Regular readers of this blog will recall that back in May, when the Government was new; I applauded the Minister for Sport’s announcement that he was to end what he termed ‘initiative-itis’. At last, I thought, a Government that will put strategy ahead of piecemeal initiatives, a Minister who will support the proper, planned development of sport.
Then, only a month later, Hugh Robertson (the Minister in question) announced a new initiative and I blogged that initiative-itis had returned before it had even left asking the Minister, “Please Mr Robertson, can we see a genuine sports development strategy in place of this cross your fingers planning?”
Through the pages of ‘Inside The Games’ (where some of my blogs are reproduced) Mr Robertson responded angrily that he did have a strategy with a clear direction. He cited a list of impressive sounding aims and objectives telling us, “This is a strategy with a clear direction.”
Unfortunately, Mr Robertson had failed to advise us of one key component of this ‘strategy’ – the ‘how’; he failed to indicate how we are going to achieve the listed aims and objectives. Why was this important? Because any strategy without the ‘how’ is actually not a strategy at all, more a list of aspirations.
I pointed this out to the Minister asking if the strategy exists, as he assured us it does, could we please see said strategy. That was in July and Mr Robertson’s response is still awaited. We still await sight of his much vaunted strategy.
Then, on 15th November the Minister for Sport unveiled ‘Places People Play’ described as the Government’s London 2012 Legacy plans.
‘Hurray’ I thought, ‘the promised strategy at last!’
But alas; no. ‘Places People Play’ is much like Mr Robertson’s earlier reply to my blog, heavy on aspiration but very light on ‘how’ and without the ‘how’ (I know, I’m repeating myself) it is not a strategy.
Now, I am not alone in stating this. The Centre for Sport, Physical Education and Activity Research (SPEAR) at Canterbury Christ Church University agrees with me. In an exceptional article about the London 2012 Mass Participation Legacy Plan, Professor Mike Weed states; “Now we know the WHAT and WHY, but no one is telling us HOW!”
In his personal blog, ‘Lies, Damned Lies and Sports Participation Statistics’ Professor Weed goes further, pointing out fundamental flaws in the way statistics are being used to support the legacy bandwagon and giving valid reasons why the aims and objectives of ‘Places People Play’ will fall short.
Much is made of the £135 million being invested in sport via ‘Places People Play’ but will it provide a legacy? With councils, traditionally the nation’s largest funder of sport, up and down the country facing a struggle to maintain services and sport falling outside of the statutory requirements of local authorities will that £135 million (over three years) balance with the likely cuts to local sport provision? A quick calculation suggests it is the approximate equivalent of only £340,000 per authority or £113,000 per year of ‘Places People Play.’!
Apologies if I repeat myself again, but in previous blogs I have suggested that if we want a genuine lasting legacy from hosting the 2012 Olympic Games then the Government could do worse than matching most of the rest of Europe and making the provision of sporting facilities, the support of clubs with community roots and backing for the development of sport a statutory requirement of local authorities.
The Government could further support a lasting sporting legacy by leading on the creation of a genuine, vertically integrated strategy for the development of sport in the UK which understands, supports and delivers on the principles behind the sports development continuum.
In short the Government could drop the ‘initiative-itis’ (a term coined by its own Minister) which was so rampant under its predecessors, and which it has already acknowledged does not work, and begin planning properly. Step One needs to be by thinking about ‘how’.
© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global Limited, 2010