How does sport bring communities together?

Understanding the context

The value of sport to local government and communities extends beyond sport for sport’s sake. It can play a role in bringing communities together, having a social and cultural impact, developing social capital and reducing crime and anti-social behaviour.

Regular involvement in sport can benefit individuals and communities and contribute to a range of positive outcomes including:

  • More local people participating as volunteers in community life
  • Local people having a greater voice and influence over decision-making
  • Increased third sector capacity to own community assets and to manage and deliver services
  • More cohesive, tolerant and inclusive communities that value diversity
  • More sustainable communities with local pride and a sense of place
  • A reduction in youth offending and anti-social behavior
  • An increase in culture of respect and tolerance among young people
  • A reduction in crime and in alcohol and drug misuse
  • A reduction in the fear of crime.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has reported on Understanding the Drivers, Impact and Value of Engagement in Culture and Sport (PDF) (2010) and Quantifying the Social Impacts of Sport and Culture (2014).

Key findings include:

  • Young people’s participation in sport improves their numeracy scores by 8% on average above non-participants
  • Underachieving young people who take part in sport see a 29% increase in numeracy skills and a 12 to 16% rise in other transferable skills
  • Returns on investment in sports programmes for at-risk youth are estimated at £7.35 of social benefit for every £1 spent – through financial savings to police, the criminal justice system and the community
  • Unemployed people who participate in sports are 11% more likely than non-participants to have looked for a job in the last four weeks
  • People who participate in sport are 3% more likely to volunteer frequently.

Important to this impact are the volunteers and coaches without whose time, energy and commitment many clubs, team sport sessions and coaching sessions would not be able to run.

Our insight and research tells us:

  • There are over 6,000 voluntary sport organisations in England
  • More than 3.2 million adults (7.6% of the population) contribute to volunteering in sport
  • The estimated economic value of sport-related volunteering is £2.7bn.

To maximise the impact of the social benefits of sport and influence key decision-makers, it is important to:

  • Be clear about councils’ and key partners’ strategic priorities for communities, including, for example, those of the police and crime commissioners
  • Be clear what sporting outcomes you want and how they connect to the social and cultural priorities
  • Demonstrate, through insight and evidence, how sport can impact on those priorities
  • Map who you want to influence, the current status of relationships, and assess the influencing methods you wish to use that your audience will respond to.

How can Sport England help?

What's the result?

By using the material from these tools together, supplemented by your own insight and evidence, you will be able to:

  • Identify how the social benefits of sport can support the council’s and key partners’ priorities
  • Strengthen collaborative working and influence key strategic partnerships by demonstrating the benefits of working with the sector – to police and crime commissioners, for example
  • Use evidence of wider social benefits to justify the investment of public money in sport and advocate for continued or new investment
  • Promote to opinion-formers and decision-makers the value of sport to individuals, communities and places and its role in delivering local priorities
  • Support and strengthen the community sport sector which could lead to it being in the position of being commissioned  by the authority across a range of priorities e.g. health and social care.