In my last blog I discussed the peripheral status of sport and physical activity in the election campaign, writes Dr David Hindley. Since then all the manifestos of the main political parties have been unveiled, thus providing an opportunity to analyse the content and to examine what pledges, if any, they are making with regards to the sporting field.
In the case of the Conservatives, perhaps unsurprisingly, reference is made to building upon the legacy of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, with the pledge to continue to support elite sports funding. Alongside this is the promise to deliver a number of mega-sports events, including the World Athletics Championship in 2017 and the Cricket World Cup in 2019.
Physical education also falls under the spotlight, with a funding pledge of £150 million per annum for primary school sport (paid directly to head teachers) until 2020. This is alongside the existing promise of a minimum of two hours of ‘high class sport and PE each week’.
Curiously there is also a nod to promoting new sports ‘in particular through greater links with the US National Football League, the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball, with the ultimate ambition of new franchises being based here’.
The other sporting references include a broad-brush commitment to improve the quality of community sports facilities, as well as some rather more specific pledges, including to fund investment in artificial football pitches in more than 30 cities in England, and to raise the number of women in NGBs to at least 25% by 2017, and to seek an increase in women and girls participation in sport.
In a separate section, country sports are highlighted, with a pledge to protect hunting, shooting and fishing, as well as to give Parliament the opportunity to repeal the Hunting Act on a free vote. Interestingly the latter doesn’t appear to have attracted much, if any, attention.
In the case of the Labour Party manifesto their sport-related content has visibly reduced. In 2010 their manifesto contained 550 words on sport. This year there are 188 words (out of 19,000). That said, the proposals themselves have attracted some media attention, in particular the pledge that ‘Labour will provide the means for supporters to be a genuine part of their clubs. We will introduce legislation to enable accredited supporters trusts to appoint and remove at least two of the directors of a football club and to purchase shares when the club changes hands’.
Continuing on the football theme, the manifesto states ‘we will ensure the Premier League delivers on its promise to invest five per cent of its domestic and international television rights income into funding the grassroots’.
Elsewhere in the Labour Party manifesto there are the usual platitudes to the social benefits of sport to individuals as well as fostering a sense of national pride. As with the Conservatives, there is also the commitment that ‘with a Labour Government our children will participate in a minimum of two hours of organised sport every week at school’.
Sport attracts a marginal focus in the Liberal Democrats manifesto, with only a handful of references across the entire document. There are two pledges worthy of note. The first is the guarantee to work with the Sports Ground Safety Authority to prepare guidance under which domestic football clubs, working with their supporters, may introduce safe standing areas. The second is an assurance to promote evidence-based ‘social prescribing’ of sport to help tackle obesity, mental health problems and other health conditions, and work to widen the evidence base.
Moving onto the Green Party, its manifesto makes a number of broad statements about sport, including a pledge to supporting initiatives to make sports more accessible, as well as ‘setting targets for participation in sports by women, ethnic minorities and disabled people in particular’. Similar to the other parties there is also a promise to ensure children get at least a half-day equivalent of sports in school and ‘encourage both the use of schools sports facilities by the community and participation in regional and national sporting events by our young people’.
Likewise the SNP manifesto devotes just a few lines to sport. There is a solitary reference to the power of sport in tackling inequalities, as well as a commitment to ‘promoting more active lifestyle(s) through sport’. In addition, there is a call for free-to-air broadcasting of major Scottish sports events.
Finally, the UKIP manifesto offers the briefest nod to sport, but at the same time is potentially the most damning in terms of impact, with plans to abolish the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) altogether, reallocating some of its functions to other government departments where appropriate. The inference is clearly that there is a need to reduce the size of what is considered an overly bureaucratic organisational structure.
So there we have it: a whistle-stop tour of the main parties’ manifestos and their pledges in writing when it comes to support (or otherwise) for sport.
Dr David Hindley
Senior Lecturer in Sports Education
School of Science and Technology
Nottingham Trent University