon emissions. By adopting these four foundations we will find ourselves on common ground with councils.

The report defines seven themes to drive change: improving the quality of our data and insight; digital transformation; better coordination and partnership working; improving the leadership skills of the workforce and creating a more diverse workforce; build local trusting relationships with health and other partners and delivering environmental sustainability.

These are immense challenges, yet there are already many great examples of good practice in the sector. It’s not about starting afresh it’s about how we transfer existing learning and best practice at scale.

A new business model is afoot for public sector leisure / Photo: this girl can
A new business model is afoot for public sector leisure / Photo: this girl can
The This Girl Can campaign marked a paradigm shift in marketing and inclusivity / Photo: this girl can
The This Girl Can campaign marked a paradigm shift in marketing and inclusivity / Photo: this girl can
/ Photo: this girl can
/ Photo: this girl can
/ Photo: this girl can
Austerity pushed greater commercialism meaning social values suffered / Photo: this girl can
Austerity pushed greater commercialism meaning social values suffered / Photo: this girl can
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2023/743174_797667.jpg
Challenging trading conditions look set to give public sector leisure provision a shake up. Martyn Allison looks back at how trying times have impacted the public sector previously and talks us through the way things could pan out as councils rethink their priorities and sport and leisure pivots towards health and wellbeing.
Latest News
New research shows that following social media health influencers motivates young people to exercise more ...
Latest News
The JD Gyms Group has completed a deal to acquire Simply Gym from Bay Leisure. ...
Latest News
Women’s health specialist, The Well HQ, has secured 'sweat equity' backing from Priya Oberoi, founder ...
Latest News
Peloton has secured a critical US$1bn five-year loan to shore up its finances. The loan ...
Latest News
Leisure Media has added another heavyweight to its line-up of CEOs for its inaugural HCM ...
Latest News
Empowered Brands has signed a deal with European staffless gym chain, Fit+, to be the ...
Latest News
Speaking to HCM for its 2024-2025 Handbook, which will be out next month, PureGym managing ...
Latest News
Leisure, lifestyle, wellness and entertainment growth investor, Imbiba, has invested in boutique gym brand, 1Rebel's ...
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Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: W3Fit EMEA’s innovative programme sets sail for Sardinia, Italy
Following a hugely successful event last year in Split, Croatia, W3Fit EMEA, is heading to the Chia Laguna resort in Sardinia from 8-11 October.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Phil Heath, 7x Mr Olympia, shares machine-only leg workout routine
Phil Heath, professional athlete, bodybuilder and 7x Mr. Olympia, has fielded a lot of questions about bodybuilding without machines. Should bodybuilders be limited to just free weights? Why?
Company profiles
Company profile: Les Mills UK
For over 50 years Les Mills has been leading the way in fitness to inspire ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Matrix Fitness
Preferred by some of the world’s finest hotels and resorts, Matrix offers an array of ...
Supplier Showcase
Supplier showcase - Jon Williams
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Featured press releases
Alliance Leisure Services (Design, Build and Fund) press release: Alliance Leisure celebrates the re-opening of swimming facilities at Merthyr Tydfil Leisure Centre
This month sees the opening of brand-new swim facilities at Merthyr Tydfil Leisure Centre, thanks to a £6 million investment secured by Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council.
Featured press releases
Speedflex (Europe) Ltd. press release: Speedflex hosts networking golf day at Close House
Speedflex, renowned for its innovative approach to fitness, recently ventured into new territory by hosting its first-ever networking golf day at Close House, one of the most renowned golfing destinations in the UK.
Directory
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
Cryotherapy
Art of Cryo: Cryotherapy
Salt therapy products
Himalayan Source: Salt therapy products
Snowroom
TechnoAlpin SpA: Snowroom
Lockers
Crown Sports Lockers: Lockers
Property & Tenders
Loughton, IG10
Knight Frank
Property & Tenders
Grantham, Leicestershire
Belvoir Castle
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
30 May - 02 Jun 2024
Rimini Exhibition Center, Rimini, Italy
Diary dates
06-06 Jun 2024
Drayton Manor Theme Park & Resort, Tamworth, United Kingdom
Diary dates
08-08 Jun 2024
Worldwide, Various,
Diary dates
11-13 Jun 2024
Raffles City Convention Centre, Singapore, Singapore
Diary dates
12-13 Jun 2024
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
03-05 Sep 2024
IMPACT Exhibition Center, Bangkok, Thailand
Diary dates
08-10 Sep 2024
Wyndham® Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs™ Resort, Lake Buena Vista, United States
Diary dates
19-19 Sep 2024
The Salil Hotel Riverside - Bangkok, Bangkok 10120, Thailand
Diary dates
20-22 Sep 2024
Locations worldwide,
Diary dates
01-04 Oct 2024
REVĪVŌ Wellness Resort Nusa Dua Bali, Kabupaten Badung, Indonesia
Diary dates
09-13 Oct 2024
Soneva Fushi, Maldives
Diary dates
10 Oct 2024
QEII Conference Centre, London,
Diary dates
22-25 Oct 2024
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
24-24 Oct 2024
QEII Conference Centre, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
04-07 Nov 2024
In person, St Andrews, United Kingdom
Diary dates
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