Many people would agree that the UK is known as a sporting nation. We do love our sport. The appetite for attendance is unmatched anywhere else in the world and although professional football takes the lion’s share of that (42 million attendances in 2012) there were still 33 million other sporting attendances in that year.
But as well as creating great experiences, it also stimulates the economy. The 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort in Wales generated an economic impact of £82.4m for Wales and the Heineken Cup Final hosted in Cardiff in 2011 contributed £24m. And of course London 2012 was the biggest global sporting event to drive domestic and overseas opportunities for UK business.
A big part of the legacy from London 2012 has been securing an impressive list of major sporting events coming to the UK for the next decade. So whether you fancy watching the Rugby World Cup in 2015, the World Track Cycling Championships in 2016 or the World Athletics and Para Athletics Championship in 2017 you won’t have to travel very far to see them.
But it isn’t just about money – it’s also about the inspirational impact of sport and the role models that it can create. Although the link between elite professional success and participation isn’t clearly quantified there is no doubt that having a full shop window of elite role models attracts attention.
As a woman of a certain age I know that 40 year-old Jo Pavey’s success on the athletics track this summer inspired me to train a bit harder and there’s lots of anecdotal evidence that many of our Paralympians and Olympians from 2012 have inspired young and old to get involved in sport.
Many of our professional clubs also use this power to inspire to harness participation in their local communities. In 2013 the Premier League clubs made 7m contact hours with young people through their community schemes and ran more than 2000 local competitions. All of this forms part of a commitment by them to invest £168m into community good causes over three years.
Professional clubs use their clout to tackle social issues too – tackling racism and discrimination through the “Kick it out” campaign, or getting the Rugby Football League community talking about mental health and well-being through the “State of Mind” Campaign. Although these are about issues within sport, they have applicability outside of sport.
And it’s outside of sport than many professional clubs do their best work. Clubs feed off the aura they generate and turn it into something meaningful; nurturing the dreams of so many youngsters in the community and helping them towards their full potential, whatever that may be. Take Derby County FC, one of the winners in our Community Sport and Recreation Awards 2014. The Rams help more than 24,000 people each year through their numerous outreach programmes and set up one of the first Alternative Provision Free Schools in the country to inspire disaffected young people who had been excluded from mainstream education – helping hundreds of children become the best that they can be.Even if donning football boots or trainers or picking up a tennis racket or golf club isn’t for everyone, they may still get huge enjoyment from watching sportsmen plying their trade. Four of the most watched television events in the UK have been sporting events and eight of the ten most tweeted events in 2013 were sporting occasions, from Andy Murray winning Wimbledon to Wigan winning the FA Cup.
I hope the evidence set out above has shown that there is nothing sentimental about saying sport is a public good and we shouldn’t be afraid of shouting it from the rooftops (or the terraces or the grandstands!)