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15 Jun 2024

Sector leaders join forces to rally next UK government
BY Kath Hudson

Improving activity levels would reduce health spend and boost the economy

Improving activity levels would reduce health spend and boost the economy
photo: Shutterstock/Pashin Georgiy

More than 200 organisations and athletes in the UK have signed an open letter to party leaders to commit to making the nation the most active in Europe after next month’s General Election.

Major health bodies, sport, fitness and leisure providers across the UK, as well as athletes and sports stars have got behind the call for change being driven by the Active Partnerships network, CIMSPA, the Sport and Recreation Alliance, the Sport for Development Coalition, UK Active and the Youth Sport Trust, which together represent thousands of physical activity providers.

The organisations also launch the #TakeTheLead campaign today, which will showcase the importance of creating a more active nation and highlights the need for leadership by our national politicians to create the conditions for change.

The letter outlines the urgent need, as well as the unique opportunity, for the next government to unlock the full potential of the sport, recreation and physical activity sector, which could overcome the health crisis and deliver economic growth

Collectively, the sector saves the NHS £9.5 billion every year in illness prevention and generates £85 billion annually in economic and social value. However, the value could be far greater if the UK could exceed the activity levels of its European neighbours.

Currently the UK ranks joint 11th out of 15 European countries surveyed for activity levels, with only Italy, Germany and Portugal less active. Finland was the most active, with only 17 per cent of residents not meeting physical activity guidelines, compared with the UK’s 36 per cent. The global average is 28 per cent, meaning that the UK is lagging behind both regionally and globally.

According to research by the Sport and Recreation Alliance, if the UK became the most active nation in Europe it could increase GDP by £3.6 billion every year; reduce the burden on the health service by £1 billion and create improvement in people’s life satisfaction to the value of £71 billion every year.

Huw Edwards, CEO of UK Active, said: “The rewards are clear but we are yet to see the political will or strategy to reduce our growing inequalities, with those from disadvantaged backgrounds, women and girls, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities missing out on physical activity.

“Our nation’s gyms, pools, leisure centres and sports clubs are ready to do so much more, so we urge our party leaders to work with us and show their commitment to make the UK the most active nation in Europe.”

Tara Dillon, CEO of CIMSPA, says: “With economic growth and relieving pressure on the NHS at the top of the to-do list for whoever walks through the front door of 10 Downing Street on 5th July, putting sport and physical activity at the heart of policy planning to make the UK the most active nation in Europe, is imperative.”

Here is the full letter:

Dear Party Leaders,
As sector leaders across sport, physical activity, health, and business, we are united in calling for all parties to commit to making the UK the most active nation in Europe, as part of the sector’s #TakeTheLead campaign. The UK currently sits joint 11th for physical activity levels among 15 comparable nations. By taking the lead, we can unlock our sector’s huge potential to significantly improve the UK’s health economy, and society.

Sport, recreation and physical activity unite our nation, bind our communities together across all ages, abilities and backgrounds and make us healthier, happier, more productive and more prosperous. By supporting more people to be more active, we can help take the pressure off the NHS, boost the productivity and economic growth of the working age population by helping more people to stay in work, improve overall health and wellbeing and create more connected, inclusive communities. If we were to become the most active nation in Europe, it would:

• Grow the economy – by increasing GDP by £3.6bn every year
• Reduce the burden on the NHS – by cutting spending on preventable disease by £1bn every year
• Improve people’s life satisfaction – by increasing wellbeing benefits to the value of £71bn every year.

During this General Election campaign, you are making your case for leading the country over the next five years. To overcome our national health crisis and deliver economic growth, we believe you must commit to the ambition of making the UK the most active nation in Europe and work with the industry to deliver this vision. As set out in our campaign, the following steps will help us to realise this ambition together:

• Unlock access: remove the barriers that stop people from participating in sport, recreation and physical activity; improving access, affordability and usability of our spaces and places.
• Build a habit for life: put PE, school sport and physical activity at the heart of children’s lives in schools and communities, with every child getting at least 60 active minutes a day.
• Red card to red tape: reduce tax, regulatory and compliance burdens on the sector so it can focus on what it does best – getting people active and engaged in sport, recreation and physical activity.
• Strengthen the squad: retain and grow the people who make sport, recreation and physical activity happen every day – its paid workforce and volunteers.
• Power a prevention-first approach: embed sport, recreation, physical activity and movement within community health and care systems to improve population health and wellbeing.
• Tackle inequalities: use a place-based approach to breaking down barriers and ensure everyone can get active, through a relentless focus on making sport, recreation and physical activity more inclusive.
• Enhance our places and spaces: protect and improve the quality of the natural environment, and better harness the built and urban environment to enable and encourage more people to be active.
• Back our world-class athletes and events: invest in and leverage the power of elite competitions and events to inspire participation, boost civic pride and enhance soft power.

We are united in the belief that the health of the nation and the health of our economy are inextricably linked. The next Government has a unique opportunity to harness the full potential of the sport, recreation and physical activity sector by committing to this bold ambition, which would be transformative for communities across the UK. We ask you to #TakeTheLead. Yours Sincerely, The National Sector Partners Group (NSPG) and supporters (signed):

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


Rebecca Adlington OBE,
Morgan Bolding,
Dame Darcey Bussell DBE,
Jacob Dawson,
Thomas Digby,
Charlie Elwes,
Dr Dale Esliger,
Rory Gibbs,
Professor Ben Kelly,
Professor Rosie Meek,
Dr Hayley Mills,
Ugo Monye,
Adam Olaore,
Professor Greg Whyte OBE,
Amy Williams MBE,

315 Fitness,
3D Leisure,
Abbeycroft Leisure,
Access Sport,
Action Group PR,
Active IQ,
Active Luton,
Active Pregnancy Foundation,
Activity Alliance,
Alliance of Sport in Criminal Justice,
Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre,
Alliance Leisure,
Angling Trust,
Anytime Fitness,
Archery GB,
Arthritis Action,
Asian Sports Foundation,
Association for Physical Education,
Association of Colleges Sport,
Asthma + Lung UK,
Basketball England,
BH Live,
Bigwave Marketing,
Boccia England,
Bolton Arena,
Bowls Development Alliance,
Bowls England,
Brio Leisure – Cheshire West & Chester Leisure CIC,
British American Football,
British Association of Sport Rehabilitators,
British Cycling,
British Equestrian Federation,
British Fencing,
British Gliding Association,
British Gymnastics,
British Horseracing Authority,
British Horse Society,
British Judo,
British Mountaineering Council,
British Nordic Walking,
British Obstacle Sports,
British Orienteering,
British Para Table Tennis,
British Rowing,
British Shooting,
British Society of Lifestyle Medicine,
British Sub-Aqua Club,
British Taekwondo,
British Universities & Colleges Sport,
British Weightlifting,
British Wheelchair Basketball,
British Wrestling,
Bury Leisure,
Business for Health,
Canoe Camping Club,
Club Kingswood,
Coach Core,
Code Fitness,
CSSC Sports and Leisure,
David Lloyd Clubs,
Edinburgh Leisure,
England Touch,
England and Wales Cricket Board,
Endurance GB,
England and Wales Cricket Board,
England Athletics,
England Hockey,
England Lacrosse,
England Netball,
England Squash,
English Amateur Dancesport Association,
English Indoor Bowling Association,
Everybody Health & Leisure,
Everyone Active,
Faculty of Sports & Exercise Medicine,
Fearless Women,
Fit Hire Limited,
Fitness First,
Focus Awards,
Freedom Leisure,
FTC Gym,
Future Fit Training,
GB Boxing,
GB Snow Sports,
GB Wheelchair Rugby,
GM Active,
Goalball UK,
Good Boost,
Gravesham Community Leisure,
Greenhouse Sports,
Haringey Sports Development Trust,
Hurlingham Polo,
Hutchison Technologies Ltd,
Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing,
InBody UK,
Independent Gyms,
IndigoFitness Ltd,
Intelligent Health,
Inverclyde Leisure Trust,
Junior Adventure Group,
Keep Fit Association,
Kew Green Group Limited,
Kickboxing GB,
Laban Guild International,
Lampton Leisure Limited,
Language of Dance Trust,
Later Life Training,
Lawn Tennis Association (LTA)
Leeds City Council – Sport,
Leisure Energy,
Leisure Labs,
Les Mills Fitness UK Limited,
Life Fitness,
Life Leisure,
Lifestyle Fitness,
London Sport,
Love Recruitment,
Miha Bodytec GmbH,
Mosaic Group,
Move it or Lose it,
Move Technologies,
Muslim Sports Foundation,
Mytime Active,
National Association of Teachers of Dancing,
National Centre for Sports & Exercise Medicine – Sheffield,
National Indoor Climbing Award Schemes,
National Orthopaedic Alliance,
National Trails,
NextGen EHS,
Northern Counties Dance Teachers Association,
Nuffield Health,
Oldham Active,
Oldham Community Leisure,
On The Mend,
Orthopaedic Research UK,
Outdoor Industry Association,
Paddle UK,
Parkour UK,
Parkwood Leisure,
Pendle Leisure Trust,
Places Leisure,
Play England,
Plymouth Active Leisure,
Pozzoni Architecture Ltd,
Precor Fitness Limited,
Quartz Sequoia Events Ltd (Elevate),
Right Directions (Management) Ltd,
Rounders England,
Royal Society for Public Health,
Royal Yachting Association,
Rugby Football League (RFL),
Rugby Football Union (RFU),
Sandwell Leisure,
SCL Education Group,
Shapemaster Global (Innerva),
Skateboard GB,
Special Olympics GB,
Sport for Confidence,
Sport 4 Life UK,
Sport in Mind,
Swimming Teachers Association (STA),
Strategic Leisure,
Surfing England,
Swim England,
Swimming Teachers Association,
Table Tennis England,
Technogym UK Ltd,
The Adult Cerebral Palsy Movement,
The Grounds Management Association,
The Gym Group,
The Ramblers,
The Taskforce for Lung Heath,
Thomas Pocklington Trust,
Total Fitness,
Trafford Leisure,
Trail Riders Fellowship,
Trilogy Leisure,
Versus Arthritis,
Volleyball England,
Women in Sport,
Wythenshawe Forum,
Zoom Media

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