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England Touch signs Sport and Recreation Alliance election campaign

A coalition of more than 200 bodies, athletes, businesses and charities across health, sport, recreation, and physical activity has written an open letter to party leaders calling on them to use the General Election to #TakeTheLead and commit to making the UK the most active nation in Europe.

As the main parties announce their manifestos and the men’s European Football Championships comes into focus this week, a survey* of British adults asked where they think the UK ranks in Europe’s league table for physical activity. Three-quarters (75%) guessedit would feature in the top 10, but the reality is the UK is a miserable joint-11th among 15 comparable nations.

The call for change is driven by the Active Partnerships network, the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sportand Physical Activity, the Sport and Recreation Alliance, the Sport for Development Coalition, ukactive and the YouthSport Trust, which together represent thousands of organisations, gyms, swimming pools, leisure centres, sportsgoverning bodies, and professionals across the UK.

The letter kickstarts a new campaign launched by the organisations called #TakeTheLead, which will showcase the importance of creating a more active nation and, crucially, highlight the need for leadership by our national politicians to create the conditions for change.

The 227 signatories to the letter range from major health bodies to sport’s national governing bodies, education providers and the nation’s biggest fitness and leisure groups, while stars such as Rebecca Adlington, Ugo Monye, Adam Olaore and Darcey Bussell have also added their support.

The letter outlines the urgent need as well as the “unique opportunity” for any new Government to unlock the fullpotential of the sport, recreation and physical activity sector, in a move that would be “transformative for communities across the UK”.

It says: “To overcome our national health crisis and deliver economic growth, we believe you must commit to theambition of making the UK the most active nation in Europe and work with the industry to deliver this vision.”

Collectively, the sector already saves the NHS £9.5bn every year by preventing illness and in total generates £85bn annually in economic and social value. However, the value generated by the sector could be far greater if the UK reaches and exceeds the activity levels of its European peers, according to research by the Sport and Recreation Alliance.

If the UK became the most active nation in Europe, the research projects:

  • Economic growth – by increasing GDP by £3.6bn every year
  • Reduced burden on the NHS – by cutting spending on preventable disease by £1bn every year
  • An improvement in people’s life satisfaction – by increasing wellbeing benefits to the value of £71bn every year.

The letter highlights priorities for the party leaders to focus on to reduce growing inequalities across the UK and drivesignificant change in activity levels, such as ensuring every child is active for at least 60 minutes every day, cutting red tape holding back growth, and embedding physical activity pathways into health and care systems.

Sport, recreation, and physical activity bind communities together across all ages, abilities and backgrounds and make the population healthier, happier, more productive and more prosperous.

Making the UK the most active nation would help to reduce pressure off the NHS, boost productivity and economicgrowth by helping more people to stay in work, improve physical and mental health from childhood, support the driveto net zero, and create more connected, inclusive communities.

Rebecca Adlington OBE said: “It’s time for our political leaders to take the lead and be much bolder in their ambitions for sport and physical activity in the UK.

“It’s going to be a great summer for sport but it’s about more than inspiring the next generation of athletes, it’s abouthow physical activity can help fix our health crisis and improve so many lives.

“I want us to be top of podium as the most active nation in Europe and that starts with the next Government having a full plan to help us reach millions more people of all ages and backgrounds.”

Lisa Wainwright MBE, CEO Sport and Recreation Alliance, said: “By asking our political leaders to commit tomaking the UK the most active nation in Europe, we aren’t just asking them to commit to the power of physical activity,we are imploring them to reimagine the role of sport and recreation in society and, crucially, to put it at the heart of their policy making.

"Already in this election, we are seeing parties focus on the need to grow the economy, fix the NHS, cut crime, tackle climate change and reduce inequalities. We know that sport and recreation does all this and more - through cricket to yoga, and dance to orienteering. Getting more people, more active consistently leads to better social and economic outcomes.

"From grassroots to elite, leaders from across sport and recreation are driving transformational change across communities. But so much more could be delivered if the true potential of the sector was unlocked. That requires a renewed sense of ambition and prioritisation from policymakers. And that’s what we’re calling for – our national politicians to step up, take the lead and make the UK the most active nation in Europe.”

National Sector Partners Group

  • Active Partnerships
  • The Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA)
  • The Sport for Development Coalition
  • The Sport and Recreation Alliance
  • ukactive
  • The Youth Sport Trust

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