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30 Aug 2023 | 16:16

strategy 8A leading coalition of charities and organisations that uses sport to drive positive social change has welcomed the increased focus on ‘sport for development’ in the new Government sports strategy published today.

‘Get Active: A strategy for the future of sport and physical activity’ (right) was published by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), and cites the Sport for Development Coalition’s #OpenGoal framework in highlighting how “the benefits of building an active society extend far beyond just physical and mental wellbeing”.

Targeted sport-based interventions are being used every day across the Coalition’s UK-wide network to increase employability and educational attainment, build social cohesion and reduce crime and anti-social behaviour – for example through the Youth Justice Sport Fund, which is also cited in the strategy. The £5million fund was created by the Ministry of Justice and managed by Coalition partners StreetGames and Alliance of Sport in Criminal Justice.


Now the strategy has been published, the Coalition is looking to all relevant Government departments and bodies to work more effectively together – in collaboration with its growing UK-wide network of more than 400 charities and organisations – to further capitalise on the multiple returns on investment which can help reduce public spending. Coalition supporters say this is the ‘open goal’ which has previously been missed.

Hitesh Patel, Executive Director of the Coalition, said: “We’re obviously pleased that the Government has recognised the significant value that sport for development can have in improving lives, and reflected this in its new strategy. It shows that the message is getting through and, crucially, that the Government is looking to work more closely with the sector.

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“Recent events, including the FIFA Women’s World Cup, continue to demonstrate the UK’s passion for sport – and yet it still feels that we have yet to fully maximise the contribution of sport and physical activity to building a healthier, more equitable and sustainable future.

“This is in spite of the fact that we know that more active and less sedentary communities and individuals can help to stem the onset of negative future impacts, from preventing NCDs (non-communicable diseases) to low standards of wellbeing and life satisfaction, and associated outcomes such as criminal or anti-social behaviour, low educational attainment, social exclusion and loneliness.


“It is also clear that sport and physical activity have a pivotal role to play in building a stronger Britain, especially in supporting communities and individuals in the greatest need during a cost-of-living crisis when public funding is under more pressure than ever. It is already part of the fabric which makes up our towns and communities, and we have a duty to safeguard and sustain its fundamental contribution to the collective health of the nation.”

Hitesh added: “The new strategy, if implemented effectively, will help us to shift the dial. We therefore look forward to working with DCMS and other Government departments  – from health to criminal justice, from education to employment – to unlock and realise the significant returns on investment that sport for development can provide.”

Open Goal

"Sport is an area where there is often consensus across the political spectrum, and we saw that at the recent All-Party Parliamentary Group session on 'Sport for Social Change' which the Coalition participated in. Given that we will shortly be in the run-up to the next General Election, we will be engaging with all the political parties as they develop their manifestos to further make the case for sport for development."

Later this year the Coalition will release the next policy brief in its #OpenGoal series, based on how sport is being used by Coalition members across the UK to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour. This follows Moving for Mental Health (January 2022) and Active for Employment (November 2022). Each brief draws on research and evidence from Coalition members and provides a series of recommendations to policy-makers.

The overall aim of the #OpenGoal framework is to demonstrate to current and future policymakers how sport for development can help to reduce public spending across numerous policy priorities.

The Coalition is a member of the National Sector Partners Group (NSPG) which issued a collective response to the strategy, stating that it “passionately believes that improving the health and wellbeing of this nation must be a central priority” for Government.

About the Coalition: The Sport for Development Coalition is a UK-wide movement of 400-plus charities and civil society organisations, leagues, clubs and networks over-arching thousands of projects and programmes intentionally using targeted sport and physical activity-based interventions to address health and societal inequalities. It is funded and supported by Sport England, Comic Relief and Laureus Sport for Good. For media requests, contact Simon Lansley at slan[email protected] or on 07736 162839.