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21 Dec 2021 | 10:10

In this blog the Chair of the Sport for Development Coalition, Andy Reed OBE (pictured below), delivers his end-of-year message and looks back over an impactful 12 months for the network, as well as saying farewell to a key team player and looking forward to the challenges and opportunities which lie ahead for sport for development.

New Year always represents a valuable opportunity to reflect on what has been achieved over the past 12 months, and to review priorities for the year ahead – and, as we head into 2022, there’s plenty to consider from both perspectives for the 200-plus organisations which constitute the Sport for Development Coalition.

In what has represented my first full calendar year as Chair of the Coalition, the ‘collective action’ of this UK-wide movement of charities, sporting bodies, community and voluntary organisations – which collectively over-arches thousands of projects and programmes intentionally using sport and physical activity to tackle key health and societal challenges – has matured from an embryonic concept to a full-scale schedule of activities, events, working groups and publications aimed at aggregating and advocating to enhance the network’s collective impact. This rapid growth has been particularly timely given the acute challenges that society is currently facing.

The Chair

If 2021 was all about formulating the plan and building the structures for our collective action, with the expert hand of Executive Director Ollie Dudfield at the tiller, then 2022 will be about executing it on a sustained basis to ensure the impact of the network continues to scale up, both through the engagement of place-based organisations embedded in communities across the UK, and through its growing national influence cultivating an enabling policy environment which will ensure the potential of sport for development is understood and acted upon as policy-makers and funders seeks solutions with which to ‘level up’ communities facing deprivation, and ‘build back fairer’ from the Covid-19 pandemic.

I’m sorry to have to report that Ollie will be moving on in January to work in a global role focused on sport and sustainable development, but it’s fair to say his period with Coalition has been extremely impactful and the Board wishes to place on record our gratitude to him, and the small backbone team he leads. I’d also like to thank him for bringing the Coalition to this point with his enthusiasm and dedication to sport for development, and the role it can play tackling issues right across society. He joined the Coalition from the Commonwealth Secretariat, where he had been leading its work on the contribution of sport and physical activity to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and the legacy of his time with the Coalition will be another collective framework which, over the coming months and years, will enable the Coalition to speak with a united voice on key health and societal issues to which targeted sport-based interventions are making a valuable contribution. Read Ollie’s review of the year here.


In these straitened and uncertain times, it’s also vital that sport for development doesn’t always just go cap in hand to Government and – under Ollie’s guidance – the Coalition developed an innovative approach to its public affairs and policy work, for example with its submission to the Spending Review in the autumn setting a precedent in not demanding more money from the Exchequer, but instead identifying where investment in sport for development interventions could be ring-fenced within current funding streams, since it delivers multiple returns on investment – and thus significant cost savings – across numerous policy priorities, from mental wellbeing to community cohesion, from skills and employability to tackling crime and anti-social behaviour. Paramount to ensuring this can be implemented will be the growing body of scaled evidence collated from across the Coalition network and beyond, and published in a series of reports and papers throughout 2022, beginning with the launch of the ‘Movement for Mental Health’ report and policy brief in partnership with Mind, and Loughborough and Edgehill Universities. January will also see the publication of the Coalition’s ‘On Target’ series of papers aimed at illustrating how targeted sport-based interventions in communities facing disadvantage and deprivation can support levelling up, to coincide with the Government White Paper on the matter.

We have also worked hard to ensure the collective voice of the Coalition has been heard both inside, and outside of the sports sector, and to grow understanding and appreciation of how sport for development can help to tackle the deep-seated inequalities which have come to blight our society in recent times. It cannot be right that in 21st century Britain, as Sir Michael Marmot says, “social and regional health inequalities” and “the deterioration in health for the most deprived people” have come to denote “markers of a society that is not functioning to meet the needs of its members”. “There is an urgent need to do things differently,” Sir Michael adds, and sport is one of those national assets we have yet to fully capitalise on.

And so to 2022, and the Coalition’s transition into the next phase of its exciting development under a new Executive Director. As Ollie says his farewells the backbone team, which helps to convene and co-ordinate the Coalition’s collective action, will remain fully focused on supporting the key work streams around advocating for an enabling policy environment, articulating impact at scale, unlocking new resources  and, critically, continuing to diversify the lived experience that governs and leads the Coalition. The Board has already begun the recruitment process for the new Executive Director. Deadline for applications is January 12 and we’d be very grateful if you could support the process by sharing the vacancy with your networks.

A strong transition plan has been developed to sustain momentum and continue mobilising the sport for development movement; to ensure the voice of sport for development continues to shape national sector policy and strategy development, and maintains the confidence of supporter organisations and partners in the capacity of the Coalition to deliver the network’s collective strategy and plan. Governance will be strengthened and the Coalition’s legal, governance and HR structures continue to be diversified.


So after a busy 2021, the Coalition is gearing up for an even busier and more productive 2022 when sport for development can start to build on the foundations which have been carefully laid over recent years, and sport can really begin to play its long-anticipated and much-vaunted role in helping society become more equal and equitable. Given the challenges we face, its timing couldn’t be better.

Finally it just remains for me, on behalf of the Coalition, to thank our three funding partners – Sport England, Comic Relief and Laureus Sport for Good – for their ongoing support; the Sport and Recreation Alliance for hosting the Coalition, and to our collaborative partners Made By Sport. We look forward to working with you throughout 2022.

Get involved with the collective action of the Coalition