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Ruff Guide to Government Sport Policy

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This Ruff guide to government (Whitehall) sport policy is designed to point students toward our collection of sport policy documents; some are written by government and some are collaborations with the various incarnations of the Sports Council on behalf of Whitehall. We offer little commentary since ‘Sport Policy’ is covered rather better than could we elsewhere; although we do provide some directional signs for student further study. We have listed what we consider appropriate in reverse chronological order; beginning with the most recent......


DCMS. (2012). Creating a sporting habit for life: A new youth sport strategy. London: DCMS

Creating a sport habit for life (2012)The London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games will captivate the country this summer [2012], and the exploits of our elite athletes will inspire young people, encouraging many to get into sport, determined to emulate their heroes. However, whilst we know that mega-events and their immediate aftermath often cause a surge in short-term sporting activity, maintaining that enthusiasm for the long-term is much harder. The key to making the most of the Games, and delivering a long-term step change in the number of people who play sport, is to create a sporting habit amongst our young people that will last a lifetime.

Since London won the right to stage the Games in 2005, participation rates amongst young people have fallen, with many of our major sports – including Football, Tennis and Swimming – seeing declines in the proportion of 16-25 year olds regularly taking part. Whilst participation rates remain relatively high in school (where curriculum Physical Education (PE) is compulsory), when young people leave school the proportion who continue to play sport falls dramatically. The problem is starker for girls, with around only a third participating in sport at 18 compared to two-thirds of boys. We are particularly keen to deal with this issue.

This new Youth Sport Strategy aims to increase consistently the number of young people developing sport as a habit for life. Over the next five years, Sport England will invest at least £1 billion of Lottery and Exchequer funding to help to ensure that young people are regularly playing sport and to break down the barriers that, until now, have prevented young people from continuing their interest in sport into their adult life.

Sport England will work with schools, colleges and universities, as well as local County Sports Partnerships, the National Governing Bodies for sport, local authorities and the voluntary sector – the people who know sport and young people best – to improve the sporting offer that we make available to them.

See also:



DCMS. (2008). Playing to win: A new era for sport. London: DCMS

ptowinWhen you play sport, you play to win. It is also at the heart of this plan that, over time, seeks to change the culture of sport in England.

It is a plan to get more people taking up sport simply for the love of sport; to expand the pool of talented English sportsmen and women; and to break records, win medals and win tournaments for this country.

As Olympic host nation [2012], we have a moment in time to set a new level of ambition for sport and change permanently its place in our society. It’s an era of unprecedented opportunity. But we will only seize it if we can unite people at all levels in sport in a new spirit of partnership and common endeavour.

We need a ‘Playing to Win’ ethos in all that we do - the highest standards on and off the field. That, more than anything, is what this plan seeks to achieve: shared goals, clear responsibilities, everyone playing their part......

See also: ISR. (2005). Raising the bar: The final report of the independent sports review. London: Independent Sports Review [for a critique - this is not a government policy document]



DCMS/Strategy Unit. (2002). Game plan: A strategy for delivering government’s sport and physical activity objectives. London: Cabinet Office


Published on the 19th December of 2002, this document was produced jointly by the Government’s Strategy Unit [driven by the EU (1996) Social Inclusion agenda) and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Sections include comparative participation and sports performance data, research statistics and theories underpinning the value of sport (such as they are), it details the governments vision and strategy for sport from both a mass participation and performance perspective up until 2020.


Game Plan, as it is commonly known, was a landmark document in a variety of ways; It was the first sport policy document authored by two government departments, the Social Exclusion Unit (SEU) and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) - as part of the “joined up thinking” philosophy that New Labour brought to government and the “crosscutting” political agenda that “social exclusion”, in terms of the importance of Neighbourhood renewal, represented for the government - documented in the context of their cmnd paper “Bringing Britain Together”.

Game Plan attempted to provide both a rationale and and action plan for the development of sport itself and the reduction of social exclusion through providing opportunities in sport participation based largely on the claims made for sport in the Report of the Social Exclusion Units’ Policy Action Team 10. Game Plan made suggestions toward sport being a potential instrument in achieving the governments wider socio-political agenda of combating social exclusion. Game plan articulated a clear statement that government perceived sport and physical activity as a potential social instrument to reduce the inequalities of opportunities for people (citizens) to participate in the social structures in British Society.



sfaDCMS. (2000). A sporting future for all. London: DCMS

For all of us who take up sport, a good start in the early years is important. The young person hitting the ball against the wall for hours may be honing skills which could take her to Wimbledon, or just to a Saturday morning game with friends. Either way, we are much more likely to get the pleasure and the benefit of sport, and to keep the habit as we grow older, if we develop it early. It is in school where most of us get our first chance to try sport. It is here that children discover their talent and their potential. They need the chance to try a variety of sports, to see which they enjoy most. They need high quality teaching of basic skills. They need opportunities to compete at a level in line with where their ability has developed. They need clear pathways into taking part at club and national levels, with the right coaching and the right support at every stage.

The Government does not and should not run sport. Sport is for individuals, striving to succeed - either on their own, or in teams. However those individuals, together or alone, need the help of others - to provide the facilities, the equipment, the opportunities. So there is a key role to play for those who organise and manage sport - local authorities, sports clubs, governing bodies, the Sports Councils and the Government.

We set out here our plans to create sporting opportunities for all - to create pathways of success for those who have the talent and the desire to rise to the top.We put forward plans to help schools provide more and better sporting opportunities for our children, and to encourage people to carry on taking part in sport beyond the school years.We want to see the organisations involved in sport working together to make our vision for sport happen. So we set out here plans to increase clarity about their roles, to improve co-ordination and to increase the professionalism of sports management. Only if we modernise the way sport is run will we be able to create the wider participation and greater achievement which are our aims.

We need to see new thinking and new action about ways to improve sport in our country.We want to see everyone given a better sporting future. So that the practicalities of sport can match the potential of sport. So that the power of sport can be available to all. And so that the passion of sport can continue to move us and engage us and be part of our lives. Sport matters.

This document was considered by the English sports summit and action planned in print by the Government’s Plan for Sport in 2001, an action plan for implementation of the government’s developing sports policy agenda.



DoNH. (1995). Sport: Raising the Game. London: Department of National Heritage

Raising the Game
These new plans (1995) are the most important set of proposals ever published for the encouragement and promotion of sport. We shall be discussing how to develop them further with those on whom we all rely to make them a reality - perhaps, above all, teachers, but also parents, volunteers, sports men and women themselves, their clubs and the governing bodies of their sports. Their advice has been hugely valuable in putting these ideas together. That process of partnership must be carried further. Together I want us to bring about a seachange in the prospects of British sport - from the very first steps in primary school right through to the breaking of the tape in an Olympic final.

The existence of the National Lottery has transformed for ever the prospects of British sport. Indeed, this was one of my principal aims when I decided to create the Lottery. It was a way to provide resources for sport - and other good causes - that would be unlikely ever to come directly from the taxpayer.

Some people say that sport is a peripheral and minor concern. I profoundly disagree. It enriches the lives of the thousands of millions of people of all ages around the world who know and enjoy it. Sport is a central part of Britain's National Heritage. We invented the majority of the world's great sports. And most of those we did not invent, we codified and helped to popularise throughout the world. It could be argued that nineteenth century Britain was the cradle of a leisure revolution every bit as significant as the agricultural and industrial revolutions we launched in the century before.

In this initiative I put perhaps highest priority on plans to help all our schools improve their sport. Sport is open to all ages - but it is most open to those who learn to love it when they are young. Competitive sport teaches valuable lessons which last for life. Every game delivers both a winner and a loser. Sports men must learn to be both. Sport only thrives if both parties play by the rules, and accept the results with good grace. It is one of the best means of learning how to live alongside others and make a contribution as part of a team. It improves health and it opens the door to new friendships.

But all this is to be too dispassionate about sport. Above all, it produces pure enjoyment for those who play and those who watch. Frankly, for me, it needs no other recommendation than that.

John Major.

Sport: Raising the game was a landmark in both British sport and wider heritage and culture. The then Conservative Prime Minister,  John Major – a passionate sportsman and fan himself, drove forward plans for the establishment of the National Lottery; specialist schools (including sports colleges) and the funding of athletes in part through the lottery. Sport and the Arts (along with millennium preparations – for London at least) were centre stage. A landmark sport policy for performance, coaching and school sport: Raising the Game was to have a significant impact on sport in the United Kingdom for more than a decade.

See also; Sports Council. (1993). Sport in the nineties:New horizons. London: Sports Council (GB)



Sports Council. (1988). Sport in the Community: Into the 90's: A strategy for sport 1988-1993. London: Sports Council (GB)

Into the 90s

In 1982 The Sports Council published its strategy, 'Sport in the Community: The Next Ten Years'. At the heart of that strategy was the need to reduce social inequities in opportunities to play sport, and to continue supporting improvements in performance. Against a scenario of finite resources, it set targets for increased participation for the first time, and presented a selective set of investment programmes for facilities and for developing top level performance.

Because of the Council's remit, the strategy was one for English sport, but had implications throughout the UK. Its proposals were welcomed by the overwhelming majority of the Council's partners in the public, commercial and voluntary sectors. They have all striven to develop sport in the first five years of the decade, 1983-1993.

The Sports Council promised that it would review the strategy, 'Sport in the Community: The Next Ten Years', after five years, and this document is the outcome of that review, however in what were then shifting political sands this review provided directional signs to what was to become of the Sports Council (GB), with Whitehall not so impressed with the Sports Council's performance in recent years (Pickup, 1993).

See also: DoES. (1991). Sport and Active Recreation. London: Department of Education and Science



Sports Council. (1982) Sport in the Community: The Next Ten Years. London: Sports Council

Sport in the Community the next ten years: (1980's)

  • There will be a smaller school and teenage population, but more adults, many in smaller households next10years
  • Population growth will concentrate on smaller towns, rural areas, and outer city rings, demanding up-graded or new sports facilities
  • Larger families, low income groups, and single person households in inner cities will have special needs to be met
  • Travel cost increases have not yet cut into sporting participation
  • There will be more leisure time, (though its distribution is unsure), and a relatively high level of unemployment. Consequently, there will be an increasing demand for leisure pursuits with sport being one of the most buoyant.
    Sporting participation has grown in popularity and frequency (Chapter 2):
  • Broadly, participation in outdoor sport doubled in the 1960s and in indoor sport in the 1970s, when outdoor sport grew by a further 50%. By 1980, 30% were taking part in outdoor sport once a month or more often and 23% in indoor sport regularly. This represented growth of 7.2% and 6.1% respectively in the three years since 1977
  • Participation has grown considerably amongst younger middle-aged men and women, and especially amongst skilled manual groups
  • But there are groups which are low in participation — housewives, especially those with young children, semi and unskilled workers, people over the age of 45, and the handicapped [sic], ethnic minorities and the unemployed
  • The mainspring of the growth in indoor sport has been the multi-purpose sports centres of which there were 460 major and 310 smaller in England by 1981. These are essentially local in their impact, and introduce new people to sport without emptying existing facilities or damaging existing clubs. Where they are readily accessible and well marketed and managed, they attract a wider use by the local population
  • Joint provision, especially with education, achieves good sports facilities at a lower cost than separate provision, though the majority of schools and colleges with suitable facilities are still under-used, especially at weekends and in the holidays.

This document represents the Sports Council (GB)'s (and the Governments') take on sport in the UK in the 1980’s, in it they set targets for participation; establish target groups, and suggest policy toward performance and excellence. The document details and describes participation in sport, offers some wider narrative about health and sports participation. Useful as the first sport policy document that details sport in wider social agendas; lots of stats that are useful for contemporary student study.

See also: Sports Council. (1987). Sport in the Community: Which ways Forward?: Consultation document . London: Sports Council GB



Sports Council. (1981). Sport for All. London: Sports Council GB

The 1970's were a good time for sport in Britain, enthusiasm grew, participation increased, new facilities were built. And Britain's reputation grew in the arena of international sport. This [1981] document details the Sports Councils' efforts in the 1970's in the context of the Council of Europe's sports charter and the concept of 'Sport for All' in 1975.

The Council of Europe was the first international organisation to take an interest in sport [for all : The CCPR, somewhat earlier articulated something similar as ‘opportunities for all’ see here ], however.....


'The starting point for the Council of Europe’s concern with sport was culture. The Council for Cultural Co-operation (CCC) was set up in 1962 under the 1954 European Cultural Convention, and its Committee for Out-of-School Education had three sections, one of which dealt with sport. The section’s aims were very modest: it was simply a discussion forum for experts and policy-makers in charge of sport. “Our discussions were very theoretical and had no practical impact”, admits Armand Lams, a Belgian appointed to head the sports section in 1964. But the discussions were fruitful, since they gradually shaped a common European view of sport. After six years of thought and discussion, a basic text revolving around the idea of the right to sport for all was adopted in Bruges on 17 January 1968.

The idea was to put into practice an approach to sport that went well beyond the Olympic games, media-oriented sport and high-level competition, at a time when the prevailing trends were industrial and office work, urban growth and the rise of the consumer society.

Without turning its back on high-level sport or competition, the Bruges meeting laid the foundations for a democratic conception of modern sports activities. The participants concluded that sport must be understood in the modern sense, as a free and spontaneous physical activity practised in leisure time for the purposes of recreation and relaxation; sport in this sense covers sports as such and a variety of physical activities, provided that they call for a degree of effort.' (Zorba, 2010)

The outcome of the Bruges meeting, seven years later, was the cornerstone of the Council of Europe’s sports policy, the European Sports Charter adopted in Brussels on 20 March 1975, and a clear raison d'être for the then Sports Council, that of 'Sport for All'.

Government policy was enshrined in the parliamentary White paper: Sport and Recreation (DoE) published in August of 1975.


See also: McIntosh, P. Charlton, V. (1985). The impact of Sport for All policy - 1966-1984.: And a way forward. London: Sports Council (GB)



CCPR. (1960). Sport & the community: The report of the Wolfenden committee on Sport 1960. London: CCPR

In October 1957, the Central Council of Physical Recreation decided to appoint a small independent Committee to examine the general position of sport in this country and to recommend what action should be taken by statutory and voluntary bodies if games, sports and outdoor activities were to play their full part in promoting the general welfare of the community.

This is the cornerstone document of sport policy in the UK (although not Government sponsored), as such it is required study for all students, educators and practitioners.



Evans, H.J. (1974) Service to sport: The story of the CCPR -1935-1972. London: Pelham Books


Service to Sport 1974Not a policy document but an interpretation of the sporting organisational landscape prior to 1972 and the formation of the Sports Council, from the perspective of the CCPR.  We rather like this since it provides a back-drop for the 1957 – 60 Wolfenden Committee.

It is an historical narrative by (Howell) Justin Evans, former Deputy secretary and acting general secretary (1944-1968) of the Central Council for Physical Recreation prior to and in 1974 (formerly the central council for physical recreation and training) and now the Sport and Recreation Alliance (SRA).  Justin Evans was also the secretary of the Wolfenden Committee on Sport 1957-60 and author of the 1960 landmark document in British sport policy; The Wolfenden Report:  Sport and the Community. Evans was awarded an MBE for services to youth in 1942 and an OBE for services to physical recreation in 1968.




Other Resources:

Books Resources:

  • Bloyce, D. Smith, A. (2009). Sport policy and development: An introduction. Abingdon: Routledge
  • Coalter, F. (2007). A wider social role for sport: Who's keeping the score?. Abingdon: Routledge
  • Coghlan, J. Webb, I. (1990). Sport and British Politics. Abingdon: Routledge *
  • Collins, M. & Kay T. (2003). Sport and social inclusion. Abingdon: Routledge
  • Collins, M. (ed) (2009). Examining sports development. Abingdon: Routledge
  • Evans, H J. (1974). Service to Sport: The story of the CCPR 1935-1972. London: Pelham **
  • Houlihan, B. White, A. (2002). The Politics of Sports Development: Development of Sport or Development Through Sport?. Abingdon: Routledge
  • Jeffreys, K. (2012). Sport and politics in modern Britain: The road to 2012. London: Palgrave
  • Pickup, D. (1996). Not another messiah: An account of the sports council 1988-93. Bishop Auckland: The Pentland Press **

( * Our favourites for reading more than once )


International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics

International Journal of the History of Sport


Students should not reference this Ruff guide; rather, you should access the documents to which it refers and reference them

Last Updated on Sunday, 04 February 2018 08:10  

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