Skip to main content
25 Jan 2024 | 11:11

Leaders from across the Sport for Development Coalition have pledged to show how they are working collectively to meet global sustainability goals and national policy objectives during a landmark year ahead for sport, society and the planet.

With an Olympics, Paralympics and UK General Election set to take place during 2024, representatives from more than 50 supporter organisations, plus partners including DCMS and Sport England, convened in London for the Coalition forum entitled ‘From Policy to Practice’. The aim of the forum was to focus on aligning individual objectives and outcomes highlighted within the #OpenGoal Shared Advocacy Framework co-designed by members of the Coalition.


The United Nations recently reported the world is only 15% towards achieving its Sustainable Development Goals at the halfway stage of its Agenda 2030 and at the forum Active Humber CEO David Gent, the Coalition’s lead on climate justice, explained how committing to collective action could help to accelerate sport’s contribution to sustainable development, while simultaneously building a more enabling environment for investment into the ‘sport for change’ sector.

David (pictured below) said: “Imagine if we could coalesce all of our activities together then we could absolutely demonstrate to everyone else that we are acting in response to this emergency. I believe this framework, and following it, is a great way to do that.”

Forum 1

Opening the forum Andy Reed OBE, Chair of the Coalition, observed: “You see the energy and the knowledge that is in this room; if it can be aligned, then we could make an enormous difference.

“It’s really important to remember that all of you are the Coalition, and you get out of it what you put in. So what are you going to do, and what are we going to do collectively? There is a collective aim and ambition that is shared in this room.”


Andy presented the Coalition’s new 'Getting On Track' policy report which draws on the recent MoJ-funded Youth Justice Sport Fund, managed and distributed by Coalition partners and delivered by 218 locally-trusted organisations. Andy said: “This report shows that if we are given the resources, we can deliver and we can do more.”

Getting On Track is the third policy report in a series following the publication of Moving for Mental Health and Active for Employment. Each report includes five key recommendations to policy-makers and officials, which will underpin the Coalition’s key messaging to political parties in the build-up to the Election.

Forum 11

Andy concluded: “It’s about providing the evidence and advocating for it to the right people. With a General Election likely in 2024, this is a key moment in which lots of these conversations are taking place.”

The Coalition’s core team, including Amy Caterson (below) and Simon Lansley, provided a short overview of outputs and activities planned for 2024, especially in the build-up to 6th April which is the UN’s International Day of Sport for Development & Peace (IDSDP). Each year Coalition network members mark the day by showcasing how they are contributing to the positive health and societal outcomes highlighted within the #OpenGoal framework.


Next to present was David Gent, who also represents the Active Partnerships network and wider Sport for Development Coalition on the Sport and Environment Climate Coalition (SECC), explained how the five principal outcomes highlighted by #OpenGoal each have a direct relationship with the over-arching aim of ‘increasing environmental sustainability’ and tackling climate injustice.

Echoing the short film on sustainable development which opened the forum, David asked attendees “what are you going to do as one of the leaders in sport and physical activity?” and called for them to take personal responsibility.

Forum 7

He commended SECC partners, which include UK Sport and Sport England, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) for their “strong commitment” to bringing sustainability to the forefront of their strategic planning over the last two years. “It’s that speed and that approach which we are now going to need, and this is where the #OpenGoal framework can help actors across the Coalition in binding us together in collective action from what we are doing at an individual level.

“We have to work in coalition,” he added, before asking attendees to start thinking of themselves as the ‘Sport for Sustainable Development Coalition’. “We need to do a lot more, and a lot quicker….. tomorrow is less than 12 hours away.”


During a panel session (below) featuring leading networks across the Coalition, Mark Lawrie, CEO of StreetGames and co-Chair of the Coalition’s Policy Working Group, spoke about focusing less on what sport needs when lobbying Government, and focusing more on what sport can do for society, and is already doing.

“I don’t think we should be asking, I think we should be saying ‘sport can’ because sport is such a positive power for good,” he said. “Lots of colleagues here were at the launch of the Youth Sport Trust manifesto this week, and sport can make a difference for children in schools, sport can improve the health of older people, sport can reduce crime and anti-social behaviour.

Forum 2

“Sport needs to be backed, but it also needs all of us to put aside our own egos and logos, and say ‘we can’ make this difference through sport. We all do it every day, but there’s a risk that when we go to Government we ask for all of the little things that aren’t going to make a real difference, rather than the one big thing that can.”

Helen Rowbotham, CEO of Access Sport, agreed and called for sector partners and funders to work more collaboratively towards our shared goals and outcomes. “The sport for development sector is often accused of being fragmented and duplicating effort but we know that are all just touching the surface. We are doing amazing work, but we need to work together, recognising and embracing our different strengths and areas of expertise. If you think about all of the skills in this room, there is so much we can do, and the Coalition can play a key part in that.”


Sarah Kaye, CEO of Sported, believes the sport for development sector can play a vital role in helping to deliver the Government’s Get Active strategy. Reviewing the strategy, she said: “There is alignment on the ‘need’ and the target groups that need to be reached, but the clear challenge is in the ‘how’ and that’s what this sector can collectively do – it’s reaching those people in deprived, under-served and marginalised communities. We know that with Government more often than not it’s cost-neutral, we are effectively tackling the root causes rather than the symptoms. We can work that spend much, much harder and it’s how we come together in a more united front and be more focused with evidence.”

Sarah, who worked in the private sector before joining Sported, added: “There are opportunities for us to bring more investment into the sector. If you think about the significant amount of investment that corporates put into sponsorship, it’s unbelievable and yet there is a massive disconnect between sport sponsorship and the amount of investment into community sport. I think if we do a much better job of building its profile and making the connection, we can unlock a serious amount of money which will build profile but also have a halo impact for Government and policy-making.”

Forum 10

Panel moderator Preeti Shetty, CEO of Upshot, agreed and urged attendees to think about the concept of ‘Corporate Social Opportunity’ (CSO), as opposed to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). "We need to position sport for development as an opportunity, not a chore," she said.

Closing the forum Zenna Hopson, CEO of Dallaglio RugbyWorks and co-chair of the Coalition’s Policy Working Group (pictured below), delivered a rousing call to arms for fellow Coalition supporters to work together, raise awareness and build advocacy for the sport for development movement.


“It’s incumbent on us to let people know how we fit into the #OpenGoal framework, and how we play a role in sustainability – because there isn’t one of us who isn’t thinking about it, or talking about it.

“I think our time is now; I've been out talking to large youth organisations, large mental health organisations, and to very big traditional sports organisations, and they are saying ‘we need you’ because sport for development is transformational. It works, and it saves money. What you all do changes lives... so let’s think about how we get that into manifestos, and let’s think about how we coalesce around the #OpenGoal.”


Read about the Coalition's latest policy report 'Getting On Track'.