The Mayor of London’s new Sport Strategy, Sport for All of Us, was officially launched on 13th December 2018 – we strongly endorse the aims of this strategy and, despite the focus on revenue funding rather than capital, look forward to assisting with the provision of cost-effective covered spaces to facilitate local community participation and PE activities in school such as ‘The Daily Mile’.
At the heart of the Mayor’s approach to sport in London is his belief in the power of sport to bring people together and improve their lives. This underpins his aim for London to be the most socially integrated, active city and undisputed sporting capital of the world.
Central to Sport for All of Us is the flagship community sports programme Sport Unites. One of the three themes of this programme is Active Londoners, which will see investment provided for more opportunities for Londoners to take part in a wide variety of sport and physical activity in their local area. It will:
- Provide more affordable, local participation opportunities for all Londoners, particularly those on low-incomes, in places where demand outstrips supply.
- Promote programmes that target inactive Londoners.
- Invest in pilots which test innovative methods.
- Invest in organisations that cater for and support Londoners with mental health difficulties.
Key points to note:
- 38 per cent of adults in London do not meet the Chief Medical Office physical activity guidelines.
- London has around half the number of leisure facilities per 100,000 people as the rest of the country.
- All 33 local authorities in London have suffered substantial reductions in their expenditure, with inevitable implications for the amount spent on physical activity and sport.
The focus of mayoral investment under Sport Unites will be on revenue rather than capital funding. Research emphasises the importance of encouraging the use of existing community assets (e.g. community centres, parks and other recreational spaces) as well as ‘formal’ sports facilities, which can be off-putting and intimidating for some, particularly those who may be wanting to become active or get back into sport. Being self-conscious about a perceived lack of sporting ability (‘not wanting to make a fool of myself’) and/or body image can be important factors in this respect and can add more barriers to participation. It is often the case that relatively small amounts of funding make a huge difference, especially to small organisations and clubs. Consequently, we feel that investing in people-focused initiatives and programmes is the best way to maximise the impact of any investment. However, we recognise the role of the London Plan in safeguarding sports facilities and scoping the potential for building new facilities where there is a demand. We will work closely with the GLA planning team to advocate on behalf of the sport and physical activity sector for improved access and availability of sporting facilities and playing fields.
Within London, rates of participation in physical activity vary hugely between different boroughs. London contains some of the most active areas in the UK, such as Richmond-upon-Thames where only 35 per cent of people do not do any sport at all. But London also contains some of the most inactive areas, such as Barking and Dagenham where 66 per cent of people are inactive.
Physical activity is crucial for good mental and physical health. Public Health England recommends that adults should take part in at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week, in bouts of ten minutes or more. Across London, fewer than 60 per cent of adults meet this recommendation.
Participating in sport brings a wide range of health benefits. Active people are 14 per cent more likely to report good physical health than those who are inactive. Physical activity is also associated with improved mental wellbeing, reducing the likelihood of being affected by depression by around 30 per cent. The potential cost saving to the NHS of people doing more sport is estimated by DCMS to be more than £900 million a year.
In promoting more physical activity, the target must be groups who are less active. These include specific groups of women and some BAME adults, as well as the elderly, disabled people and thosein lower socio-economic groups. Support must be given to organisations and initiatives that are skilled at increasing physical activity for groups who are least likely to take part and who would benefit the most.
We will also support the ‘The Daily Mile’, which gets primary school children running or jogging at their own pace for fifteen minutes every day. The Daily Mile has also developed ‘Fit for Life’ for secondary schools and others, which is designed to support and help young people transition from primary to secondary school. In October 2018, the Mayor, along with Sir Mo Farah and London Marathon Events Ltd, launched a campaign at a school in Tower Hamlets to encourage London schools to get involved in The Daily Mile.
Providing more affordable, local participation opportunities for Londoners in places where demand outstrips supply is vital. Convenience, affordability and proximity are amongst the key factors that determine whether people exercise regularly.