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24 Nov 2022 | 11:11

The legacy movement around major sporting events must “re-define itself” and become far more diverse and inclusive, according to the Deputy Chair of the 2022 Commonwealth Games. 

Geoff Thompson, who is also founder and Chair of Youth Charter, was speaking at the close of the Sport for Development Coalition’s fifth ‘Town Hall’ session, which took place in Birmingham exactly three months on from the close of the Games in the city. 

Town Halls are designed to provide informal opportunities for a selection of the 250 charities and organisations that make up the Coalition’s network to engage on important issues in the sector and drive its collective response to them.


The Legacy Centre of Excellence in Perry Barr, one of Europe’s largest independent Black-owned business and arts centres, hosted the session. Entitled 'Beyond the Games: How can sport for development contribute to an impactful legacy for major events?' it provided a frank assessment of the social impact created by the Commonwealth Games, while highlighting what more could be done around future events.  

Geoff, and numerous representatives from local community sport providers, were vehement in their calls for a movement characterised by diversity, not simply in look but in thinking, creativity and knowledge. He believes that, as sustainability becomes an increasingly popular concept, sport for development runs the risk of becoming “a sector and now an industry - and that is fundamentally wrong”.

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Geoff (pictured above with Hitesh Patel, Executive Director of the Coalition) commented: “When people say ‘we need to talk’, they are not reflective of the communities where we want to affect the change. 

“We have a legacy movement that must re-define itself. If we don’t make the Coalition a consortium of genuine diversity, in all of its forms, then the commitment means nothing.” 

This year England has hosted the women’s European football championships, the Commonwealth Games and the Rugby League World Cup while July marked 10 years since the London Olympics. In an impassioned plea to attendees, Geoff called on policy-makers and practitioners to “please work together” when designing how the social impact of such events is sustained more effectively in the future.


Beverley Mason, Senior Independent Director of Sporting Equals, opened the session by calling on attendees to think much further beyond sport, and how different interventions could contribute to the Coalition’s collective impact. 

She said: “None of us are only sports people or only interested in the arts or only in education; all of these factors make up parts of our lives. So let’s think about organisations who can be part of the Coalition, individuals who have leadership skill, a voice in their community. Bring those people in, because they have something to increase not only the policy but the practice of bringing in investment into communities themselves.” 

VIDEO: Watch short film on the Town Hall session.

Beverley welcomed keynote speakers Mark Lawrie, CEO of StreetGames, and Tom Clarke-Forrest, CEO of Sport 4 Life, to provide the policy and practice contexts for the session. Mark argued that, in light of limited funding, positive social outcomes are driven by the organisations that really want to make a difference. 

He said: “I think major events offer a real opportunity for the Coalition and its members, partly because they shine a light a national spotlight on sport and the impact that sport can have, but also because they offer opportunities to turbo-charge what we do locally. 


“Major events are not necessarily an opportunity to do different, but to do more of what works. Government policy priorities are one thing, but when I talk to local community organisations, they talk about cohesion and connecting people, they talk about providing activities that not just divert young people but support them, mentor them and help them find a positive path.” 

Tom highlighted the growing importance of impact measurement in building a case for greater investment in sport for development. In particular, he explained how his organisation is contributing to the Coalition’s #OpenGoal framework in the area of sport and employability, and cited the newly-published ‘Active for Employment’ report to which more than 50 Coalition members have provided input and research.

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“There are those outside of the sector, outside of sport – and dare I say outside of our echo-chamber at times – who do need convincing of the power of sport. So it’s incumbent on us to articulate that change we are making, and evidence that impact so we can take that to commissioners to fund us to try and make that difference.” 

The second section of the Town Hall comprised two separate panel sessions, with the ‘practice’ panel featuring representatives from local community organisations including Kirk Dawes from Birmingham Rockets, Dan Allen from Sports Key and Naseem Akhtar from Saheli Hub. A ‘policy’ panel followed and featured Sport Birmingham’s Mike Chamberlain, Matthew Stone of the West Midlands Violence Reduction Partnership and the University of Manchester’s Verity Postlethwaite.


Kirk was frank in stating that his organisation had received no benefit from the Games, while Naseem said community sport organisations should be more closely involved in setting the expectations on what can be achieved through community sport and legacy funding. She explained: “If we’re going to be really honest, we’ve got to stop allowing funders and bodies to set the agenda on numbers and think about the quality of the work we’re doing.” 

The ‘policy’ panel responded from a more structural perspective, highlighting some of the challenges in the build-up to the Games with Birmingham being appointed relatively late on after Durban was stripped of host city status, and with the Covid-19 pandemic hindering preparations.

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Sport Birmingham CEO Mike Chamberlain said: “There were 11 fantastic days put on, and that was the primary role of the organising committee. Yes, there were some own goals - but actually, there wasn’t enough time to do everything really well. The commitment and the intent was there from the organising committee around legacy, but the reality of that was, with the best will in the world, lots of things happened separately and weren’t as joined up.


“It’s quite right that community organisations were saying ‘I haven’t seen anything’ - that can’t be defended. But what I would say, on the positive side, is that we have got a reasonable level of additional funding targeted into Birmingham which will go to the most deprived areas of the city.” 

The ‘Big Issue’ section of the Town Hall then saw attendees look to set priorities for future collective action, including on how to amplify and measure the contribution of sport for development to event legacy. The collective input generated from the Town Hall will inform and shape the Coalition's future work in the field of major events legacy, including how it works with partners such as UK Sport, Spirit of 2012 and the home nations’ sports councils. The Coalition is a System Partner of Sport England, as well as being supported by Comic Relief and Laureus Sport for Good.

VIDEO: Watch full replay of the Town Hall session.

All content produced by James Price and Oliver Lawrie.



The Community Campus portal reflects Youth Charter's national campaign and call to action from the 2019 Youth Manifesto, with the additional consideration of Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement, to re-engage, re-equip and re-empower one million young people in the UK, to recruit, select and deploy 10,000 'social coaches' in each of the 10 major cities of the UK and to map, track and measure the social, cultural and economic outputs and outcomes that are aligned to the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Youth Charter's global call to action aims to recruit, select and deploy 50,000 social coaches, 50 community campuses and positively impact on the lives of five million young people. Find out more.