Sport England is waste of money - claim

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David Robertson
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Sport England is waste of money - claim

Post by David Robertson » Tue Feb 27, 2018 9:48 pm

In the Times today, sports journalist and author, Matthew Seyd launches a blistering, evidence-based assault on the credibility of Sport England. Doubtless in his thoughts are the £££ millions spent on winter 'athletes' skidding about on their ar$es to minimal public benefit with minimal prospects for participation by the vast majority. Yet, where £££ millions are spent on participation - basketball, for instance - participation falls. Overall, Sport England has had a deplorably bad impact on sports take-up. It's become a racket by which funds are transferred from those who don't participate to the (mainly privately-educated) elite who do - with a sizeable admin rake-off.

It's the kind of thing that might be an ECF Board agenda item - where Board members review and absorb the points made in the piece, and ask themselves whether anything sounds familiar. I don't suppose this will happen. But who knows. Anyway, read on. See if you find anything to reflect upon >>>> [full text from the Times (£) ]
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I hesitate to say this; it won’t go down well with friends. Sport, after all, represents a close-knit family and many are on the payroll. The truth, however, is indisputable: government largesse towards sport has proved to be nothing more than an expensive displacement exercise, a distraction, a sustained exercise in political virtue signalling.

A bit of background. Sport was one of the designated good causes of the National Lottery in 1994. Sport England, a vast quango, was given the brief to increase participation. The idea was that a group of officials operating out of an office near Whitehall could somehow alter the behaviour of people in Brixton and Brighton. For most of the first decade, more than 34 per cent of their budget was spent on officials, offices and reports; so-called “administrative overhead”.

Expensive facilities were created, but underutilised. Local authority funding was squeezed. Sports activists were forced to learn a new vocabulary of “whole sports plans” and “community assets funding”. But it was difficult to tell whether any of this was having an impact. Coaches and other activists seemed more focused on accessing public subsidy than inspiring people to play and compete. I heard of organisations offering bribes to participants to artificially boost their numbers.

In 2005, Sport England took a belated decision to measure outcomes. A polling company was commissioned to assess the number of adults participating in three sessions of sport per week by making tens of thousands of phone calls. It was called the Active People survey, which cost around £5 million annually to collate, but the results were entirely predictable. The numbers participating in sport plateaued despite all the grandiose rhetoric.

Sport England responded by changing the goalposts. Instead of targeting the number of people playing at least three times a week, it moved to a target of at least once a week. Despite the expensive boost of a home Olympics, an event that was supposed to turbocharge participation, activity declined according to this criterion, too. By 2016, the last year of the Active People survey, 15.8 million people played sport at least once week, a fall of 0.4 per cent since 2012.

Not all sports funding is directed at participation, of course. UK Sport is the body that focuses on elite athletes. It has proved highly successful when it comes to Olympic triumphs, although there is a healthy debate about whether this is a legitimate area of public spending. Critics point out that elite success does little to inspire people to take up sport. “It is like supposing you can inspire a new generation of guitar players by getting them to watch Jimi Hendrix,” Barrie Houlihan, professor of sport at Loughborough University, has said. This is particularly true of the Winter Olympics, where precious few could pop out to try bobsleigh, even if they wanted to.

Defenders of UK Sport respond that even if elite success does not drive participation, it generates national pride. They point to the joy that surrounded the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympics. They say that this is a sensible area of spending. As I said, a healthy debate.

But that is the devastating point about Sport England: there can be no legitimate debate. Whatever the health and social benefits of sport, these cannot accrue if public spending does not move the needle of participation in the first place. Over the past 25 years, billions have been spent without any impact. Indeed, the spending probably undermined participation by forcing coaches, who could have been doing creative work, to navigate the complex funding landscape devised by a central bureaucracy utterly detached from the real world.

You can glimpse these ironies by looking at basketball, a recent cause célèbre. Politicians and pundits have called for more money to be given to a sport that has many participants from poorer and ethnic backgrounds. On its own terms, this argument is not without merit, but it utterly misses the deeper point. The only way that public spending on basketball can impact participation, ethnic or otherwise, is if such spending works, which it hasn’t.

Despite millions of pounds funnelled to Basketball England, participation has plummeted. The number of adults playing each month dropped by almost 100,000 between 2008 and 2016. This should come as no surprise. Basketball England is another dysfunctional body addicted to subsidy. Why should we expect the sport to thrive if its officials are incompetent and there is no mechanism to drive competition and innovation?

The social benefits of sport are, by the way, less clearcut than often claimed. If you are taught by coaches who are undermotivated, or who embody poor values, you are not going to reap a social dividend. Evidence suggests that sport only has positive consequences if the coaches are outstanding mentors and leaders. This was another problem with the crude targeting of participation: many sports responded by getting as many kids through the door as possible without any thought about how to engage and inspire. No wonder youngsters stayed home the moment the subsidies ran dry.

Most people involved in sport know all this, but there is a conspiracy of silence that has long surrounded the gravy train. Elite athletes are lined up to defend the quangos who provide them with cash, while politicians make lofty pronouncements about the value of sport, such as during the lamentable debate on basketball in parliament last week. Nobody mentions the unmentionable.

And the truth is that the failure of policy is even more abject than the data, on a superficial reading, might suggest. The few success stories are in precisely those areas outside the original remit of Sport England. The writer and campaigner Russell Findlay highlights that the boom in gym memberships is due to entrepreneurs combining low-cost memberships with innovative facilities. The highly successful Parkrun concept was created not by bureaucrats, but local people. Cycling has grown, too, not least because of safer pathways.

Sport England has tried to take retrospective credit for these successes. It recently altered its remit to focus not just on organised sport, where it has serially failed, but physical exercise more generally. What it has not realised is that it is always behind the curve because the world is changing, people’s habits are altering, and a centralised structure can’t keep up. Like many quangos, Sport England is world-class — not at driving outcomes but at finding ever more creative ways to justify its existence.

And this articulates the deepest problem of all. When it comes to public money, we too often think in terms of inputs rather than outputs. Pundits demonstrate their commitment to sport by calling for more cash. Ministers parade their credentials by talking about the recent million-pound cheque they signed. Can you imagine a business talking in this way? Entrepreneurs are not interested in inputs but outputs. Otherwise they go out of business.

Sport England and its vast web of “client” organisations should be put out of business. The sole achievement has been to redistribute wealth from those who don’t play organised sport to those who do, with a vast deadweight loss associated with bureaucracy created to administer the transfer. Future policy should focus more on entrepreneurs with subsidies tied to accountability, clear incentives, and a keener recognition of the unintended consequences.

The only question is whether Matt Hancock, the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, has the courage to confront the vested interests of one of Britain’s most powerful and parasitical lobbies.

Nick Grey
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Re: Sport England is waste of money - claim

Post by Nick Grey » Tue Feb 27, 2018 11:32 pm

I'm not sure why ECF will want to waste time on this. Take it up with your MP or write a letter to the secretary of state, and possibly your local Council?

We can thank the Beast for bringing the winter Olympics here. Unfortunately not all of us are kitted out in appropriate clothing and winter walking boots. More issues on Boxing, but cutting team tennis is a great cost saving. Shame they did nothing for activities following Grenfell Tower.

Yes it's annoying that I have not got free gym membership with all my medical conditions. Walking football is mid-week and I work.

I am doing the 2018 Trail Magazine walk Everest Challenge in elevation. Most of it is up the stairs on stations, a slight incline on journey to work and walking stairs especially when lift not working. I hope to get some real hill/mountain walking when it warms up over the summer.

As for Parkrun I cannot see why the authorities do not charge them significant licences and insist on high insurance liabilities. Cyclists should pay road tax, and insurance. Not all of these incidents are the fault of the motorist.

Quite miffed those that mount the pavement to drive the wrong-way up a one way street. I hope the attendant and policeman at the top-of the street, gave him the appropriate fine and caution. It was right outside work this morning. No bell or verbal warning to 100s of people many old.

On the events a lot of them and odd cycling event closes places or these boot camps where I can walk (and also I'm paying for them out of my Council Tax). I'm not surprised those that can let their dog off the lead still do so. But pleased they did not when I was playing football and cricket and that was not so long ago.

David Gilbert
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Re: Sport England is waste of money - claim

Post by David Gilbert » Wed Feb 28, 2018 1:25 am

“It is like supposing you can inspire a new generation of guitar players by getting them to watch Jimi Hendrix,” Barrie Houlihan, professor of sport at Loughborough University, has said.
This sort of thing happens. I remember two people inspired to take up drumming after watching Topper Heaton (was he the greatest drummer of them all) in the late 70's. Unfortunately they soon realised they weren't going to emulate Topper and, to the delight of the neighbours, they instead spent their evenings pogo-ing, which required less talent but was an exhausting activity that Sport England might have appreciated.

David Sedgwick
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Re: Sport England is waste of money - claim

Post by David Sedgwick » Wed Feb 28, 2018 8:55 am

David Robertson wrote:
Tue Feb 27, 2018 9:48 pm
In the Times today, sports journalist and author, Matthew Seyd launches a blistering, evidence-based assault on the credibility of Sport England. Doubtless in his thoughts are the £££ millions spent on winter 'athletes' skidding about on their ar$es to minimal public benefit with minimal prospects for participation by the vast majority.
That money is actually spent by UK Sport, not by Sport England. The full article makes that clear.
David Robertson wrote:
Tue Feb 27, 2018 9:48 pm
It's the kind of thing that might be an ECF Board agenda item - where Board members review and absorb the points made in the piece, and ask themselves whether anything sounds familiar. I don't suppose this will happen. But who knows.
I leave Carl to decide whether those three sentences justify your posting this in "ECF Matters".

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JustinHorton
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Re: Sport England is waste of money - claim

Post by JustinHorton » Wed Feb 28, 2018 9:47 am

David Gilbert wrote:
Wed Feb 28, 2018 1:25 am
“It is like supposing you can inspire a new generation of guitar players by getting them to watch Jimi Hendrix,” Barrie Houlihan, professor of sport at Loughborough University, has said.
This sort of thing happens. I remember two people inspired to take up drumming after watching Topper Heaton (was he the greatest drummer of them all) in the late 70's. Unfortunately they soon realised they weren't going to emulate Topper and, to the delight of the neighbours, they instead spent their evenings pogo-ing, which required less talent but was an exhausting activity that Sport England might have appreciated.
Yes, whatever else might be right or wrong about the article, that's a very strange thing to say.

Incidentally, my view of the article is that it's substantially cobblers, especially what it says about cycling, and it very conveniently says nothing about what's happened to school sports, the sale of playing fields and so on. The idea that the money Sport England spends is simply wasted is fatuous. Oh, and who is Russell Findlay that we should be mindful of him?
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Roger de Coverly
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Re: Sport England is waste of money - claim

Post by Roger de Coverly » Wed Feb 28, 2018 10:38 am

David Sedgwick wrote:
Wed Feb 28, 2018 8:55 am

I leave Carl to decide whether those three sentences justify your posting this in "ECF Matters".
Under Phil Ehr, the ECF Board was made to be enthusiastic about following governance and other ideas of the Sport & Recreation Alliance. The current Board seems rather less bothered. The ECF no longer gets any government money to spend, so parallels with Sport England are perhaps not so relevant. But if in some Kirsan fantasy, chess was included in the Winter Olympics and thus the ECF got funding alongside snow boarding, bobsleigh and curling, what should or would the ECF spend it on?

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Re: Sport England is waste of money - claim

Post by Alex Holowczak » Wed Feb 28, 2018 11:15 am

I think most people would agree that participation in sport has been declining in England in the last decade or two, but I don't think that alone can be used to conclude that Sport England is therefore not doing its job properly. What would have happened if Sport England didn't exist? Would participation in sport have declined even more?

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David Shepherd
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Re: Sport England is waste of money - claim

Post by David Shepherd » Wed Feb 28, 2018 11:22 am

I don't have huge confidence in UK Sport :(

What is the sport with the second highest participation rate in the world after soccer - answer badminton. What did UK Sport do after we won a medal at the Olympics - reduce funding to nil.

At least some better news for that sport in the last few weeks - from Badminton England Website

"Badminton England is pleased that UK Sport has acknowledged another successful medal winning year by choosing to invest £630,000 for the remaining period of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic cycle from the new Medal Support Plan announced today.

GB Badminton saw every penny of central funding removed by UK Sport in December 2016; a decision that was set against a backdrop of the sport winning Great Britain’s first ever Men’s Doubles medal - a result that exceeded the UK Sport target set for Rio.

A year on, English badminton has enjoyed a history-making 12 months at world level, starting with double European gold – a feat that has not been achieved for 29 years – followed by a richly deserved World Championships bronze medal for Chris and Gabby Adcock, who also rose to a career high three in the world rankings.

Furthermore, through 2017, all 12 members of the significantly reshaped England Performance squad – and Scottish number one Kirsty Gilmour - have enjoyed significant world ranking increases.

Success has continued at junior level right along the talent pathway with a U19 European gold medal the highlight."

Sorry, the above has nothing to do with chess, but it does sum up well how hard some sports with high participation rates find it to get money from UK Sport.

Mick Norris
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Re: Sport England is waste of money - claim

Post by Mick Norris » Wed Feb 28, 2018 11:44 am

Roger de Coverly wrote:
Wed Feb 28, 2018 10:38 am
David Sedgwick wrote:
Wed Feb 28, 2018 8:55 am

I leave Carl to decide whether those three sentences justify your posting this in "ECF Matters".
Under Phil Ehr, the ECF Board was made to be enthusiastic about following governance and other ideas of the Sport & Recreation Alliance. The current Board seems rather less bothered. The ECF no longer gets any government money to spend, so parallels with Sport England are perhaps not so relevant. But if in some Kirsan fantasy, chess was included in the Winter Olympics and thus the ECF got funding alongside snow boarding, bobsleigh and curling, what should or would the ECF spend it on?
It won't, so it is pointless thinking about it

Participation in lots of things appears to have declined, so maybe chess isn't any better or worse; the key question is what (if anything) the ECF should do with the resources (money, people, lack thereof) that it has got
Any postings on here represent my personal views and should not be taken as representative of the Manchester Chess Federation www.manchesterchess.co.uk

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Carl Hibbard
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Re: Sport England is waste of money - claim

Post by Carl Hibbard » Wed Feb 28, 2018 2:02 pm

David Sedgwick wrote:
Wed Feb 28, 2018 8:55 am
David Robertson wrote:
Tue Feb 27, 2018 9:48 pm
In the Times today, sports journalist and author, Matthew Seyd launches a blistering, evidence-based assault on the credibility of Sport England. Doubtless in his thoughts are the £££ millions spent on winter 'athletes' skidding about on their ar$es to minimal public benefit with minimal prospects for participation by the vast majority.
That money is actually spent by UK Sport, not by Sport England. The full article makes that clear.
David Robertson wrote:
Tue Feb 27, 2018 9:48 pm
It's the kind of thing that might be an ECF Board agenda item - where Board members review and absorb the points made in the piece, and ask themselves whether anything sounds familiar. I don't suppose this will happen. But who knows.
I leave Carl to decide whether those three sentences justify your posting this in "ECF Matters".
I have moved it into the more General section.
Cheers
Carl Hibbard

David Robertson
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Re: Sport England is waste of money - claim

Post by David Robertson » Wed Feb 28, 2018 3:26 pm

I had hoped to avoid stepping in David Sedgwick's comments. Alas, and rather typically, Carl Hibbard falls face first into them. Am I bothered? Hardly.

I placed the thread under 'ECF' after thought, and with good reason. It has been an oft-pursued, much-discussed, long-term objective of ECF to have Chess defined as a sport. Were it to succeed, chess would fall under the aegis of Sport England, and pitch for funds from UK Sport. Hence, the article I posted has relevance to that matter, if no other.

But other matters too. For all its official clout, Sport England appears to struggle with a key objective - improving take-up and retention in sports within its jurisdiction. Moreover, much activity is directed at matters which disappoint; not enough, at matters which deserve attention. Hence, SE faces claims that it is, if nothing else, inefficient in its deployment of resources. Furthermore, it stands accused of strategic complacency and an absence of critical self-appraisal, even as the evidence mounts that its efforts are not well-directed.

I had thought that the keen and agile intellects that populate this forum might have been quick to see how these matters might have bearing on ECF's strategic self-assessment; how one aspect of a well-governed ECF is self-review, drawing on the experience of other relevant bodies perhaps.

Perhaps. And then, perhaps not. Am I bothered? Hardly

Adam Ashton
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Re: Sport England is waste of money - claim

Post by Adam Ashton » Wed Feb 28, 2018 4:53 pm

I agree that over centralisation, huge budgets along with poor accountablity inevitably leads to corruption and poor value. I'm not sure how this applies to the ECF but you make a strong case for Brexit.

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Carl Hibbard
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Re: Sport England is waste of money - claim

Post by Carl Hibbard » Wed Feb 28, 2018 9:03 pm

David Robertson wrote:
Wed Feb 28, 2018 3:26 pm
Alas, and rather typically, Carl Hibbard falls face first into them. Am I bothered? Hardly.
Good, I was worried.
Cheers
Carl Hibbard

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John Clarke
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Re: Sport England is waste of money - claim

Post by John Clarke » Wed Feb 28, 2018 9:49 pm

Falling participation? At the risk .... no, dammit, the necessity of repeating myself: it's the (gig) economy, stupid.

If the grass-roots are dying off for lack of basic nourishment, no amount or type of top-dressing is capable of reviving them. You might successfully raise a few carefully-nurtured force-fed hothouse plants, but that's all.
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Kevin Thurlow
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Re: Sport England is waste of money - claim

Post by Kevin Thurlow » Thu Mar 01, 2018 10:23 am

I imagine Matthew Syed (former table tennis player) was still cross that funding for that sport disappeared a few years ago.

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