We know that sport and physical activity can contribute to tackling some of the key issues outlined in all of the party manifestos, including challenges with mental and physical health, social cohesion and economic development. It would be naive for us to think that activity is the sole solution to these problems, but it is still disappointing to see that sport is barely acknowledged by the three main parties.
Over recent years it has felt as though the sport sector had come a long way in evidencing the importance of activity to the Government. Let’s rewind to five years ago when we hosted the biggest sports competition in the world, the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Throughout the bidding and planning process for London 2012 the word legacy was everywhere. We were determined that we would achieve what previous host nations had not, that these games would make a lasting difference to our society.
Following this, just 18 months ago the cross-government strategy, Sporting Future: A new strategy for an active nation, was published. At the release of this document it finally felt like the sector had been heard and understood and that the government were still focused on the legacy of the games. The five key outcomes reflected what AoC Sport and so many other organisations including the Sport and Recreation Alliance and UK Active have been saying for years, that sport plays an important role in improving wellbeing, community development and economic growth.
It now feels like the significance of sport and physical activity for political parties has declined and the Olympic legacy has not been maintained. Have they simply cut their losses and run rather than invest more money? In a period in which the mental and physical wellbeing of young people is in stark focus with rising levels of obesity and mental health issues, it seems remiss of the parties to ignore the huge potential of sport and physical activity in overcoming these issues.
While Brexit is undoubtedly the defining issue of this General Election, the elected government must also realise the significance and power of getting the nation active. This is vital to reduce further pressure on the NHS and social care, as well as improving the mental health and social cohesion of the UK. With increasing numbers of young people in colleges with mental health conditions it is more important than ever to ensure that physical activity is an integral part of the whole education system.
Kirstie Hickson is AoC Sport's Policy Officer (South)