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How leadership are addressing the main concerns impacting the activities sector

April 5, 2024

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With the release of the Spring Budget, concern from the entire sector that it does not fully utilise its capacity is widespread. The sector has seen the impact of rising energy costs, and coupled with the UK government’s ongoing commitment to the Levelling Up initiative, there have been consistent calls to fully realise the impact of the sector.

However, leadership in the sector has continued to manage, support and assess its current capacity. The aim has been continued transparency for the sake of public and commercial consumption. Assessment of swimming and grassroots sports have seen a larger degree of focus as investment has become a significant part of the sector’s concerns.


Sport England addresses the Heart of Aquatics Research Report

Sport England has addressed the concerns in the newly released Heart of Aquatics Listening Research Report published by Swim England. The report highlights ongoing issues with abuse, racism, bullying and poor culture within swimming in England. The wide-ranging issues portrayed show definite room for improvement in inclusive culture.

In the statement made by Sport England, they acknowledge the experiences shared by swimmers, coaches, and volunteers in the report. Whilst thanking participants, they stated that “no one in sport should ever be subjected to this kind of treatment”.

The governing body has confirmed that their continued support is contingent on the governing body addressing the issues in the report. They welcome the new leadership at Swim England and state they will work with and support the organisation to “decisively and swiftly enact the report’s recommendations and take the sport forward”.

Whilst Sport England has not committed to sanctions, their continued support to “maximise positive change” has been confirmed. Their focus will be on broader accountability based on the economic impact on public pools and leisure centres in the UK.


Ensuring a legacy for public pools in England

Whilst the Heart of Aquatics Report shows serious errors in culture for swimming, the UK government has announced a £60 million fund to support public swimming pools in England. The aim is to improve public pools’ energy efficiency and long-term sustainability, and this will be the second phase of the Swimming Pool Support Fund (SPSF Phase II).

The £60 million fund is being provided by the government, with £20 million coming from Sport England via the National Lottery. Over 260 local authorities have already received a share of the funding to make capital improvements to their public swimming pools.

The interventions include installing solar panels, LED lights, pool covers, and other energy-saving measures to improve facilities. In total, the fund has supported over 500 capital projects in more than 300 swimming pool facilities across England.

The new funding is additional to the £20 million provided in the first phase of the fund, which went to 196 leisure centres and swimming pools in 103 local authorities to help with increased operating costs such as energy and maintenance. The government’s goal is to get 3.5 million more people active by 2030, and supporting public swimming pools is part of this wider strategy.

There have been criticism from the sector that whilst supporting public pools is part of increasing activity levels, the Spring Budget needs to fully realise the importance of the sector. Whilst, supporting physical localities is key, support for providers, whether commercial, public or in the not-for-profit sector are lacking.


Ongoing commitment to grassroots sports in the sector

UK sports bodies have re-invested over £170 million into grassroots sports, demonstrating a strong commitment to supporting the long-term development of their respective sports. This investment is part of the Voluntary Code of Conduct on the Broadcasting of Major Sporting Events, which requires UK sports bodies to re-invest a minimum of 30% of their net broadcasting revenues into grassroots initiatives.

The investment is being used to improve sports facilities and increase inclusion across the country, with projects such as new 3G artificial grass pitches, changing rooms, goalposts, and floodlights. It is helping to break down barriers to participation and make it easier for people to get active, supporting the government’s ambition to get 3.5 million more adults and children active by 2030.

Whilst the majority of sports bodies have met or exceeded the 30% reinvestment target, the Rugby Football League (RFL) fell slightly short, investing almost £1.5 million into grassroots development. Overall, this significant investment from UK sports bodies is having a real impact on communities across the country, delivering transformational change and unlocking the health, wellbeing, and societal benefits that grassroots sports can provide.


The Drive Phase podcast – the premier podcast in the activities sector

Why not check out The Drive Phase for an in-depth look at the sector’s leadership and business journeys? From tech organisations investing in greater safeguarding for grassroots sports broadcasting to National Governing Bodies who are supporting greater inclusion. Let James Moore, host and CEO of The Drive Phase podcast, introduce you to the best and brightest!

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