Culture Secretary Sajid Javid sets out his vision for UK sport

Culture Secretary Sajid Javid sets out his vision for the future of UK sport at the Centre for Social Justice

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP

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Next month will mark my first anniversary as Secretary of State for sport…

And I was stopped in the corridor the other day by a colleague who wanted to congratulate me on my record.

He pointed out that under my tenure our football team had gone out the World Cup in the first round…

Our cricket team had gone out the World Cup in the first round…

And he was very hopeful I would stay in post until the Rugby World Cup this Autumn.

So I’m glad to have done my bit – in this job – to make Scottish colleagues happy!

Targets and success

It tends to be the case that – as a nation – we measure the health of our sporting stock by our success at the elite level.

So if – as in 2012 – we win 185 Olympic and Paralympic medals, everything is rosy.

But if two years later – our cricket team surrender the Ashes and our football team struggle at a World Cup – there are calls to change our entire approach to sport.

That attitude is often true of the public, and it’s often true of politicians too…

But everyone here will agree with me that a nation’s sporting health is just as much about the number of youngsters playing cricket in Stoney Lane Park…

Or the number of disabled children taking part in the Broad Street Project…

As it is about the number of medals round British necks.

Those two goals o ensuring success at the elite level o and increasing participation rates at community level

Have been the two biggest sporting goals of the two most recent Governments.

And this morning I want to explore:

  • the reason this Government has pursued those two goals.

  • the progress we’ve made against those two goals.

  • And – most importantly – whether they will be the right two goals for any Government going forward.

Goals Pursued

I believe that those dual goals of elite success and increased participation have – over the last ten years – been exactly the right priorities for both this Government, and our predecessors to pursue…

Because hosting the 2012 Games was a once in a lifetime opportunity to put on a successful, inclusive Games at which our athletes triumphed…

And through which we could inspire the next generation.

We delivered on both.

In fact, I experienced that inspiration in my own house, where two of my daughters…

Who’d already developed a love of Taekwondo when we lived in Singapore…

Saw Jade Jones win her gold medal, and decided to dedicate themselves to matching her achievement.

That’s a scene that was repeated across the UK.

90% of the country watched the Games on TV.

And two years later, nearly a quarter of sports participants said that the Games had motivated them to do more.

In fact, 1.6m more people are playing regular sport than when we won the bid ten years ago.

So I’m pleased to have been part of a Government that not only helped to oversee those Games and that rise, but that also:

  • secured £150m a year for the PE & School Sport premium;

  • launched the This Girl Can campaign;

  • built and renovated thousands of club houses, changing rooms and sports halls;

  • and oversaw our best Winter Olympic performance in 90 years, and England’s best Commonweath performance ever.

Today we’ve published a document called A Living Legacy which reflects on our achievements, and it’s a document I’m very proud of.

But what we have to face up to, is that we now live in a Post-2012 world.

And we now have to reassess our targets and think – over the long term – about why we fund sport.

And how we fund sport.

And what we make our priorities for sport.

Experience and research

[Now] From my experiences as a kid bowling at a drainpipe…

And then as a father to four sporty children…

And then as a Cabinet Minister, visiting schemes all over the country…

I’ve seen the impact that sport can have.

But from my previous experience as a Treasury Minister, I know that Government needs to justify every penny it spends.

And from my time as a businessman, I know that if you’re spending big money, then you need strong evidence for that investment.

So – over the last year – I’ve asked the teams at DCMS and at Sport England to seek out that evidence.

And to find where sport makes the biggest difference…

And where it can best justify having your taxes pay for it.

I’ve also felt that for too long political discussion about sport has been overly focussed on structures…

But those discussions miss the point.

The thing that matters is the value we’re delivering for the public.

And I’ve asked for that to be reflected in our research.

So today, we’re publishing:

o A review of the Social Impacts of Culture and Sport o And an analysis of the health and educational values of Culture and Sport.

I’m glad that the CSJ are also publishing their recommendations today in their Sport for Social Good report.

I remember reading their More Than a Game report when I started in this job, which has informed a lot of my thinking on sport.

And Mike – who is up next – was central to that report, and I’d like to thank and congratulate him for all his work in this area.

Having read through our evidence, and their evidence…

And having seen first-hand countless sports schemes up and down the country…

This is the strong impression I’ve been given.

The value of sport

By investing in sport we can help improve our Health and Wellbeing.

We’re all aware of the impact obesity could have on the NHS over the long term…

And we all recognise that sport can play a key role in reversing that.

Those sports clubs I’ve visited – from Corby Rugby to Clacton Bowls – have very clearly shown me the benefit of regular activity for their members.

By investing in sport we can improve educational attainment…

Research suggests that the participation of young people in sport improves numeracy and attention spans in the classroom…

And I’ve been hugely impressed by those professional clubs I’ve met…

Like Morecambe Football Club, where I was on Monday…

Who work closely with nearby schools to inspire local children.

By targeting investment in sport, we can take steps towards tackling anti-social behaviour.

Some of the most successful organisations dealing with youth violence and gangs recognise that sport is a key vehicle to deliver their message.

The Premier League’s Kickz programme – working with the police – has helped to oversee reductions of up to 60% in anti-social behaviour…

Sports coaches for Greenhouse and The Change Foundation provide not just coaching but – just as importantly – emotional support for vulnerable youngsters.

And by providing those role models – and by instilling the structure and discipline that sport demands – we can help to deliver other aims. Like boosting employment.

The work of Street League and Sport 4 Life is testament to that.

In any community, the existence of sports clubs can act as a social glue, and bring people together.

One of the most inspirational meetings I’ve had this year was with a man called Azam Riyard, who runs community outreach projects in Sussex…

And he drummed home to me the unique role that cricket can play in bringing together Asian and White communities…

And how those friendships formed on the field can trigger greater understanding and cohesion.

This isn’t to suggest that sport can cure every division in every community, but it can go a long way to helping some.

There are many organisations carrying out incredible work of this sort all over the UK.

And then the likes of Sported helping them achieve even more.

I was hugely impressed with the Evening Standard’s London United campaign…

Which was a great demonstration of the power sport has to turn people’s lives around.

And I’m really excited by the RFU’s Try For Change programme, which has the potential to do the same.

Of course, we shouldn’t just look at our own communities, we should look to use sport funding to cement our place in the world.

Through our GREAT campaign, we’ve used the momentum of 2012 to show Britain as a modern, inclusive, successful country…

Because sport can reach more people around the world than just about anything else.

The British Council is doing some great work in South America with Premiership Rugby…

And around the world with the Premier League….

And I know the Prime Minister was impressed with Fight for Peace in Rio…

But there’s potential to do much more.

In practise

So what does this all this mean in practise?

First. We have to recognise that success is not measured by numbers alone.

This isn’t to say I’m happy with the fact that a quarter of the UK are doing no sport whatsoever…

But if we ask Governing Bodies to simply increase numbers taking part in their sport, we’re not dealing with the problem.

Let’s say an Archery club’s participation figures rise by 20.

If that’s because they’ve persuaded 20 people from the local shooting club along, that’s great for them, but the overall position across sport hasn’t changed.

On the other hand, if they’ve used Katniss from the Hunger Games and Legolas from The Hobbit to inspire youngsters who had no previous interest in sport…

Then that innovation needs to be encouraged and rewarded and replicated.

That’s something I saw at Redhill Archery Club in my constituency and I was hugely impressed.

Second. We need to therefore recognise that participation is a means to an end. Not an end in itself.

What matters are the benefits that come from participation.

Third, we need to target those disadvantaged areas, both urban and rural, where funding can make the biggest difference.

We know there is a clear correlation between poverty and participation rates.

This is an area the CSJ has highlighted the need to do more in – and they’re absolutely right to do so.

And fourth – and most importantly – we need to make sure we’re working with the right delivery partners.

Within Whitehall that means building on what we started during the Olympics…

And continuing to engage even more closely with other Departments to deliver results through sport.

Within sport itself that means funding the NGBs, the organisations, the clubs and the coaches that deliver real change.

And it also means making clear – as Sport England rightly did just last week – that if you don’t achieve what we expect of you, then we will take funding away from you.

And as for those people already participating? Or those who don’t participate as much as they like?

I honestly don’t believe the answer lies in throwing money at the situation.

I believe it lies in a better understanding of what those participants want. And designing products around that.

Some of that is to do with better use of technology.

In the modern age, there’s no reason a cricketer looking for a game on a Saturday shouldn’t be able to find a nearby club who are a player short…

Just as there is no reason why – if someone has to cancel a tennis court at the last minute – all players within a mile shouldn’t receive an alert.

Just as TFL have done so well – we need to encourage sports clubs and NGBs to share as much of their data as is safe…

And allow people to make the apps and the sites that will put their facilities to best use.

Open Play is a great example of this but we need to do more.

And in the modern age we need the public to have access to modern facilities.

We all have romantic notions of grass pitches…

But where a grass football field can provide the public with 6 hours of playing opportunity a week…

Modern, 3G, floodlit facilities give people a chance to play over ten times as much sport, at times that suit modern lifestyles.

They can let school kids play in the day and workers play in the evening.

And they can save parents hundreds of pounds on washing powder!

I’ve been delighted to secure £8m of Government funding – every year for the next five years – to deliver 3G pitches up and down the country.

That is money that will be matched by the FA…

We hope that others will come to the party too…

But we know the outcome will be modern, high quality pitches across thirty towns and cities.

Elite Funding

Finally, what of the future for elite funding?

We all know that top performances from top UK athletes can deliver a sense of pride and wellbeing.

We’ve all felt that.

And we all know that such performances can inspire participation, or change people’s perceptions.

So I believe that Lottery support for our top athletes should remain.

In fact, I believe that by introducing the National Lottery, Sir John Major has been one of the most influential figures in British sporting success of the last thirty years.

In this role, I’ve been lucky enough to meet athletes like Ellie Simmonds and Katarina Johnson-Thompson…

And I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Team GB scientists, coaches and nutritionists in Bath and in Loughborough…

And I know how much they value their Lottery funding, and how crucial that funding has been in their success.

If we’re talking of developing medallists, we should also continue to support the School Games, which I was hugely impressed with in Manchester.


So what has my year in this job shown me?

What have my visits to Warrington Wolves, to Brighton and Hove Albion…

To Glamorgan and Hampshire and Bristol led me to believe?

I believe that sport is one of the most powerful forces for social progress on the planet.

So let me tell you my long-term vision.

Yes, I believe our elite athletes should be properly funded to carry on bringing those medals home.

And yes, I want us to carry on developing ever more inventive ways of reaching those who don’t yet take part.

But there’s something else even more profound.

I want us to use sport as a force for social good.

And to make this an explicit objective for sport funding in our country.

That means getting behind those who are already using sport to improve lives and helping them to do more.

It means sport funding not just rewarding participation but actually focused on the projects that deliver social impacts…

Whether that’s new skills for our younger people, better health for older people, less anti-social behaviour or more social cohesion.

And it even means sport being able to access other sources of money in return for delivering these outcomes…

Be it government spending or new channels of corporate and social investment.

Put simply, it’s about investing in the power of sport to change lives.

Now, there’s an election coming, and – after our inevitable landslide victory – whichever Conservative is doing this job will discover this.

Sport is – ironically –one of the least competitive areas when it comes to party politics.

Whatever colour rosette you’re wearing in the election…

You’ll want your local sports team to be successful…

You’ll want your local athletes to go onto great things…

And you’ll want your local facilities to be well used.

And if we invest wisely in sport…

We can deliver all that, and a whole lot more.

Published 25 March 2015
Last updated 25 March 2015 + show all updates
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