Written evidence submitted by InSport Intelligence
Call for Evidence: DCMS Select Committee on The Impact of Covid-19 on DCMS Sectors
This submission prepared by InSport Intelligence focuses on the immediate and long-term impact that Covid-19 and the related social and financial measures are having on sport and recreation:
(i) The immediate importance of recognising that young people, without underlying health conditions, are significantly less likely to suffer from Covid-19 than adults and should therefore return to school as soon as possible in a safe environment.
(ii) Immediate sport and recreation programmes to relieve acute levels of suffering from boredom, mental health issues and a dramatic fall in physical fitness. Government funded programmes should focus on immediate preparation for activities to be held throughout the summer holidays.
(iii) Engagement with Governing Bodies of Sport and the voluntary sector to organise summer courses focussing on programmes of sport and recreational activities, including a provision for healthy meals, as an immediate priority.
(iv) Engagement with independent schools to make available their facilities for government funded activities for children living in the locality as part of their charitable status conditionality.
InSport Intelligence is a sports business intelligence service advised by Lord Moynihan. InSport Intelligence offers in-depth intelligence briefings covering key developments in sports governance, legislation and international policy debates, International Federations and beyond. InSport Intelligence is a part of InSport Education, the international business school for sport.
InSport Intelligence has drawn on insight and expertise, alongside opinion and testimony from its business network, to identify specific sport-related issued due to Covid-19:
Prolonged inactivity due to the Covid-19 lockdown has resulted in the lowest physical fitness levels amongst children since the Boer War in 1902 when, as a result, the government launched a national fitness campaign. As a result, there is an urgent requirement for immediate Government action to deliver a successful nationwide programme of sporting opportunity.
The prospect of twenty-three weeks of inactivity amongst many of the U.K.’s children is unprecedented and requires an immediate plan to open up school and local authority sports facilities to volunteers, local clubs and governing bodies to organise summer holiday activities and events for young people.
InSport Intelligence believe that the Covid-19 pandemic leaves sport and recreation at an inflexion point. Short-term funding is not enough. It is essential that HMG launch a new ‘National Plan for Sport’ to address the critical health issues affecting children. Such a plan must take into account the essential need for:
(i) A modern, streamlined and efficient delivery framework.
(ii) Emphasis on youth; equality of opportunity and government reform.
(iii) Success by system, not by chance.
Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority Representation in Sport
InSport Intelligence supports the submission presented in response to the Call for Evidence by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sport, Modern Slavery and Human Rights on which Lord Moynihan sits as Vice-Chair. InSport Intelligence took part in the consultation phase of this presentation.
We know there is strong evidence to suggest that persons from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities are more likely to die from COVID-19 than their white counterparts. A key question that must be asked is why these findings are not being given greater significance in return to play protocols and how these inequalities came to exist in the first place? The lack of BAME representation on the Boards of almost all sports governing bodies in the UK could give an indication. There is a shocking lack of BAME representation on Boards across national sports governing bodies:
The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a bright light on this issue and an urgent strategy is required to change sport governance to require representation of women and BAME communities at all levels of sport. Whilst admirable that sportsmen and women should be eloquent leaders in this campaign, it should be the Government driving this change, not professional footballers.
Young People in Schools
InSport Intelligence urges the DCMS Select Committee to take evidence from the Department for Health to determine the likely exposure and impact of Covid-19 on the fitness levels of young people, taking into account current hours of sport and activity and mental health.
Our vision is that every child should have the opportunity to participate in their chosen sport at their chosen level in a safe environment, and to have sporting talent identified and developed through a comprehensive national system. The experience of Covid-19 provides a clean sheet to design and deliver this vision.
Voluntary sports clubs should have a key role in increasing participation and stimulating interest in sport. Their role could be strengthened by a direct and structured relationship with all local schools, colleges and universities.
Clubs should be encouraged to achieve these objectives by engaging with schools, becoming accredited to National Governing Body programmes and receiving Government support for their new roles which should begin as the holidays begin – the most important immediate COVID-19 driven case for action against declining levels of fitness amongst children.
We recommend –
(i) An immediate ’Summer 2020 School Sport Campaign’ funded by Government, supported by private sector sponsorship, to deliver universal programmes of sport and recreation for all school children during the summer holidays.
(ii) Agreement to extend and accelerate the delivery and completion of primary school playgrounds and modernisation of community play facilities.
(iii) Further measures to protect playing fields from further ‘sell offs’ and redevelopment for non-sporting purposes.
(iv) Evaluation of the effectiveness of dual use for all school sports facilities.
(v) Launch of a programme to significantly increase investment into coaching at all levels of the sporting pyramid from community participation to elite level.
(vi) Local Authorities in England and Wales should be mandated to provide sport and recreational facilities. At the moment such spend is discretionary.
The World Health Organisation recommends that children should engage in regular physical activity for at least 60 minutes a day. Fitness levels amongst young people are estimated by UKActive to have fallen by 80% going into the summer holidays – a period when fitness levels are known further to decline. Covid-19 has destroyed the ability of many children to approach this level of activity with severe consequences for declining levels of fitness and growing obesity. Obesity decreases life expectancy by nine years on average and increases the risk of many preventable diseases.
It is a sad truism that bad diet and lack of physical activity hits the poorest and most socially deprived hardest. Unless action is taken InSport Intelligence believe we are leading many young people into the waiting rooms of A&E.
Worldwide, only 1-5% of diagnosed Covid-19 cases have been amongst children, with the majority being relatively mild, and deaths extremely rare. However, currently the same anti Covid-19 measures are being applied to school sport activities as are being applied to return-to-work protocols in the House of Lords (average age is over 70). A blanket approach to Covid-19 does not stand up to scientific interrogation and is leading to huge health issues in children.
If it can be made safe for Premier League players to return to competition, it is certainly safe enough for children to engage in similarly sanitised and protected summer programmes of sport, especially where young coaches and organisers can be selected to minimise age-related exposure to Covid-19. Such an objective is as important for children’s health – both physical and mental – as it is for sport.
Fitness Not Sickness For All Ages
In mapping a route out of Covid-19 InSport Intelligence urges Government to:
(i) Focus on improving health and fitness in society in all age groups through the promotion and the prescription of physical activity.
(ii) Launch an immediate nationwide interdepartmental study to evaluate Sport & Exercise Medicine, its application, impact on the NHS, funding and subsequent investment programmes in fitness related sports courses; including opportunities online and those geared to minority groups, the elderly and those with disabilities.
(iii) Rollout a nationwide programme of Sport Exercise Medicine schemes, pioneered and led by a new ‘Commissioner for Participation and Fitness’.
(iv) Deliver an immediate and comprehensive increase in the number of training schemes for specialist sports exercise physicians, with a growing reliance on prescribing physical activity to patients, both as a remedial and as a preventative measure.
(v) Assess the viability of introducing incentive-based schemes involving the National Insurance system as part of a drive to improve the health and fitness of the adult population.
(vi) Design and deliver sport and tailored programmes of physical activity for the elderly. There are over 10 million people over 65 years old in the UK. 33% of men and 50% of women over 75 engage in no physical exercise at all. Weight-bearing exercise such as gymnastics, aerobics and dance help to maintain bone mass amongst the elderly. As we emerge from the worst of the covid-19 crisis the healthcare system will be put under strain by the needs of an ageing population who have been most directly affected by Covid-19 either through the illness itself or the consequences of isolation, boredom and no exercise. Exercise programmes – both online and in person - must be a short-term priority for Government. Exercise is the most simple and effective way of ensuring the elderly stay fitter and healthier for longer.
(vii) Introduce new measures to ensure well-funded, well-managed, long term support for inclusion, participation and excellence amongst all sportsmen and women with disabilities.
Immediate offers of Government support to the economy have been warmly welcomed by InSport Intelligence:
(i) £195 million of funding available from Sport England including a £20 million Community Emergency Fund; £5 million for existing partners in financial difficulty; £55 million to fund new and innovative ways of keeping people active during the crisis and £115m rollover of current funding into 2021/22 to give long term certainty to partners who play a “vital role in the delivery or sport and physical activity in England”; although the latter does not, on the face of it appear to be new money.
InSport Intelligence recommends a detailed analysis of how this money has been spent to consider whether it has addressed the financial impact across sport due to Covid-19.
InSport Intelligence hope the DCMS can update on how their funding package has been spent and which Governing Bodies of Sport remain close to bankruptcy.
(ii) Covid-19 has dramatically impacted the ability of athletes to prepare and train for the Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo next year. A successful Olympics for Team GB is hugely important in motivating and inspiring the nation to participate in a myriad of sports, as well as the ‘feel good factor’ of success on the Olympic stage.
Critical to the overall success of Team GB is the need for Government to provide a full one-year rollover of current lottery and exchequer funding. Currently it is only committed until 31 March 2021. Although we believe this is not currently impacting athlete preparation, it is causing uncertainty and difficulties for budget planning by Olympic Governing Bodies of Sport.
In the House of Lords on 28 April 2020 the Minister confirmed that despite lobbying by UK Sport and members of the House of Lords, no decision would be made by Government on funding Team GB in Tokyo 2021 until the Spending Review in the autumn of this year.
We urge the DCMS Select Committee to call for an early decision to remove the uncertainty currently experienced by Olympic Governing Bodies of Sport who face serious financial uncertainty as a result of Covid-19. It would be damaging to our chances in Tokyo 2021 if Olympic and Paralympic sports had to make significant cuts to the essential services they provide to our athletes should uncertainty over the funding not be resolved earlier than the forthcoming Spending Review which is unlikely to take place until the autumn.
(iii) The uncertainty over the status and definition of elite sportsmen and women
in the context of the UK’s quarantine regulations and restrictions on travel is also a concern. We call for Government to be open to special consideration for all qualifying sportsmen and women; as well as their coaches and entourage who need to travel to training camps and competitions to maintain progress in training schedules and compete internationally as restrictions on Covid-19 are lifted.
InSport Intelligence see the Covid-19 crisis as the inflexion point for sport in the United Kingdom. Whilst many professional sports organisations are financially independent, most National Governing Bodies of Sport are still reliant on government funding. Central to the future success of British sport is the need to wean British sport off lottery and exchequer funding into an era of partnership with the private sector.
InSport Intelligence hope that the DCMS Select Committee will look favourably on a comprehensive review of the funding of sport with strong representation from the private sector in this process.
The current division of responsibilities between UK Sport and Sport England negates the fundamental importance of the seamless delivery of a pyramid structure from grass roots to podium level. A pyramid that offers full and equal opportunity to ensure the number of women and girls playing sport at all ages is the same as for men and boys; that social cohesion projects are delivered both quantitively and qualitatively; that governance and equality policies are in place and that access for the disabled to sports facilities becomes a mandatory planning requirement in and around all sports venues.
InSport Intelligence seeks mandatory, rather than discretionary, spend by local authorities with Government investing in incentives to local authorities through a more systematic provision of rate relief. We believe there is too much variance across authorities in allocating rate relief to clubs; transport vouchers; vouchers for Governing Body qualifications for volunteers and the extent of links with local football clubs delivering school and community programmes.
We also believe a National Plan for Sport can address a more radical strategy to break down the barriers faced by children from disadvantaged families, the elderly and children with disabilities – all categories impacted by Covid-19.
The situation for the elderly has worsened significantly during Covid-19 and there is an urgent need for government, the voluntary sector, clubs and governing bodies to support an active lifestyle through a ‘National Plan for Sport’ covering immediate and long term measures for sport and recreation post Covid-19.