Nigel Huddleston, Minister for Sport, Tourism, Heritage and Civil Society, believes that COVID has taught the UK about the ‘crucial role’ that sport and exercise play in the public’s lives.
Speaking to the CEO Forum at the Sport for Development Conference, Huddleston explained that for an improvement in sport means that children should be able to compete on a level playing field from day one.
“It can be much more difficult for children from disadvantaged backgrounds to make the most of their potential,” he stated. “That might be because they can’t afford the kit, can’t get to the right facilities, or can’t afford the lessons that other children have.
“Exercise is so important for our general wellbeing – which is why it was so tough when the strict but necessary restrictions were imposed on us all last year.”
Huddleston continued to argue that no matter where you’re from, or what stage of life you’re at, you should have an equal chance to participate in sport, and indeed to rise to the very top – a vision also shared by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State.
In 2015, the Government launched the strategy Sporting Future and since then, Sport England has allocated over £1.5 billion to nearly 5,000 organisations across the UK.
“Wherever we can, we have looked to grow participation, to open up physical activity to underrepresented groups,” he continued. “But as we come out of this pandemic, we have a prime opportunity to refresh this strategy and build on the foundations already laid.
“We’re in the very early stages of this process, and of course our primary focus remains helping the sector recover. But as we look to the future and a refreshed government sporting strategy, we will be working closely with the sector for your input as we level up facilities, sport infrastructure and seek to build the active and healthy nation we would like to see.
“It’s too early to set a firm end date for this work, but it’s likely to be early in 2022, and I look forward to updating you all on our progress.”
An example of creating a greater join up between youth and sport is the English Football League Trust, which has delivered the National Citizen Service to around 60,000 young people in their communities over the last decade.
The Chancellor has announced £560 million of funding to invest in building a new and improved youth offer that reflects young people’s priorities, with a firm focus on ‘levelling up’.
Huddleston acknowledged his hopes for the future, adding: “I sincerely hope VCSE organisations supporting young people through sport seize the opportunity to feature strongly as part of that offer, whether in helping deliver the National Citizen Service programme or through the Youth Investment Fund.
“We all know that these organisations make up the backbone of community sport across the country. Without them, millions of people would lose opportunities to engage in sport and live more active and healthy lifestyles.”