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1 Feb 2022 | 0:00

As the UK Government published its ‘Levelling Up’ White Paper, the Sport for Development Coalition renewed its commitment to supporting individuals and communities in the greatest need across the UK. 

The Coalition is a growing network of 200-plus charities, organisations and networks over-arching thousands of projects and programmes using physical activity and sport to intentionally generate positive social outcomes, and tackle key health and societal inequalities in communities facing deprivation and disadvantage. It is supported by Sport England, Comic Relief and Laureus Sport for Good.

An analysis of almost 35,000 beneficiaries across leading sport for development interventions across the network has shown that 64% of participants were from the 30% most deprived areas of the country. 


Organisations across the Coalition's UK-wide network say they are well-placed to support policy priorities such as sustaining mental health and wellbeing; improving skills, employability and educational attainment; increasing social cohesion, and reducing crime and anti-social behaviour. 

Through its Levelling Up plan, the Government has pledged to create a "radical new regeneration programme that will breathe fresh life into disadvantaged communities" and "reverse the geographical inequalities which still exist in the UK". This includes 12 'missions' - several of which Coalition member organisations directly contribute to on a daily basis at national and local levels.

Many of these inequalities have been exacerbated by Covid-19, and Chair of the Coalition, Andy Reed, believes "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," he added. "But we know that in many communities the potential of this asset has not been fully realised."

That is why, in its submission to the Spending Review in Autumn 2021, the Coalition called for ring-fenced investment for targeted physical activity and sport-based interventions as part of funding committed through the Plan for Health and Social Care, Plan for Jobs and Lifelong Skills Guarantee, and Beating Crime Plan.

The Coalition has also embarked on publishing a series of policy reports demonstrating the 'Collective Action' of its network. More than 70 organisations made submissions to the first of these 'Moving for mental health' which was launched in January in partnership with Mind and the Universities of Loughborough and Edge Hill. Amongst its key recommendations, the report called for a strategy across Government departments to strengthen the use of physical activity and sport to support mental health and wellbeing following the Covid-19 pandemic.


Targeted sport-based interventions, and the community-based organisations delivering them, have played a vital, largely unheralded role throughout Covid-19 and the Coalition looks forward to delivery of the White Paper’s pledge to empower civil society and local networks. The Coalition hopes this will bring a greater focus on preventative interventions and help to improve demand reduction in the long term.

Over the coming days and weeks the Coalition will be showcasing and sharing how its member organisations are working hard every day to tackle inequalities, support Covid-19 recovery and play a key role in levelling up in communities across the UK facing deprivation and disadvantage. 

Read the Levelling Up White Paper.

Read and sign the Coalition Charter.