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5 Feb 2021 | 10:10

The Sports Minister has urged organisations using sport and physical activity to generate positive social outcomes to “bang the drum” and “make the case” for investment as the nation seeks to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Nigel Huddleston says the preventative benefits of physical activity and sport “have never been clearer” across Government because of the pandemic, and he is committed to working with other departments in Whitehall to maximise the social value and impact of the sector, and its contribution to the recovery. 

The Minister’s call to arms echoes the Sport for Development Coalition’s new ‘Adapt, Support, Respond’ initiative which aims to highlight the sector’s contribution to important social outcomes, such as improving mental wellbeing and community cohesion, or tackling social isolation and anti-social behaviour. The initiative will collate evidence under-scoring the case for investment in sport for development as budgets are re-aligned to correspond with new heightened realities and challenges in a post-Covid world. 

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston“The voice of sport is loud, and has probably never been louder in Government because of the challenges of the sector over the last few months,” said the Minister (right). “We are very much aligned with the goals recently announced in the Sport England strategy. The Government is going to be refreshing its own strategy, Sporting Future, and looking again at the sport and activity action plan in schools. 

“There will be a lot of work going on, and we absolutely require the involvement of the sector. Those stakeholders have really proven their worth during Coronavirus, in a way which none of us probably anticipated, and that collaboration with central government and local government, multiple government departments and the sector playing its part, is key. It’s not going to be easy to co-ordinate, and will almost certainly require some kind of investment, as well as focus.

PREVENTION

“But the reality of prevention, and the preventative benefits of physical activity and sport, have never been clearer – as a result of Coronavirus. That is so clear now, and therefore investing to save money and to save the NHS cost in the future, I think is quite a compelling argument that I will be making in those internal discussions. 

“I would say continue to play the part that you have been, bang the drum for investment, make the compelling case because the numbers, quite frankly, speak for themselves.” 

The Minister, who was speaking at a virtual meeting of the APPG (All-Party Parliamentary Group) for Sport co-ordinated by the Sport & Recreation Alliance, also called on organisations seeking support to combat the effects of the pandemic to explore all avenues of funding – including those beyond sport, as illustrated by the Coalition. 

Schoolchildren playing sport (Sport England library)

He added: “Sport and physical activity is not just a DCMS issue. One of the things that I want to ensure, once we have got the Covid-19 emergency over, is that I personally focus on really pushing the sporting and physical activity strategy overall, so that I am not just the Minister for sport regulation or liaison with sports governing bodies…. but really pushing the overall agenda to get activity levels up, and I will not, and cannot do that on my own. 

“That means really intimate engagement with the Department of Health, MHCLG (Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government), and Department for Education – let’s not forget that 40% of all sporting facilities in the country are behind school gates, and they are not used enough. We have really got make sure that we use them not only for children, but also more broadly. 

“And of course many other departments, and all roads always lead to the Treasury. There’s an imperative to work across departments, and we are already doing that.” 

Read more about the thinking behind our #AdaptSupportRespond initiative.