Community Sport: Slimmer Waistlines, Fatter Wallets
As you probably know, the economy has taken a rather large hit in 2020, with a 20.4% contraction over the period of lockdown, and levels still not on par with pre-pandemic figures (BBC News, 2020). Sport has also taken a knock to the head, with matches postponed, gyms closed and training put to the wayside whilst we try to get back on our feet.
But maybe, physically getting on our feet is one of the answers to the economic conundrum we find ourselves in. Check out the figures below from Sport England (2020):
- In 2017/2018 £85.5 billion in value was created through community sport and physical activity in the UK
- For every £1 spent, the return on the investment was £3.91
Directly, sport uplifts the economy through job creation, 285,000 jobs, might I add (Sports England, 2020). Also, it boosts the economy through consumer spending, whether that be gym memberships, a new pair of trainers, or the latest ‘magical’ supplement.
But what about cost savings? In UK healthcare alone, Sports England found that £6.5 billion was produced in savings from community sports and physical activity. This translated to 1,058,500 prevented cases of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer combined. This is enough people to fill Wembley stadium almost 12 times (if the crowd didn’t need to be 2m apart!)
The benefits of participating for the individual does not end there, playing sport has been linked to better educational outcomes, and reduced crime (Taylor et al., 2015) and an overall increase in life satisfaction, equal to an annual income increase of £3,600 (Delaney and Keaney, 2005). All of which could only be of benefit to the economy, with a happier and more productive labour force.
All of these economic and individual benefits also tie into positive effects on society. Community sport has been touted as ‘sociological superglue’ (Oughton and Tacon, 2007) in that way that it bonds communities together through shared interests and pride. Participants are more likely to go to the polling stations, contact politicians and sign petitions over community matters (Delaney and Keaney, 2005). It’s interesting to consider how the benefits of team sports cannot be isolated to mental health, physical health, economics, individual or societal benefits. Rather, it’s that each plays into the other, in some kind of perpetuating positive feedback loop.
Investments in community sport and physical activity have multifaceted rewards for individuals, the communities they belong to, and society as a whole. Today, in the face of the obesity crisis, the loneliness epidemic and economic uncertainty, perhaps it’s time to widen our view as to which returns on investments we want and need to see. And don’t get me wrong, community sport isn’t the whole solution, but it’s certainly a kick in the right direction.
BBC News. 2020. Coronavirus: UK Worst Hit Among Major Economies. [online] Available at: <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-53918568> [Accessed 30 September 2020].
Delaney, L. and Keaney, E., 2005. Sport and Social Capital in the United Kingdom: Statistical Evidence from National and International Survey Data. Department for Culture, Media and Sport,.
Oughton, C. and Tacon, R., 2007. Sport’s Contribution to Achieving Wider Social Benefits. Department of Culture, Media and Sport,.
Sport England, 2020. Social and Economic Value of Community Sport and Physical Activity in England.
Taylor, P., Davies, L., Wells, P., Gilbertson, J. and Tayleur, W., 2015. A Review of the Social Impacts of Culture and Sport. The Culture and Sports Evidence Programme,.