Sport England's new strategy targets most inactive

New Sport England strategy 'Towards an Active Nation' triples investment to tackle inactivity, £250 million over four years as part of new strategy to support grassroots sport.

More than one in four people in England do less than 30 minutes of physical activity a week. But research shows that those who do the least activity stand to benefit the most, even if it's just small changes like gentle jogging, swimming or playing rounders in the park.

Read the strategy, Towards an Active Nation.

As well as continuing to support people who already play sport, there will be a much greater emphasis on groups who are typically much less active such as women, disabled people and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The strategy will help deliver against the five health, social and economic outcomes set out in the Government's Sporting Future strategy.

Key features of the new strategy are:

  1. Funding to get children and young people active from the age of five outside of the curriculum.
  2. Working with the sport sector to put customers at the heart of what they do, and using the principles of behaviour change to inform their work
  3. Piloting new ways of working locally by investing in up to 10 places in England – a mix of urban and rural areas
  4. Investing up to £30m in a new volunteering strategy, enabling more people to get the benefits of volunteering and attracting a new, more diverse range of volunteers
  5. Helping sport keep pace with the digital expectations of customers
  6. Working closely with governing bodies of sport and others who support people who already play regularly, to help them become more efficient, sustainable and diversify their sources of funding.

There will also be a simplified approach to funding, reducing the number of investment programmes from more than 20 down to seven.

Sport England chief executive Jennie Price says: “In the next four years we're going to dedicate more time, expertise and over £250 million to tackling inactivity. 

“We will be the single largest national investor in projects for people to whom sport and physical activity is a distant thought, or not even on their radar.”

Nick Bitel, the Sport England chairman, said: “There is a considerable shift towards dealing with people who are currently inactive.” They include a disproportionate number of women, the elderly, the disabled and the poor.

The success of Sport England's 'This Girl Can' campaign demonstrated the effectiveness of targeting under-represented groups.

Funding for participation programmes will be focused on those proven to get people exercising, irrespective of the activity, as opposed to the current model of handouts to encourage national governing bodies to attract people to their own sport.

Bitel acknowledged the existing strategy had not resulted in “a major shift in behaviour” and that “a completely different mindset” was now required.

“We're trying to move it from the focus on the sport all the time. The lens is on the person,” he said, admitting that some governing bodies would inevitably end up with “reduced funding” from a £1 billion quadrennial budget which mirrors that of the current cycle.

But he said those who could demonstrate they had a role to play in the “mass market” could be spared cuts.

He added: “If those organisations have got a role to play in the mass market in getting people active – which is not necessarily something that they've been doing before – then we should work with them to try to get them to change their behaviours, change the way in which they deliver, change their thinking, so that they can help deliver these objectives.”