Community Sports: Impact on Young People - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 3:51 pm ar 16 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Baroness Grey-Thompson Baroness Grey-Thompson Crossbench 3:51, 16 Mai 2024

My Lords, I draw noble Lords’ attention to my entry in the register of interests. I am chair of Sport Wales and of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and president of the LGA, among other things listed in my entry.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Wood of Anfield, for raising my work on duty of care. It took about 18 months of my life and was not without lots of challenges, as some people in sport really did not want the debate to happen. There is no doubt that a number of governing bodies have been through challenging times in the drive to win medals. People who did not want to address the issue pushed back hard—they were very worried about lifting the lid—but many people in sport were extremely supportive. It is about getting the right balance in the system, which includes coaches, athletes and volunteers.

In my role with Sport Wales, I also sit on the board of UK Sport, which in recent years has gone through a transition from “medals and more” to “winning and winning well”. That is really important to me because, as a young athlete, my mum always used to ask me whether I had won and my dad asked me whether I had competed well. They are two really important things when we are looking at elite sport.

Some positives have come out of my work. A coaching register is being worked on and the positions of trust legislation has got across the line. Sadly, the ombudsman has not quite happened, but a lot of work is ongoing on integrity in sport—in the governance, culture and process—which is incredibly important because it has a big influence on community sport. I am delighted that many in your Lordships’ Chamber are interested in debating listed events. I have tabled some amendments to the Media Bill for the second day in Committee on Monday. All are welcome to contribute to that.

There are many different ways to measure the impact of sport: the social return on investment, the psychological impact and the medal table—which, of course, is a hard outcome. Major games are important, but we have to be careful not to overemphasise the impact of watching sporting events. It certainly brings people in, but we have to find smarter ways to keep them involved. I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Wood, quoted Jürgen Klopp—I am a huge fan of his. I will raise it up a level and quote Nelson Mandela, who said:

“Sport has the power to change the world”.

I absolutely believe that.

A lot of really good work is going on at the moment. In February 2023, the Sports Council for Wales, known as Sport Wales, commissioned Sheffield Hallam University, in partnership with Loughborough University, to carry out a social return on investment study of sport in Wales. The research builds on previous studies of sport in Wales in 2016 and 2017. It is centred in the policy context of Wales, taking into account the Vision for Sport in Wales and the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. Sport Wales is one of 44 public sector organisations which are subject to the Act, which requires public bodies to put sustainable thinking and partnership working at the heart of their role and to improve social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being in Wales.

The Act requires public bodies, including Sport Wales, to work towards seven well-being goals: a prosperous, resilient, healthier and more equal Wales; a Wales of cohesive communities; a vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language; and a globally responsible Wales. There were many benefits highlighted: ill-health prevention, a sense of belonging, leadership skills and increased educational attainment. The report revealed that £3.43 billion of social value was generated from £1.19 billion of input, giving a social return on investment value of £2.88 billion. This means that for every £1 invested in sport in Wales, financial and non-financial, £2.88 billion-worth of social impact was created for individuals and society in 2016-17. The largest amount of social value, 61%, was generated through subjective well-being, equivalent to £2.08 billion. Considerable social value, £651 million or 19%, was also created by social capital, £295 million or 8.6% by health, and £312 million or 9% by volunteer labour.

There is always a need for more money. This is not an appeal to the Minister—after all, sport is devolved, so as much as I would like to ask for more money it is not within his gift. However, we have to think about what we do differently. We have to think about physical activity as well as sport. Some research from ukactive, Sport England and Sheffield Hallam University shows that every £1 spent on community sport and physical activity generates £4 for the English economy. Physical activity is essential in preventing over 20 chronic conditions, including type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, musculoskeletal issues, depression, anxiety and dementia, and generates more than £5.2 billion in healthcare savings per year. Physical activity plays an important role in preventing a number of serious conditions, with research showing that it provides £9.5 billion in value to the economy. We should also look at physical inactivity, which costs £3.5 billion annually, of which £2.9 billion is borne by the public health system.

There is definitely a benefit in sport but I would like to look forward and think about what more we could do if we could join up the different organisations that are involved. We know that disabled people struggle to get involved in sport. Disability Sport Wales and Activity Alliance are doing great work in this area. Professor Rosie Meek is working in the criminal justice system. For women in sport, there are three organisations that are doing incredible work. The Women’s Sport Trust has just produced figures to show record-breaking TV viewership. The Women’s Sport Collective is bringing women in sport together. When I first got involved in working in sport, I did not need two hands to count the number of women working in sport. There is now a huge WhatsApp group, which is incredibly exciting. Also, Women in Sport is about to celebrate 40 years of challenging media portrayal and imagery. I say well done to Tess Howard, a GB hockey player who changed the rules of hockey to allow women to wear shorts, which brings more people in.

We now have role models—Olivia Breen, Hannah Jones, Jess Fishlock and Lauren Price—who do incredible things in sport. They cannot do it alone. We need to be supporting some incredible athletes out there and using their power—and the power we have—to change how people view sport and physical activity and really live up to Nelson Mandela’s words that sport can change the world.