The report calls on the Government to establish a national plan for sport, health and wellbeing to tackle inactivity. Failings in sport and recreation policy and fragmented delivery have resulted in little progress being made in tackling levels of inactivity, particularly in certain groups including women and girls, disabled people, ethnic minorities, the elderly and people from less affluent backgrounds. A national plan for sport, health and wellbeing will set clear goals and better coordinate departments to deliver real change.
Dr Nicholson, who is Senior Lecturer in Sport and Sustainability in the BU Business School, is one of the UK’s leading experts on sport and inclusion. Her current research examines the changing role of women in sports governance in the last two decades, problematising the “mergers” which took place between men’s and women’s sporting organisations in the 1990s which have created a situation whereby sports leadership in the UK is now heavily male-dominated. In her evidence to the Committee, cited in the final report, she noted that: “Women’s sport in the UK is now run predominantly by men whose background is in men’s sport and who therefore, consciously or unconsciously, prioritise the men’s game”, and critiqued “the normative priority granted to men’s sport by those sitting on boards”.
The Committee report recommends that “Sport England and UK Sport should be more ambitious and set targets to improve board diversity for… underrepresented groups including ethnic minorities and disabled people. Failure to make progress with the targets should be met with financial sanctions.”
The Chair of the Committee, Lord Willis of Knaresborough said:
“Sport and physical activity can change lives. The pandemic has made abundantly clear the pressing need to get the country fitter and more active. However, participation in sport and recreation is flat lining. The Olympic legacy did not deliver the more active population we were promised, and the latest figures show activity levels have declined since the pandemic. Something needs to change and now is the time to do it.
“To make the changes we need it is time for a new national plan for sport, health and wellbeing. That plan needs to be ambitious and coordinated, and carry the weight of the Government and Prime Minster behind it. That cannot be delivered if it is led by DCMS, a small department with an increasing focus on its digital portfolio. That is why we are calling for responsibility for sport policy to move to the Department of Health and be driven by a new Minster for Sport, Health and Wellbeing.
“The new plan would coordinate efforts of bodies such as Sport England, local authorities and schools to work together to make it easier for everyone to be more active. Our report sets out a number of key priorities and themes that could form the basis of the new national plan and make a real difference to activity levels across the country.
“There is currently a Health and Care Bill making its way through the House of Lords. Members of our Committee will now explore where we can propose suitable amendments to that Bill to deliver the changes we think are needed on this vital issue.”
The full text of the report can be viewed below: