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3 Nov 2021 | 12:12
  • Minister for Sport and Civil Society backs the Sport for Development Coalition’s call for sport to act as a ‘team player’ in levelling up communities and building back better from Covid-19. 
  • Nigel Huddleston MP was speaking at the Coalition’s inaugural CEO Forum in central London which was attended by more than 100 leaders from sport for development organisations. 
  • Targeted interventions across the Coalition’s UK-wide network produce cost savings and multiple returns on investment, from sustaining mental health and wellbeing and increasing employability and skills, to reducing crime and anti-social behaviour.

The Minister for Sport, Tourism, Heritage and Civil Society Nigel Huddleston has backed the Sport for Development Coalition’s call for sport to act as a ‘team player’ in levelling up deprived communities and building back better from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The Minister was speaking at the Coalition’s inaugural CEO Forum in London attended by more than 100 executives and leaders from sport for development organisations across the UK. The Coalition is a growing network of more than 200 charities, sports bodies, community and voluntary organisations over-arching thousands of projects and programmes intentionally using sport and physical activity to generate positive social outcomes.

Read the Coalition's Outcome Statement from the CEO Forum.

Minister for Sport 2

In his address to the Forum, the Minister reaffirmed the Government’s pledge to help improve access to sporting facilities and commitments made to levelling up youth services in the recent 2021 Budget announcement. The full address can be found here

He said: “This Government believes in the power of sport and physical activity, we know it has the potential to bring communities together and transform people’s lives, and level up the country. As we look to the future and as we refresh the Government’s sport strategy, we will be working closely with the sector and look to your input as we level up facilities, sporting infrastructure and seek to build the active and healthy nation which we all want to see.” 

The Minister paid tribute to the “absolute heroes” across the VCSE (voluntary, community and social enterprise) sector who have “worked tirelessly” throughout an “incredibly challenging 18 months”. 

“We all know that these organisations are the backbone of our communities,” he said. “Civil society organisations will have a central role to play in levelling up parts of our country over the years ahead, working with the Government to help remove the barriers to access and opportunities that still persist in way too many communities. 

“I look forward to working with you all on this agenda.” 


Sport England CEO Tim Hollingsworth said organisations across the Coalition and beyond had a vital role to play in delivering his organisation’s ‘Uniting The Movement’ strategy, which will seek to tackle stubborn inequalities in participation in sport and physical activity. 

Addressing Coalition members, he said: “You understand and have a relationship with so many communities in this country, demographically and geographically…. in areas that we feel might have been ‘left behind’. You have the ability to engage with them in a trusted, relevant and – perhaps most importantly – a sustainable way. 

“This makes the sport for development community, sector or coalition – whatever we want to call ourselves – really fundamentally important to all of this. Our challenge to you is that we need collaboration in its truest sense, we need sectors to come together, we need to unite the movement to maximise the impact we could have. We want organisations to see themselves as part of the greater whole.” 

The CEO Forum, which was hosted by Greenhouse Sports, followed the Coalition’s recent submission to the Government’s 2021 Spending Review which made four specific recommendations centred on ring-fencing funding for sport-based interventions within current commitments aimed at levelling up, improving health and wellbeing, supporting jobs and reducing crime. The Coalition argues these policy decisions have the potential to produce substantial cost savings and multiple returns on investment across priority policy areas for Government. 

The representation was produced in collaboration by organisations across the Coalition, and its Chair, Andy Reed OBE, told the Forum: “This is the value of us working collectively, as a Coalition, to assess these plans and articulate to Government the contribution which sport for development can make at scale.” 

In his speech to the Forum, which can be viewed in full here, Andy said: “We have faced a generational crisis and experienced substantial health, economic and societal impacts. In this context, it is essential that all societal assets which can help fight inequality and generate positive social outcomes are mobilised. 


“Sport for development is among these. But we know that in many communities the potential of this asset has not been fully realised. Our primary focus today is to assess and set priorities for our collective action as a Coalition aimed at ensuring communities across the UK can fully capitalise on the multiple returns on investment sport for development can offer as a ‘team player’ in building back better and levelling up.” 

The representation called for ‘sport and physical activity social impact and regeneration projects’ to become dedicated sub-themes for investment in future rounds of Levelling Up and UK Shared Prosperity Funds, and proposes ring-fencing investment for strategically-designed sport and physical activity-based interventions as part of funding committed through the Plan for Health and Social Care, Plan for Jobs, and Beating Crime Plan. It backs Sport England’s strategic vision for physical activity to be a catalyst in transforming lives and communities, and calls from other national sector partners for long-term funding for the PE and school sport premium, and the holiday activities and food programme; bridging the funding gap for public leisure facilities, and opening school-based sports facilities, with a focus on delivering for those facing the greatest inequality of opportunity. 

Investment in targeted sport and physical activity-based interventions, and sport for development approaches in particular, can disproportionately deliver outcomes in areas of high deprivation and for communities most in need of levelling up. An analysis of almost 35,000 beneficiaries across leading sport for development interventions showed that 64% of participants were from the 30% most deprived areas of the country. 

Access the Coalition’s full representation to the Spending Review.