Inspire Wales Increasing Participation in Sport

Inspire Wales Increasing Participation in Sport
Inspire Wales
Increasing Participation in Sport


  1. A Plaid Cymru government would conduct comprehensive research into reasons for
     participating in, taking-up and dropping out of sport for adults and children from
     different socio-economic groups and with different protected characteristics. This
     should inform an evidence-driven approach to policy.
  2. In terms of infrastructure, a Plaid Cymru government would focus on how sport and
     leisure facilities are delivered rather than investing in expensive sporting facilities.
     We would consider an approach similar to Ireland’s Local Sports Partnerships with
     regional sports bodies responsible for planning, measuring, encouraging and
     delivering sport and leisure services at a regional level, linked with Local Authorities.
     They could foster links between National Governing Bodies, Local Authorities,
     schools, sport clubs and leisure centres to ensure every community has relevant sport
     and leisure facilities to meet their needs.
  3. We would consult with interested parties in order to place a statutory responsibility
     on Local Authorities to deliver sport and leisure facilities, working with regional
     sports bodies and sports clubs.
  4. We would consult with interested parties in order to place a requirement on schools
     to open their facilities to communities out of school hours.
  5. We would consult with interested parties with the intention of establishing a right to
     access wellbeing facilities such as cycle routes, leisure facilities, green spaces, school
     facilities and sports clubs for disabled as well as non-disabled people. We would
     consider developing a wellbeing oyster card – valid across Wales – across Local
     Authorities enabling the use of facilities. We would also consider developing online
     wellbeing profiles for people to set their own targets for sport and physical exercise
     and measure their progress.
  6. Following guidelines from the Welsh Government and Sport Wales we would place a
     requirement on schools through the National Curriculum following the Donaldson
     review to ensure a varied programme of two hours a week of high quality PE, in
     consultation with pupils regarding the content.
  7. We would develop and deliver an Inspire Wales programme with elite sportspeople
     trained in public speaking and visiting schools, leisure centres, sports clubs and
     community centres to discuss their personal and professional experiences and
     inspiring others to take part. Such visits should be conducted out of school hours and
     parents and the wider community encouraged to take part as well as children. We
     would ensure that people from different socio-economic groups and groups with
     different protected characteristics are represented.
  8. Linked to the Inspire Wales programme, mentoring and coaching programmes would
     be delivered by regional sports bodies, including programmes in which families can
     take part together.
  9. Support would be offered to sports clubs setting-up from scratch with Sport Wales
     and regional sports bodies developing and offering training and support on how to
     set-up and run a sports club and how to access funding streams.

1. Introduction

Wales has often been described as punching above its weight in terms of sports. Welsh
athletes achieved a record medal haul in the London 2012 Olympic Games and we hope to
repeat that performance in Scotland’s 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Success in elite sport is often viewed as an end in itself but it is also often thought of in the
context of inspiring people to participate in sport on a personal level. Increasing sport
participation and physical activity levels in the general population in turn is linked to
improvements in health and wellbeing.

This paper examines the link between elite sporting success and participation in sport at a
grassroots and personal level. As well as improving health and wellbeing, raising
participation levels in grassroots sports may in turn increase the pool of talented
sportspeople taking part in elite-level sports in future. It also looks at whether Wales has the
necessary infrastructure to deliver sport and leisure facilities and how the current
infrastructure could be developed to improve the nation’s health and wellbeing.

      2. The current situation in Wales

When the Welsh Government’s Action Plan for increasing participation in sport and physical
activity was published by the One Wales Government in 2009, it said that it has been
estimated that the cost of physical inactivity to Wales is about £650 million a year. This is
due to the health risks posed by physical inactivity and the health benefits brought about
through taking part in physical activity:

          “Regular physical activity has many benefits to health, including mental health and well-
          being. People who are physically active have up to a 50% reduced risk of developing the major
          chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers and a 20-
          30% reduced risk of premature death.”1

Sport Wales is responsible for developing and promoting sport and physical activity both on
a grassroots participation and elite level in Wales on behalf of the Welsh Government. Sport
Wales’s vision is of “uniting a proud sporting nation”. It aims to get “every child hooked on
sport for life” and to develop “a nation of champions.”

Sport Wales collects data on sport participation. The two main surveys are the “school sport
survey” and the “active adults survey.”

      a) The School Sport Survey

The school sports survey2 is carried out biannually. It canvasses the opinions of 110,000
schoolchildren from almost 1,000 schools in Wales. The most recent survey took place in
2013. The survey measures whether children participate in sport, how often they participate,
where they participate and their attitudes towards sport. It looks at sport participation both
inside and outside the school gates and children’s attitudes towards PE lessons as well as
extracurricular sport.

    Welsh Assembly Government, Creating an Active Wales, December 2009
    Sport Wales, School Sport Survey 2013, October 2013

The survey found that boys were more likely than girls to regularly participate in sport and
that both boys’ and girls’ participation decreases with age but that this fall in participation is
more marked in girls. Children from more economically deprived areas are also less likely
than those from more advantaged areas to regularly participate in sport and disabled
children participate less than able-bodied children.

Sport Wales’ definition of being “hooked on sport” is to participate three or more times a
week. The survey shows the following headline figures for this measurement:

      44 per cent of boys and 36 per cent of girls are hooked on sport.
      There is an 11 per cent gap between the least economically deprived schools and the
       most economically deprived schools in terms of pupils being hooked on sport.
      10 per cent fewer pupils with a disability are hooked on sport than pupils without a

In terms of PE lessons in schools the survey found that the average weekly minutes allocated
for PE is 101. This is lower than the two hours a week recommended by the Welsh
Government. 53 per cent of boys and 50 per cent of girls agree that PE lessons and school
sport help them have a healthy lifestyle. However, while 65 per cent of boys always feel
comfortable in taking part in PE and school sport, only 48 per cent of girls do so. Primary
school girls are also more likely than secondary school girls to feel comfortable taking part in
school sport ‘always’ - this is true for 57 per cent of girls in years 3-6 but only 41 per cent of
girls in years 7-11.

As well as feeling less comfortable in taking part in PE lessons than boys and younger girls,
older girls also participate less in extracurricular sport. When asked whether they took part
in extracurricular sport in the last year, 78 per cent of primary school girls had done so but
only 69 per cent of secondary school girls. 80 per cent of boys but only 74 per cent of girls
reported taking part in sport at a club outside of school.

In examining children and young people’s attitudes and feelings towards extracurricular
sports, the survey found that 52 per cent of boys and fewer than half the surveyed girls (41
per cent) feel safe when taking part in sport outside of school. It also found that more boys
than girls reported having freedom from parents to decide what they do with their free time
all the time (46 per cent of boys and 38 per cent of girls.)

Children and young people were asked what motivates them to take part in sport and what
would motivate them to do more sport. Boys and girls often reported the same reasons for
taking part in sport. Of those who reported taking part in sport:

      93 per cent of boys and 91 per cent of girls take part because it’s fun.
      44 per cent of boys and girls take part in sport with their friends.
      41 per cent of boys and 42 per cent of girls enjoy the competition.
      Girls (66 per cent) were more likely than boys (57 per cent) to take part to keep fit.

When asked what would motivate them to do more sport:

      More girls (20 per cent) than boys (11 per cent) said they would do more sport if they
       were better at sport.

   More girls (41 per cent) than boys (25 per cent) said they would do more sport if their
          friends went with them.

The survey also measures the types of activities that children and young people take part in.
Some sports had very high participation rates from a particular gender:

         43 per cent of girls took part in dance.
         71 per cent of boys took part in football.
         39 per cent of girls took part in netball.
         50 per cent of boys took part in rugby.

Others had a more equal gender balance:

         28 per cent of boys and 25 per cent of girls took part in athletics.
         32 per cent of boys and 29 per cent of girls took part in cycling.
         28 per cent of boys and 29 per cent of girls took part in rounders/ baseball / softball.
         45 per cent of boys and 51 per cent of girls took part in swimming.

Sport Wales’ findings regarding children and young people’s participation in sport point
towards what groups should be targeted to increase participation. Secondary school aged
girls, disabled children and children from disadvantaged areas are less likely than younger
girls, boys, able-bodied children and more advantaged children to participate in sport. The
data on attitudes towards sport and motivation to take part is not broken down in terms of
ethnicity, social class or disability. The data on boys’ and girls’ attitudes and motivations
poses a challenge to male/female stereotypes with girls who participate being as likely as
boys to say that they enjoy the competition. It also shows that girls feel less comfortable
taking part in PE lessons as they get older. These issues will be discussed further later in this

      b) Active Adults Survey

The most recent active adults survey3 was conducted in 2012, and consisted of 13,145
interviews at randomly selected addresses across all Welsh Local Authorities. Participants
were asked about regular participation in sport; any participation in the last four weeks;
sports club membership and volunteering in sport, including coaching. Data are broken
down for the following characteristics: age, gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation,
socio-economic group and Welsh speakers.

The headline figures show:

         39 per cent of the adult population are hooked on sport compared with 29 per cent in
         Males are more likely to be hooked on sport – 46 per cent in comparison with 32 per
          cent for females.
         70 per cent of adults participated in sport or physical recreation in the 4 weeks prior
          to interview.

    Sport Wales, Active Adults 2012 the State of the Nation, May 2014

   40 per cent of the adult population (35 per cent male, 46 per cent female) do no
       frequent activity (they do not participate in sport for at least an average of once a
      27 per cent of adults are members of a sports club – 34 per cent of males and 20 per
       cent of females.
      10 per cent of adults volunteered in sport in the previous 12 months.
      10 per cent of adults in Wales had undertaken coaching in the last 12 months.

Differences in levels of participation were found for different age ranges and different social

Older people are less likely than younger people to be hooked on sport. 56 per cent of 18-25
year olds reported taking part in sport three or more times a week. This drops to 32 per cent
of 55-64 year olds and 21 per cent of people aged 65 and over. The gender gap in adults who
are hooked on sport narrows with age.

The proportion of adults who are hooked on sport increases with the size of household
income, from 29 per cent in the £5,200 to £10,399 range to 54 per cent of those with
household incomes of £52,000 or more. This is also the case for participation in sport with
89 per cent of adults with an income of £52,000 or taking part in sport, compared with 54
per cent of those with an income of £5,200 - £10,399.

There is little data available on the participation levels of different ethnic groups. According
to Sport Wales this is due to the small sample size. The available data show that 39 per cent
of the white population and 37 per cent of the Asian/Asian British population are hooked on

Adults who do not have a long-term illness or disability are more likely to take part in sport
and to do so more often than those who do have a long-term illness or disability. 29 per cent
of adults with a disability are hooked on sport compared with 45 per cent of adults with no
disability. 79 per cent of adults with no health condition or disability took part in sport in the
previous four weeks, compared with 57 per cent of adults with a disability or health

Gay, lesbian and bisexual people are more likely to participate in and to be hooked on sport
than heterosexual people. 39 per cent of the heterosexual population are hooked on sport,
compared with 49 per cent of the gay and lesbian population. 70 per cent of heterosexual
adults take part in sport, compared with 80 per cent of gay and lesbian adults.

Welsh speakers (46 per cent) are more likely than non-Welsh speakers (37 per cent) to be
hooked on sport. They are also more likely to take part in sport with 79 per cent of adults
who speak Welsh active in sport compared with 68 per cent of adults who don’t speak Welsh.
Welsh speakers are also more likely to volunteer with 11 per cent of Welsh speakers having
volunteered in sport in the previous 12 months compared with 7 per cent of non-Welsh

The proportion of adults who are members of sports clubs has increased to 27 per cent from
16 per cent in 2008/09. In general, membership decreases with age: 39 per cent of 15-24
year olds reported being members of sports clubs compared with 17 per cent of those aged 65
years and over. The percentage of club membership ranges from 16 per cent of adults with

incomes of £5,200 - £10,399 to 44 per cent of adults with a household income of £52,000 or

The survey also looked at the most popular sports in terms of sports clubs membership.
Those were found to be: exercise machines, weight training / weight lifting and swimming.
For men the most popular sports are weight training / weight lifting (9%), football (9%) and
exercise machines (7%). For women, the most popular sports are exercise machines (10%),
swimming (9%) and fitness classes (9%).

10 per cent of the adults surveyed had volunteered in sport in the previous 12 months, an
increase of 5 per cent from 2008/09. Almost half of sports volunteers volunteered on a
weekly basis. 12 per cent of men and 9 per cent of women reported having volunteered in
sport. 10 per cent of adults in Wales had undertaken coaching in the last 12 months in a
voluntary capacity, as part of a job or for payment. 13 per cent of men and 6 per cent of
women had undertaken coaching.

Similarly to the data on children and young people, the data on adults’ participation in sport
show that women, adults on lower incomes and adults with disabilities participate less.
Participation also generally decreases with age but this is less the case for women than for
men. It is interesting to note that Welsh speakers are more likely than non-Welsh speakers
to participate in sport, be hooked on sport and to volunteer in sport. It is also interesting that
gay, lesbian and bisexual people are more likely to participate in sport. Reasons behind the
different levels of participation for different groups of people are likely to be complex and
may involve structural barriers such as cost, availability and accessibility as well as attitudes
and motivation. These issues will be explored further.

      3. Sport policy and initiatives

      a) Aims

The Welsh Government set its “long-term strategic vision” for sport and physical activity in
its 2005 Climbing Higher policy paper:

          “An active, healthy and inclusive Wales, where sport, physical activity and active recreation
          provide a common platform for participation, fun and achievement, which binds communities
          and the nation and where the outstanding environment of Wales is used sustainably to
          enhance confidence in ourselves.”4

It further set out its “physical activity action plan” in Creating an Active Wales in 2009, for a
Wales where:

         Everybody benefits from the feel good factor of being physically active.
         Physical activity opportunities are accessible to all.
         Being active is the norm.
         Activity is at the centre of the school ethos and physical literacy is as important as
          numeracy and language.
         All children play frequently outdoors in safe environments.
         The majority of children and adults regularly use leisure facilities and sports clubs.
         People use their local environment for active recreation.

    Welsh Government, Climbing Higher, 2005

   Active travel is the first choice for short distances for both children and adults.
         Individuals are never too old to be active.

Creating an Active Wales set two high-level targets for increasing physical activity levels:

          “The focus of the targets will be to get everybody to do ‘one day more’…The one day more
          target can only be achieved by increasing the activity levels of people who do little or no
          exercise as well as of those already doing 3 or 4 days a week.” 5

The target for adults is to shift the average point of activity from 2.4 to 3.4 by 2020. The
target for children is to shift the average point of activity for 11 to 16 year olds from 3.9 to 4.9
by 2020.

The plan also sets out the Welsh Government’s priorities for achieving its vision and aims. In
order to make it easier and safer for people to be physically active, its priorities are: the
accessibility and safety of the built environment; developing infrastructure to facilitate
walking and cycling and improving access to green spaces.

To support children and young people to live active lives, the Welsh Government prioritises:
access to high quality play opportunities; opportunities for families to take part in physical
activity together, particularly low income families; community schools; consulting with
children and young people to ensure interventions meet their needs; developing physical
literacy and increasing participation in physical activity by the least active; and increasing
physical activity in post-16 educational settings.

To “encourage more adults to be more active, more often, throughout life,” the Welsh
Government wants: an increase in green exercise such as walking, cycling, conservation and
gardening; community-based targeted interventions that encourage behaviour change and
remove barriers to participation; workplace approaches such as active travel; and
opportunities for women, older people and disadvantaged people.

To increase “participation in sport, by all sectors of the population,” the Welsh Government
wants to see: action to combat the reduction in participation in secondary school children
and adults; stronger sporting infrastructure to enable clubs to attract and retain a wider
range of members especially in areas where physical activity levels are low; clubs providing
high quality coaching, developing the skills and activity levels of their members, supporting
talent development and providing a range of competitive and non-competitive opportunities
for participation; maximising of the legacy opportunities of the London 2012 Olympic and
Paralympic Games, Ryder Cup and other major events to increase participation in sport.

The Welsh Government’s approach emphasises the use of existing facilities such as schools
and sports clubs rather than building new facilities. Use of the outdoors environment should
be facilitated and both adults and children should be enabled to develop their sporting and
physical literacy skills. There is an emphasis on participating in sport and physical activity
for its own sake rather than for the purpose of competing. As will be further examined,
resources for delivering sports and leisure facilities are likely to be cut rather than increased
over the next few years. This approach, if well-delivered, should therefore be a more effective
way of spending scarce resources than investing heavily in expensive facilities. The question
is whether the necessary infrastructure is in place to deliver this action plan.

    Creating an Active Wales

The Welsh Government set up a Task and Finish Group on Schools and Physical Activity
chaired by Tanni Grey-Thompson. The Group published its report in June 2013. Its
recommendation is for Physical Education to become a core subject in the National
Curriculum. Its reasons for recommending this are: teachers would be required to be
competent to deliver the subject on completion of their initial teacher training; well
qualified, specialist teachers would be needed to work with schools to ensure high-quality
provision; standards and provision in physical education would be rigorously reviewed in
school; and progress would be regularly measured. This recommendation will be considered
as part of the Welsh Government’s forthcoming review of the National Curriculum.

As demonstrated by the statistics from Sport Wales’ school sports survey, many older girls
drop out of extracurricular sport participation and many feel uncomfortable taking part in
PE lessons. When asked about motivational factors, many said they would participate more
if they were better at sport. All children and young people would benefit from improved
physical literacy skills and learning these skills at an early age may improve children and
young people’s confidence to take part in sport as they get older. PE in schools certainly
needs to be improved and it needs to be ensured that schools offer the two hours a week
recommended by Sport Wales and the Welsh Government. Many children and young people
only take part in sport through PE lessons and these lessons give them a lasting impression
of sport and physical activity. Schools need to work with pupils on developing and delivering
a range of sporting opportunities that appeal to them.

Sport Wales also sets targets for both elite and grassroots sports. In its Elite Sport Strategy6
it states that its two measures of success are:

         Wales position, on a per capita basis on the medal table at the Glasgow 2014
          Commonwealth Games.
         The number of Welsh athletes competing and winning medals for Great Britain at the
          Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The following target was set for the Olympic Games:

         Welsh athletes to win a total of six Olympic medals across the 2012 and 2016, Games,
          with a stretch target of ten Olympic medals.

This target has been surpassed with Welsh athletes winning seven Olympic medals in the
2012 games.

It set the following targets for the Paralympic Games:

         Welsh athletes to win a total of thirty Paralympic medals across the 2012 and 2016
          Games, with a stretch target of forty Paralympic medals.
         With Wales aspiring to be the leading contributor of GB Paralympic medals on a per
          capita basis.

Welsh athletes won a total of fourteen medals at the 2012 Paralympics.

Sport Wales has also set the following targets for participation on a grassroots level:

    Sport Wales, Elite Sport Strategy 2010-2016

   Children and young people of school age: 3 occasions per week, provided within
          extracurricular and wider community settings.
         Adults: 3 sport sessions per week.
         Volunteering: 10% of the Welsh population

As seen from the data from the schools sport and active adults surveys, Sport Wales’ target
for volunteering has been met. To reach its targets for participation, 56 per cent more boys
and 64 per cent more girls would need to take part in sport three times a week than
currently do so. 54 per cent of men and 68 per cent of women would need to do so. The
Welsh Government’s target to raise the average level of participation seeks to increase the
participation levels of those with sedentary lifestyles as well as those who already take part in
sport. It may not be realistic to expect adults and children who lead sedentary lifestyles to
immediately take part in physical activity three or more times a week. It therefore seems
sensible to aim to ensure that as many adults and children as possible take part in sport at
least once a week and then increase that level of participation.

In terms of elite sporting success raising participation levels in grassroots sport, statistics six
months after the 2012 Olympic Games did show increases in levels of participation for a
number of sports in Wales including:

         25 per cent increase in gymnastics.
         An increase in 32 per cent of hockey clubs.
         39 per cent increase in swimming.
         24 per cent increase in cycling.
         33 per dent increase in boxing.
         12 per cent increase in athletics.

It remains to be seen whether the 2012 games will have a lasting effect on participation.

Sport Wales set five key priorities for grassroots sports in its Community Sport Strategy

         Thriving clubs.
         Local decisions.
         Quality education.
         Committed workforce.
         Appropriate facilities.

Sport Wales’ intentions for achieving thriving clubs include: supporting clubs to broaden
their membership and sporting offer; encouraging clubs to amalgamate; encourage multiple
teams ideally with adult and junior sections; sports coming together to develop multi-sport
clubs; prioritise the recruitment, retention and support of volunteers; create an environment
that welcomes a diverse membership; embrace technology as a means of recruiting and
retaining membership; National Governing Bodies and Local Authorities jointly supporting
club growth.

It will measure its success through: increase in the number of multi-sport clubs; increase in
the number of junior sections; increase in the number of recreational and informal leagues;

    Sport Wales, Community Sport Strategy 2012-2020

increase in the number of participants from disadvantaged and hard to reach groups; leisure
facilities increasing the number of local clubs that support and use their facilities.

To improve local decision-making it set out: work to identify what the community needs
basing decision-making on evidence and demand; more sports decentralising their
structures; focus on the development of sport at a local level; seek the views of a diverse
range of people to provide an offer capable of appealing to girls, women, people living in
poverty and hard to reach groups.

It will measure its success through: strong regional and area sport structures; local people,
involved in decision making; local sport offer reflecting local demand.

In terms of education it wants to see: children’s skills developed through a multi-skills
approach; headteachers valuing the importance of PE; promote the impact of sport on
young people’s development; pupils having a say in how sport is structured and delivered in
schools; fun and enjoyable PE for all pupils; engagement with the Further and Higher
Education sectors to boost sport’s workforce; enable young, talented pupils to reach their full
potential by signposting them to appropriate opportunities and avenues for further support;
clear communication and promotion on links with local clubs and leisure centres.

It will measure its success through: highly motivated and skilled children; two hours of high
quality PE to every young person each week; a broad range of opportunities at school for
young people to take part in three hours of school and/or community sport; physical literacy
awarded the same status as literacy and numeracy; development of competencies to measure
the quality of PE offered; more schools opening up their facilities after hours to allow for
community use; increase in the number of school, Further Education and Higher Education
links in the delivery of sport; every teacher trained to deliver high quality PE.

In terms of a committed workforce it wants to: develop the skills of existing and potential
sports leaders; reflect society within leadership with a positive drive to develop women,
disabled and BME individuals in sport; coaches delivering child-centred opportunities;
develop leadership opportunities within all sports clubs throughout Wales; support the
development of sports administration at regional, local and club level; strengthen the sector’s
approach to succession planning and continuing professional development.

Success will be measured through: doubling the number of coaches and volunteers; a skilled
and passionate workforce; greater diversity on boards, committees and in leadership
positions; all leisure centre staff accessing training to deliver sports development
programmes; workforce plans to define what is required, where people are to be sought and
how they are to be developed and deployed; a culture of performance management, where
people are challenged and supported to raise their game.

Securing appropriate facilities will be done through: driven by needs at regional and local
levels; long term planning, covering indoor and outdoor facilities and considering
sustainable transport solutions; Local Authorities and sports working together on facility
use; dialogue between potential partners as new facilities are being considered; provision
based on community need; question current use of school facilities; maximise opportunities
for communities to take ownership of local sports facilities; Sport Wales to play a role as a
central information point on new developments; help ensure that relevant organisations are
aware of potential facility developments.

Success will be measured through: every leisure centre and school sport facility linking with
local clubs to maximise use; programming that caters for the needs of hard to reach groups;
genuine collaboration between Local Authority departments and relevant National
Governing Bodies or area associations, private enterprises and key voluntary groups.

Sport Wales’ aims and priorities focus on community involvement in developing grassroots
sport. In the context of potential future cuts to facilities and resources, there is an emphasis
on collaboration between National Governing Bodies, Local Authorities and others to ensure
that communities have the sporting opportunities and facilities they need. As will be further
set out in this paper, if the Welsh Government and Sport Wales’ visions, aims and priorities
for sport participation are to be achieved, the necessary infrastructure needs to be in place to
provide sport facilities and deliver sport interventions.

Sport Wales also has a Child Poverty Strategy 2012-2015. It contains the following long-
term outcomes:

      To see an increase in participation amongst children and young people living in
       poverty, contributing to our wider aspiration of all children and young people being
       hooked on sport for life.
      To see an increase in volunteering amongst adults in lower social grades, contributing
       to our target of getting 10% of the adult population in Wales volunteering in sport by
      For sport to be considered a key partner in the effort to tackle poverty in Wales, with
       poverty and participation targets being shared across partners.

Sport could play a valuable role in tackling poverty both through developing young people’s
skills and through improving their health and wellbeing. Work needs to be done with
disadvantaged children and young people to find out what would enable and motivate them
to take part in sport and to deliver what they need.

   b) Sport interventions

Many of the Welsh Government’s sport policy interventions are targeted at young people.
They include the free swimming scheme for children and young people aged 16 and under
during all school holidays and at the weekend. This scheme is also available for older people
aged 60 and over outside school holidays. The Welsh Government invests £3.5 million a year
in the free swimming scheme.

Sport Wales’ 5x60 programme aims to increase the number of secondary age pupils taking
part in sport or physical activity for 60 minutes, at least five times a week. It receives £4.9m
in funding from the Welsh Government. The scheme aims to complement existing sport and
physical education provision in schools. Pupils choose the activities themselves including:
competitive sport; informal activities, such as dance and aerobics; coached activities; and
outdoor activities.

Sport Wales also runs a Young Ambassadors Scheme which “aims to empower and inspire
young people to become role models and leaders through sport, by developing their
confidence and skills in order to increase physical participation in others.” Young
Ambassadors are active in all 22 Welsh Local Authorities, and in 2013/14 there were nearly
2,500 Young Ambassadors.

There are also annual sporting competitions for young people and for disabled people. The
Wheelchair Sports Spectacular is an annual two day event that attracts over 450 disabled
participants of all ages to take part in around twenty sports. Gemau Cymru is a bilingual
multi-sport event for young athletes in Wales run by the Urdd. Athletes are invited to
compete in Gemau Cymru following a selection process advised by the national governing
bodies. Activities include: athletics, canoeing, gymnastics, netball, rugby 7s, table tennis and

Another investment made by the Welsh Government is in coaching. This is one of Sport
Wales’ priority areas. The Welsh Government invests £1.4m each year for the development of
coaching through 'More Coaches Better Coaches.’ Sport Wales8 aims to have:

       10% of the Welsh adult population actively involved in coaching and volunteering in
       All coaches qualified to a level appropriate for his or her role.
       Every newly qualified coach deployed and active in delivering coaching sessions.
       All coaches in Wales valued with access to opportunities to develop their coaching

Sport Wales explains the link between coaching and grassroots sports as being sustaining
participation in sport:

        “We want a culture whereby coaching and volunteering in sport is commonplace and
        therefore a system is needed whereby people are inspired, proactively encouraged and
        supported throughout their journey. At the core of this is the role of our local communities;
        this is where sport happens and local sports clubs and organisations have a pivotal role in
        recruiting, supporting and nurturing coaches.” 9

It cites the examples of Sweden and Finland as an inspiration. It states:

        “Both countries report high levels of regular sports participation (72%) alongside the highest
        levels of coaching and volunteering in Europe, with 18% of their adult population actively
        involved in coaching and volunteering in sport.” 10

Sport Wales aims to invest £5 million a year in coaching. £2.2 million on elite sports, ‘a
nation of champions’ and £2.8 million is to be spent on grassroots sports, ‘every child
hooked on sport for life.’

There is an emphasis on encouraging and increasing the participation of young people in the
Welsh Government and Sport Wales’ current sport interventions. There are also some
interventions aimed at older people and disabled people. Targeted interventions for older
people, people from ethnic minority communities and people from poorer socio-economic
groups may also be beneficial, based on working with such groups to determine what the
barriers are to participating in sports and what would encourage them to take part in sport
or to increase their participation. Again, it needs to be ensured that the necessary
infrastructure is in place to deliver these interventions.

    4. Barriers to participation

  Sport Wales, Coaching Strategy 2010-16

Barriers to participation in sport may be structural, such as lack of affordability and
accessibility; social; cultural and behavioural. One important point is the need to survey
adults and children with different protected characteristics and demographics about their
attitudes towards sport and their reasons for taking part or not taking part in sport and
physical activities.

The National Assembly for Wales’ Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee
published a report on participation levels in sport in March 2014.11 When the Committee
started its inquiry the Welsh Government had reported a ‘worrying decline’ in sport
participation for all age groups. Also of concern were the cuts faced by local authorities over
the next few years and the fact that non-statutory services such as sport and leisure servicers
are in danger of being substantially cut.

Two of the Committee’s recommendations concern the lack of data on ‘how deprivation,
demographics, protected characteristics and cultural barriers impact on participation levels.’
It recommends finding alternative ways to collect more data on the participation levels of
ethnic minority communities and reviewing the methodology of Sport Wales’ surveys.

The lack of data on different groups of people makes it difficult to determine what the
barriers to taking part in sport are. As noted above, detailed information is provided through
the schools sport survey on girls’ and boys’ participation, their attitudes and motivation, but
very little information is provided on the attitudes and motivation of other groups such as
pupils from ethnic minorities; gay, lesbian and bisexual pupils; pupils with disabilities and
disadvantaged pupils. This information would inform policy on how to overcome barriers to
participation. Information on what motivates adults from different socio-demographic
groups and on their attitudes towards sport would also be useful.

Other recommendations concern increasing the participation levels of girls and ethnic
minority communities in sport. These include: addressing the lack of PE teachers from
ethnic minorities in Wales; the barriers to sport participation faced by people from ethnic
minority communities and encouraging girls to participate in sport.

There are recommendations to assess the impacts of reductions in Local Authorities’ budgets
on the affordability and accessibility of sport and leisure facilities and to look at
opportunities to increase and improve access to leisure facilities. There are also
recommendations to review the free swimming scheme to identify areas where take-up is low
and to publish an action plan on increasing the number of children under the age of 11 who
can swim.

When giving evidence to the Committee about attitudes towards sport, Sport Wales said that
three challenges need to be overcome: a lack of knowledge about what is available where; a
lack of understanding or skills to participate in activities and access to appropriate
equipment. It also highlighted the importance of schools in forming children’s lifelong
attitudes towards sport:

  National Assembly for Wales, Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee,
Participation Levels in Sport, March 2014

“The first experience of sport is absolutely crucial for planting the seeds for a lifelong
          participation and schools are absolutely central to this”. 12

Sport Wales believes that children need to be provided with the necessary skills to participate
in sport and that the delivery of sport in schools needs to be inclusive. This corresponds with
the findings in the schools sport survey that, when asked what would motivate them to take
part in sport, twenty per cent of girls said they would take part in more sport if they were
better at sport. Older girls are also more likely to feel uncomfortable taking part in PE

Disability Sport Wales gave evidence that a number of barriers remained for disabled
participants including: costs; the location of facilities; the need to increase the capacity of
mainstream clubs; perceptions around disability and sport; dependency on others for
transport; media representation and coverage; marketing materials; accessibility and carer
attitudes. Both Disability Sport Wales and the NUT expressed concerns that cuts to schools’
budgets may make it difficult for schools to provide the same sporting opportunities for
disabled and non-disabled pupils.

When questioned about the participation of poorer socio-economic groups, Sport Wales said
it was “’reasonable to assume’ that the costs of club membership, facilities and equipment
were contributing factors.” Public Health Wales said there was a need to address the “general
lack of awareness of local facilities and opportunities amongst those living in deprived

Stonewall Cymru gave evidence that:

          “research revealed that whilst many lesbian, gay and bisexual people are interested in sport
          (94% of those who responded), they have also been put off by negative experiences or the
          perception that it is an unpleasant and unsafe environment for gay people.”13

Sport Wales also gave evidence about barriers to people from ethnic minority communities.
These include: facilities at some leisure facilities were unsuitable for women of certain faiths;
family responsibilities and childcare were a barrier for some women; and discrimination. It
stated that developing more family-based activities may raise participation. Show Racism the
Red Card Wales warned against simplifying and stereotyping different communities. It cited
barriers to participation including: racism and discrimination; the lack of role models; the
lack of safe play environments; and the failure of sports organisers to adapt their practices to
the cultural and religious beliefs of communities and families. It stated that there is only one
et PE teacher from an ethnic minority in Wales.

Regarding cuts to local authorities’ budgets, the Welsh Sports Association (WSA) stated that
sport and leisure facilities are ‘at risk of being further diminished simply because it is an easy
target for cuts.’14 It suggested placing a statutory duty on local authorities to provide sport
and leisure services. Sport Wales said there was a need for more collaboration between local
authorities both at a regional and national level to deliver sport and leisure facilities.

Evidence was given by the WSA, Public Health Wales, Sport Wales and the Welsh Local
Government Association (WLGA) about increasing the provision of sports facilities. Again,


Sport Wales emphasised the importance of collaboration, saying that it was encouraging
National Governing Bodies to collaborate “across sports and with local authorities.’ When
asked about the use of schools’ facilities after school hours, the National Union of Teachers
(NUT) said that teachers should not be expected to staff facilities after school hours and that
providing community access to school facilities should be the responsibility of Local
Authorities. The WLGA said that local authorities had service level agreements with schools
with on-site sport and leisure facilities.

The Committee also received evidence about the Welsh Government’s free swimming
scheme. Take-up by over 60s has continued to increase but take-up by under-16s has fallen.
The number of free public swims by those aged under 16 had decreased from 807,837 in
2004-5 to 421,076 in 2012-13. Sport Wales also said that while the National Curriculum
expects all children to be able to swim by the age of 11, this expectation was not being met.

Due to the complex nature of barriers and motivations for sport participation, policy
interventions must not be based on assumptions and different interventions may work for
different groups of people. As recommended in the Committee’s report, further data are
needed on the barriers and motivations for participation for different groups. This includes
examining the effectiveness of the Welsh Government and Sport Wales’ current
interventions such as the free swimming scheme. As will be further examined, there may be
good reasons to invest in individual sports as, as the cliché about riding a bike exemplifies,
these skills stay with people and participation in these activities may be more sustained than
for some team sports as they rely less on maintaining links with clubs during life’s
transitions. However, sports clubs are also valuable and as resources become scarcer, better
links need to be fostered between sports clubs, National Governing Bodies, Local Authorities
and schools to ensure that the infrastructure is in place to increase participation in
grassroots sports and physical activity.

     4. Reasons for participating in sport

The Irish Sport Council published extensive research on taking up and dropping out of sport
in Ireland in September 2013.15 Many of the findings could be relevant to Wales. The main
findings included: that the greatest challenge for sports policy is not getting children
involved but maintaining the involvement of teenagers and young adults; better links are
needed between schools and sports clubs; limited public funding should not be spent on
facilities but on participation programmes.

The researchers found that physically active children do not necessarily become active
adults. Transitions in life have an impact on sport participation, for example, the move from
primary to secondary school, school examinations; going to university; entering the labour
market; moving home and starting a family.

They found that more than 90 per cent of adults believe that exercise is good for their health.
This is true of adults from lower as well as higher socio-economic groups. However, adults
from lower socio-economic groups were found to perceive themselves to have less control
over their own participation.

  The Irish Sports Council, Keeping them in the Game: Taking up and dropping out of sport and
exercise in Ireland, September 2013

They found that of activities taken up during childhood, the two main activities that are still
undertaken in adulthood are swimming and cycling. Swimming accounts for 40 per cent of
the activity undertaken by those aged over 40 years that was initially taken up in primary
schools. For this reason, they advocate further investment in these activities. They find that
activities that rely more on sport club membership incur a higher drop-off rate than
individual activities. They state:

          “Dropping out from all sport and exercise activity is much more likely if a person participates
          in only team sport. The rate of drop-out from team sports played at school and college is
          severe. Our estimates are that among participants aged 16 and over, more than 75 per cent of
          basketball players, 53 per cent of hurlers and 52 per cent of Gaelic football players will have
          dropped out of the sport within 3-4 years. The estimate for soccer is lower, at 23 per cent,
          while for the most popular individual activities the rate of drop-out is lower again.”16

Examining the reasons behind dropping-out of sport, they find that work commitments are
the most common reason given. Leaving school or college is cited as a reason for dropping
out of team sports by more than one-third of drop-outs. Lack of time and life transitions may
explain why individual activities incur less of a drop-out rate as they can be done when
people have the time and do not rely on maintaining links with sports clubs.

Looking at influences in sport take-up, the researchers found that almost 70 per cent of
children who take up sport are introduced to the activity by teachers or parents. 74 per cent
of adults who take part in sport were introduced to the activity by a friend, colleague or
family member. The majority of adults who take up a new sport do so at a sports club or

They also found that dropping-out of sport on leaving school has more of an impact on those
from lower rather than higher socio-economic groups. More disadvantaged people are less
likely to participate in sports clubs outside of school. This links to the fact that very few
people take up a new sport or activity on their own initiative but rely on social contacts:

          “People who went on to third-level education or who work in professions are more likely to
          have friends and colleagues who are participants, leading to more opportunities to take up
          new activities on an ongoing basis as they progress through adulthood.”17

Regarding facilities, they find that “policies that rest on the idea that more and better
facilities will result in higher participation rates are, straightforwardly, not informed by
evidence but by other considerations.”18 Rather than facilities, the Irish Sports Council
recommends focusing investment on programmes to increase participation. These include:
ensuring that students leaving schools have the necessary social contacts, encouragement
and opportunity to continue participation outside school; participation programmes need to
fit opportunities to participate around busy lives; and there is a need to establish social
contact with non-participants and lower socio-economic groups. Local Sports Partnerships
are considered the most appropriate vehicles for designing, piloting and evaluating these

The main lesson for Wales to learn from this research is that a similar large-scale and
comprehensive statistical analysis on the reasons for participating and dropping-out of sport


would be hugely beneficial for Wales. While it would not be appropriate to simply transplant
Ireland’s findings and applying them to Wales, the research highlights the complexity of
barriers to and motivations for participating in sports.

The fact that most people do not take-up sport from their own initiative but do so due to
social contacts is interesting and ways of facilitating such contacts for people from all social
groups warrant further investigation. Ireland’s Local Sports Partnerships provide the
infrastructure to develop, monitor and deliver interventions to increase participation and
reduce drop-outs in Ireland. Wales does not currently have an equivalent body. The
importance of infrastructure will be further examined in the next section.

   a) Sport Infrastructure

It is crucial that for sport interventions to work, the infrastructure is there to support them.
One difference between Wales and Ireland and hence, reason that participation and drop-out
in Wales may be different is Ireland’s Local Sports Partnerships (LSP) approach. The
partnerships are responsible for promoting participation in sport at a local level. The first
LSPs were set up in 2004 and they are now operational throughout Ireland. The key aims of
the LSP are to increase participation in sport, and to ensure that local resources are used to
best effect. They are responsible for:

      Club development.
      Volunteer training.
      Enhanced planning of sport at local level.
      Local directories of sports bodies and facilities.
      School, club, community and National Governing Body links.
      Increased levels of local participation, especially amongst specific target groups such
       as older people, girls and women, people with disabilities, unemployed people, and
       those who live in identified disadvantaged communities.

The partnerships are also involved in creating and implementing plans for long term local
sports development. They provide information, initiate research and identify needs and
resources to form the basis of local planning. They provide opportunities for education and
training at a local level, providing training courses targeting volunteers. They also implement
sport strategies, increasing the impact of national programmes delivered locally and market
and promote sport.

The LSP are meant to involve all statutory bodies, organisations and groups operating in
local areas with a responsibility for or interest in sports development. Structurally they are a
substructure of local authorities. The Board of the LSP is made up of representatives of
agencies regarded as key influencers in local sports development. LSPs receive:

      Core funding - towards the cost of employing LSP staff, developing the partnerships
       and local initiatives.
      Programme funding - towards specific, high priority, targeted initiatives identified
       and promoted by the LSP.

It is likely that budgets for sport and leisure in Welsh Local Authorities will be cut rather
than increased over the next few years on a national and local level. It may therefore be wise
to invest in infrastructure in terms of grassroots clubs on a community level and regional

bodies to determine and deliver what is needed at community and regional levels and
therefore make the best use of scarce resources. This would also facilitate community
involvement in decision-making. Regional bodies could also provide the links between
National Governing Bodies, Local Authorities, sports clubs and schools that could enable the
effective use of facilities by communities. In turn, these improved links may better enable the
identification and development of talented sportspeople who could become the elite athletes
of the future.

Sweden provides an example of how investing in infrastructure through grassroots sports
clubs can contribute to developing an active nation. Grassroots sports clubs are key to
Sweden’s approach to sport. With a population of 9.4 million, 3.4 million Swedes aged 7-70
are members of sports clubs; 2.4 million Swedes compete regularly; more than two of every
three boys and one of every two girls between 7 and 15 belong to a sports club. There are
20,000 sports clubs in towns and villages throughout Sweden and 12,000 of those organise
sports for children and young people. The average club has: 271 members of which 186 are
active, 17 voluntary leaders, 0 employees, 16,000 Euros turnover with 20% of revenue
coming from grants, 40% of members are women.19

There are many specific circumstances behind Sweden’s grassroots sports movement. The
right to participate in clubs and society is guaranteed by the Swedish constitution. This gives
everyone the right to found a club or society. The Swedish countryside is open to everybody
under the Right of Common Access. Other factors include: a long tradition of involvement of
Local Authorities; strong political support, generous grants and investment capital for sports
facilities; extensive voluntary contributions; elite and grassroots sports are under the same
umbrella; national sport secondary schools provide opportunities to combine sport and
education; long-term policies and major sports programmes for children and young people;
investment in leadership training; and extensive sport research.

There is a political expectation that Local Authorities provide sports facilities for school
children, club members and other local inhabitants. Following cuts to Local Authorities’
budgets, many clubs have reached agreements with Local Authorities to take over the
management of sports premises. Half the country’s premises are now owned or run by sports

Under the Nordic model sport is organised as an independent voluntary movement with
financial support from the state and Local Authorities. Local clubs are the foundation for
organised sport. A club is owned by its members who determine, at an annual general
meeting , what the club is to do and how it is to allocate its financial resources. Sport clubs
provide opportunities for democratic participation. In Sweden there are district sport
federations at a regional level and particular sports also have district federations. The
Swedish Sports Confederation is the national unifying organisation.

The examples provided by Ireland and Sweden show that through having the right structures
in place, sport interventions and facilities can be delivered at community and regional level.
As resources are scarce, rather than investing in expensive facilities, it may be possible to
improve links between National Governing Bodies, Local Authorities, sports clubs and
schools to make better use of existing facilities. Regional bodies may be the most effective
way of delivering this.

     The Swedish Sports Confederation, Sport in Sweden, February 2012

A wellbeing infrastructure could be built and a right to wellbeing through access to facilities
such as cycle routes, leisure facilities, green spaces, school facilities and sport clubs. Not all
facilities can be accessed at community level and it may be possible to enable people to use
facilities across local authorities. Regional bodies could also measure participation and
consult with communities and different social groups on what sport and physical activities
they want to take part in and how. Individuals could be enabled to create online wellbeing
profiles to measure their own participation and set their own targets. Such a structure may
also facilitate the social contact needed for individuals to continue to take part in sport and
physical activity through life’s transitions through providing training for coaches and
mentors and avenues for volunteering.

     b) Role models

It is often taken as a given that seeing others’ sporting success will inspire people to
participate in sport themselves. Sportspeople are often cited as role models to inspire greater
participation in sport and major events such as the London 2012 Olympics are seen as
having the potential to incur the legacy of increasing grassroots participation in sport.

However, is there any evidence that sportspeople inspire others to participate in sport and
that major sporting events increase participation. If so, does this have a temporary or lasting
effect? Following the London 2012 Olympics participation levels have increased for certain
sports in Wales including gymnastics, athletics, cycling and swimming. However, it is
impossible to say only two years after the event whether this will have a lasting effect.

Sport Scotland has carried out research on Sporting Success, Role Models and
Participation20. In response to the question: Do sporting success or sporting role models
promote sports participation? It found that “No impacts have been robustly demonstrated.”
The report refers to the ‘halo effect’ of major sporting events but the lack of evidence that
they have a long-lasting effect. This is due to lack of data rather than research having found
no link between elite sporting success and grassroots sport participation. Referring to the
Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002, it states:

        “Sporting success in specific sports or from hosting a major event may lead to a halo effect in
        the short term and a burst of interest in participation. Evidence from the Manchester 2002
        Commonwealth Games found no evidence of an impact on participation, and evidence more
        generally suggests that any benefits will only accrue from a more integrated and better
        planned sports development strategy.”21

However, this does not mean that elite sporting success has no impact on grassroots and
individual participation. What the review found was that simply exposing people to sporting
role models is not enough in itself to promote sustained participation in sport. It states:

        “In programmes using sporting role models, the role models should not simply be ‘parachuted
        in’: there should be interaction between the model and the potential participant; repeated

   Sport Scotland, Sporting Success, Role Models and Participation: a policy related review, January

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