All activity matters, but for tens of millions of people, being active depends on organised sport and physical activity.
By organised, we mean arranged by people - it could be anything from an exercise class or a led walking group, through to a parkrun or a Sunday league football game. Offered by a huge network, they’re the beating heart of communities, bringing people together and providing a sense of local history, identity and pride.
Traditionally run on small margins, minimal cash reserves and voluntary time, Covid-19 has pushed the resilience of this network to the limit.
Some have quickly adapted the activity they offer, but for many more it’s meant a fight for survival. If these opportunities to be active disappear, we’ll lose much more than the individual sport or activity – we’ll lose many of the building blocks of our communities.
This isn’t about going back to where we were before. As we recover together, we want to come back more inclusive and more relevant. Despite more than 100,000 organisations nationwide delivering a wide range of sport and physical activity offers, many people and communities still feel excluded, often unconsciously but sometimes not. When this happens at a grassroots level, it also means our talent pathways and national teams don’t represent our nation’s diversity. We need, together, to call this out and change this inequality.
Alongside the challenge of inequality and perhaps because of it, many sports and activities are in long-term decline.
This is a particular problem for 16-34-year-olds – declining numbers suggest sport and activity hasn’t evolved enough to meet their changing expectations and lifestyles. We’re competing for people’s time and attention with sectors that have responded more effectively than ours – on-demand streaming has changed the way we watch TV, for example.
It’s not necessarily that providers don’t care or don’t want to change. Investing in new people, skills, and methods is challenging for organisations that are already stretched.
For those eager to change, we can work together to find ways to help and adapt. For those unwilling to change, we won’t shy away from difficult conversations about what needs to be done differently.
The open call
A live show broadcast on YouTube, an Alexa skill for older adults and a virtual rehab clinic for Covid-19 survivors are just three ideas we’ve supported after our first open call for innovative solutions.
Babbasa TV broadcasts fortnightly on YouTube and Instagram and is designed with and by young people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds in Bristol.
The show was created to give their peers a voice and a safe space to talk about topics such as racism, business and healthy lifestyles and we’re working with them to reach groups of people who may otherwise struggle to connect with physical activity.
The theme of using developing technologies to reach and influence specific groups is important to us, and we’ve also teamed up with Screenmedia who’ve created an Alexa skill for people with long-term health conditions or at risk of isolation.
This allows many older adults to access interactive content from the comfort of their own homes and gives them the opportunity to keep moving despite their situation.
Along similar lines, Sheffield Hallam University has created a virtual rehab clinic for people recovering from Covid-19. They’ve taken the lessons learnt from elite sport and applied them to those who desperately need the benefits of movement but have few options open to them.