Fields in Trust Chief Executive Helen Griffiths comments on newly published research into funding in sport
New research commissioned by the charity Pro Bono Economics has found that Britons would prefer that money currently spent on winning medals at Olympic Games be spent on grassroots sport and local opportunities for physical activity.
The research, presented in a lecture by author and sports journalist Simon Kuper entitled 'Has Britain got sport upside down?' last night, 27th February, found that only 7% of Britons have been inspired by the London Olympics to take up a sport; reasons for inactivity included cost, low quality of facilities or lack of time or confidence.
Of those surveyed, 18% said they would like to see Government funding channelled into more community sports centres and making entrance fees more affordable, 14% the reinstatement of school and public playing fields and a further 14% support for local grassroots sports and fitness initiatives.
This is a concern not just for one Olympic cycle - but for the longer term. Fields in Trust protection helps ensure investment in grassroots sport and facilities is safeguarded not just for current but for future generations to use and enjoy.
Whilst it is the case that every elite sportsperson began their career in a park or playing field, not every park user aspires to play professional sport.
Parks and open spaces provide opportunities for people who do not identify as natural constituents of sport to participate in informal activities, but we do not currently prioritise their ongoing existence. The recent CLG Parliamentary Inquiry recommends that we value our green spaces for the contribution they make to health, wellbeing and community cohesion. At Fields in Trust, our own research demonstrates that access to a new, local park in Rugby, Warwickshire has resulted in over 60% of residents visiting the park weekly and feeling healthier, happier and becoming more active as a result. Crucially more than two-thirds of respondents said the most important reason for visiting the new park was for physical activity.
Fields in Trust currently safeguards over 2,600 green spaces for communities to enjoy, protecting our parks and playing fields from development ensures investment in facilities will be safeguarded for years to come, not just the next Olympics. Without this, future generations – whether elite athletes or armchair supporters - will have nowhere to exercise.
Fields in Trust supports aims to create a more active nation and in its submission to the CLG Parliamentary Inquiry into Public parks called for a change the way public green space is conceived, not as a drain on spending that requires a considerable amount of money to maintain - but rather as an asset which can be deployed to achieve longer term savings and happier healthier more connected communities.
Helen Griffiths is Fields in Trust's Chief Executive and is an experienced and knowledgeable commentator on issues related to parks, playing fields and recreational spaces. Follow Helen on Twitter @hegriffiths.
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