As you know I have a niche political interest (among many more I must say – from International development to the Living Wage) in sport and sport policy. Having been the MP for Loughborough, home to a worldlass sporting University, NGBs, and sports expertise it was a perfect match. I estimate there were over 1200 jobs directly related to Sport in the Loughborough constitunecy so it was important to many other people too.
But I seriously wonder how many people would base their political choice of government on what each party says about sport in their respective manifestos.
I was fortunate to have been asked by Gordon Brown to create a Sports Manifesto for Labour in 2010. With the upcoming 2012 Olympics and a wider recongnition of the value of sport amongst MPs and policy makers it was a great opportunity I thought to embed sport, recreation and physical activity into the mainstream policy commitments from governments. Yes I know it was only a bit of a ‘sorry I am not making you sports minister’ sort of job, but I used the opportunity to at least have a seperate manifisto – which was launched at Loughborough University during the campaign by Gordon Brown. It wasn’t a perfect mainfesto by a long way. It had to go through the No11 and No10 units where a lot of football was addded and given the state of the public finances spending commitments were of course a no-go!
So five years on I have been involved in establishing the Sports Think Tank (www.sportsthinktank.com) to make sure we monitor policy and help those outside of Whitehall to get their thoughts and evidencs into the policy machinary. As Chair of the Sport and Recreation Alliance we have worked hard inside and outside of westminster to influence policy and help ensure legislation improves sport and Recreation opportunities. It is a daily battle!
There was some hope given the amount of activity over the last 5 years in sport and physical activity – from the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics to the work to establish PHE and Health & Wellbeing Boards. There have been some moments of progress but I am sure too many sports policy professionals and academics have lots to say about the failures to deliver on the pledge for an Olympic Legacy.
As we turn to the manifestos launched this wee to see what is on offer I can see from my twitter and emails that most people are underwhelmed by both the quality and quantity of what is being said.
In defence a little of the main party manifestos these cannot cover every aspect of life and the solutions required and it is hard to get into specifics in these documents – even is they hit 100 pages!
But so far what do we have? There are quite a few good blogs over at my www.sportsthinktank.com as well as blogs over at the Sport and Recreation Alliance
for example – http://www.sportandrecreation.org.uk/blog/hannah-dobbin/15-04-2015/liberal-democrats-launch-manifesto-whats-it-sport-and-recreation
But as you can see we have UKIP the worst. Not much to cheer and the sole mention is the abolition of DCMS. The Lib Dems get the power of sport for physical activity and wellbeing but their only specific promise is to look again at Safe Standing at sports grounds. The Tories replayed their current plans with a the success of the Olympics and the other major sporting events coming up – including a bizarre claim to deliver the 2015 Rugby World Cup! There is a good mention of 2 hours of sport in schools and the £150m to remain in place for primary schools school sport premium. They then make a specific mention of the introduction of US franchsies intot he UK lke the NFL. A little left of field and specific given the major issues in sport today. Finally Labour got in their 2 hour school promise and some football related asks – supporters on boards and ensuring the Premier League making good their promise to give 5% of their TV rights to the grassroots. There is a good recognition of the role of sport and physical activity in the Dept of Health under the leadership of Andy Burnham MP who is a great advocate.
I am sure I share this sense of being underwhelmed depsite all the work we have been putting into shaping these manifestos. But the time is not wasted. The people who will become ministers and oppostion spokespeople know there is much more detail to add to their ideas and the civil servants I can assure you have details on a wide range of options!