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Chair’s Opinion

CLOA welcomes the Governments’ proposal to produce a new national Sport Strategy and Mark Allman, Chair of CLOA, shares the Associations’ response to what we consider to be critical issues moving forward.

These are hugely challenging times and therefore working together towards a shared ambition is vital. Whilst there are challenges there are also huge opportunities, but the sector needs to be dynamic and work together to seize them. CLOA strongly advocates that the Government should produce a national strategy/plan/framework that can best delivered locally, reaching new inactive participants as well as getting people to do more activity within their daily routines.

CLOA has submitted the following comments by way of feedback to the consultation:

Inactive to Active.

  • There needs to be a much sharper focus given to getting inactive people to be active, and not overly focussing on getting existing sporty people to do more. Swelling the base of new participants is the only way a step change can come about and will ultimately provide a bigger pool of people from which individual sports can benefit. We need to develop approaches that appeal to new markets that increase participation more generally and cease the competition that exists between sports to secure participants.
  • There needs to be far more collaborative work at national and local level across all potential stakeholders.
  • National sports strategy needs to be heavily linked to health outcomes and addressing inactivity at both national and local level as well as showing the ability of sport and being active to act as a gateway to addressing other long term conditions too. It is a high value for money approach that is not embedded in care pathways well enough.
  • There is not a strong enough nationally articulated approach to addressing the physical inactivity challenge through all age groups, young to old, leading to patchy performance/outcomes locally. Public Health England, Sport England and other national stakeholders need to help shape an approach where greater influence can be exerted on local spending decisions (see later point on Commissioning).

Greater focus on local delivery partnerships.

  • We believe there needs to be a shift in the balance of funding away from NGBs and towards new arrangements that incentivise all parties to collaborate.  Local partnerships with Local Authorities (where they are fit for purpose and overseen by Sport England) is one approach that could work and could be linked to both sports development and infrastructure development outcomes. This approach would in effect help draw national agencies to work with Local Authorities more closely and also help to maintain Local Authority investment into sport as we move into the next stages of austerity. Too much funding within Local Authorities has already been lost through austerity that could have been reinvested and transformed the sector.  Proactive partnerships can help lock in existing investment, rather than it be lost out of the system through continued cuts to budgets.
  • The role of County Sport Partnerships should be reviewed to ensure that the work of the best is replicated elsewhere. This review would need to be done in conjunction with the proposal to establish more formal partnerships with Local Authorities.

LAs play a key role in adding value

  • The growth of new organisations focussed on raising participation or using sport as a vehicle for engagement are welcome. (e.g. Dame Kelly Holmes Trust/StreetGames). However it should be understood that these organisations outcomes would be far less rich without Local Authority engagement.
  • Furthermore those sports that do work well locally e.g. Tennis, are achieving better outcomes, working directly with Local Authorities and County Sport Partnerships. There is growing evidence that greater collaborative work with NGB locally is leading to better results.
  • LA’s are often data rich and have the means to reach audiences that national agencies cannot. The potential of harnessing technology locally to develop new participants is hugely powerful. Where national insight led campaigns come together with good local knowledge and delivery systems, there are much better outcomes e.g. This Girl Can.

Influencing local decision making better (unlocking local funding to drive up participation).

  • CLOA is working closely with Sport England to support sport and leisure practitioners engage with commissioning. This is proving to be hugely valuable in creating connections locally with key commissioners, health/CCG/Housing/Education etc. This works needs to be industrialised/scaled up quickly in order to get the benefits of physical activity better understood and for the sector to undertake work that gets them more commission ready.
  • There are implications for the sectors workforce, as we need high quality managers to lead in this area, whilst at the same time ensure that our front line workforces has the skills to work with the types of new audiences that should be reaching. In other words we need to be ‘commission ready’. Sport England has been extremely proactive in this area and our partnership with them has been incredibly rewarding for all involved.

Developing the Skills of our workforces and the performance of the sector

  • Again austerity has resulted in a net drain in skilled managers and staff; this presents a huge challenge for our sector. This further underlines the need for the sectors’ Chartered institute (CIMPSA) to take the lead to grow and develop our future workforces bringing the sector together under one umbrella including Sports Coaches, Physical Activity/Wellbeing Development Managers/Senior Managers/Heads of Service/CEOs etc.
  • Employers (and Volunteers) should work together to harness the potential of the sector to deliver great outcomes. Collaboration across public, private, 3rd and Voluntary sectors is essential. We believe that UK Active are now beginning to create the environment within which employers can start to work better together in support of achieving better sector outcomes.


  • The Active People survey sample size needs to be increased and the method of collection changed to allow both the data to be available at locality level and to be able to provide credible evidence to the health sector in particular about physical activity, including sport.  This evidence is vital as part of demonstrating need and impact. The current model being used to assess impact of NGBs and sport overall is leading to competition between sports and less emphasis on low level multisport/Activity programmes.
  • Evidence of impact needs to be linked to shared learning across the sector.
  • We need to measure what matters, but equally not let a single measure overly drive funding.  A more balanced approach is needed.


  • LA’s carry huge responsibilities to maintain investment in sports infrastructure. Especially sports swimming pools and grass pitches. This is not a statutory duty, yet the financial burden is huge.
  • The commercial sector can play a role in supporting more people being active and staying active, but Government should recognise that the commercial offer is often a narrow one, focussed on high yielding activities. We need to connect all the opportunities that currently exist whilst at the same time develop more informal entry level opportunities to be active in a variety of setting whether this is parks, community centres, workplaces etc.
  • More help is (e.g. through local partnerships) needed locally otherwise the base on which many people take for granted to take sport in some sports will be undermined. Richer sports need to invest more in the local infrastructure e.g. football.
  • Local Authorities are innovating when it comes to investment partnerships. For example there are a number of emerging examples of adult social care day care services and NHS services integrating with Sports and Leisure centres. Equally, there needs to be more work done to look at sustainable leisure centres, possibly looking at alternative mixes of facilities to support the traditional LA pool model e.g. commercial wrap around development.
  • The industry needs to work better together, public, private and voluntary sectors. Greater collaboration will lead to better outcomes.
  • Local Authorities have a crucial Planning role in helping to ensure that the places we live and work encourage people to be active. Whether this is cycling, walking or other sports this role is crucial and needs further development. Sport plays a key role in society so need to ensure it remains in planning frameworks.
  • Accepting Sport England legal responsibilities for Lottery money distribution, consideration could be given to grant clauses within the application process as they can often be seen as a deterrent in applications for funding. Furthermore policy on the reprovision of playing pitches could be more flexible. We would welcome the chance to review the way outdoor spaces could be best developed for recreational activity.

Young People and Schools.

  • The link between being physically active and educational attainment is indisputable. The physical and mental wellbeing of our young people is crucial and being physically active should be central to Government policy when it comes to attainment. It is not merely a desirable option; it should in fact be at the cornerstone of the educational system and a right for every young person.
  • Funding into School sport and PE via the premium was a welcome change on Government thinking, though the impact of the previous changes has had profound impact nationally.
  • Whilst there are examples of really good practice this has now led to too much inconsistency in approach across the country. There needs to be more systematic approach to pre-school and school sport, physical activity and PE.
  • Moving more into a digital age the ability of sport and physical activity to engage young people and provide them with the social skills to forge productive relationships needs to be nurtured.
  • On a wider point, there needs to be clear expectations on all schools, especially Academies and Free Schools to engage both within and outside the curriculum. If we are to build a habit of lifelong participation, it starts early.
  • There are some great examples of how school sport, physical activity and PE is working locally, but it is often as a direct consequence of proactive LA’s taking the lead without core funding to do so.
  • The development/coordination/leadership of all sport (and being active) nationally should come under one body. We believe Sport England should take a strategic lead working with key partners such as the Youth Sport Trust.
  • The numbers of young people unable to swim is alarming. Greater focus needs to be given within the Schools Inspection regime to ensure that all young people are able to swim, more especially at primary school. It is an essential life skill and a major contributor to being active.


  • Local Authorities play a pivotal role in supporting and delivering successful major events such as the Olympics, Tour De France, RWC2015 as well as building on those events to help to secure a lasting on going legacy. The Government should continue to proactively support those host cities who wish to help contribute to the national and local economy whilst also recognising the costs to bid. Collaborative work between host cities should be built upon.

We have also emphasised our willingness to remain available for further discussions, as I firmly believe that we are at a crucial point and this next Government Sports Strategy could have profoundly positive impacts with the right changes and support.

Mark Allman, Chair of CLOA

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