If the value of sport to Scotland were measured by manifesto space it would be hard not to conclude that sport is not important to Scottish political parties, but it should be, writes Grant Jarvie.
The first thing that an incoming Scottish Government should do is resource sport to match the claims that Scotland is a sporting nation. Sport is not resourced to deliver on all the things that it delivers on at scale.
The second thing that in an incoming government should do is remove the ambiguity around what is “adequate” provision within local government legislation.
Don’t cut local authority budgets but devolve, trust and enable local authorities to deliver outcomes through sport and physical activity. The majority of sport is delivered at local authority level.
Scotland can be more aspirational than being just an “adequate” sporting nation at local levels.
Sport and leisure trusts deliver where the private sector will often not go. The commentary about trusts and community sport pushed by observers of Scottish sport is misleading.
It is people that make things happen not structures. What is important is the forging of positive relationships between the Trusts and the Local Authorities.
East Renfrewshire Culture and Leisure Trust working with its local Authority is a good example. East Renfrewshire has led Scotland in terms of closing the educational attainment gap and is equally aspirational about what it can do for sport and leisure in communities. Working towards a common local sport, leisure and culture strategy can make a huge difference.
A third thing an incoming Government can do is recognise that sport is an enviable cultural asset to have.
Take for example, Scotland’s most popular sport, football. The Chair of Scotland’s Sustainable Growth Commission was unequivocal, when he said that “I can think of no other business, institution or organisation with the communication reach of football”.
The SFA are ahead of the game by asking an incoming government to fully recognise football’s networks and influence. Other sports do this but not at the same scale.
This is not radical it is just catching up with what other nations do. Australia with its 2030 sports diplomacy strategy, the USA with its Sports United programmes, China with its sports stadium diplomacy and France with its hugely ambitious Sport En Commun intervention are already out the blocks. Wales and Ireland are close behind.
What better way to win friends and influence for Scotland than harness the soft power capability of sporting events, visits, ambassadors, workshops and knowledge exchange and have lines in different government budgets to funds this.
The free football voucher scheme that the SFA pledged last week is the sort of thing the Scottish Government should support. Cost is the main barrier to be removed when it comes to poverty and access to sport for young people.
Chief Medical Officers have long since argued that it is social capital that is key to addressing poverty and health inequality and sport delivers this in spades.
An incoming Government should enable Scotland to be a greater sporting nation by being aspirational and including a sports line in each of these budgets where sport delivers on much more than just health.
|Period||11 Apr 2021|