The findings, which are revealed in a new report by the Sport Industry Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University, show that investment creates a return across health and social care, improves wellbeing, builds stronger communities and develops skills in the economy.
The report, which was commissioned by Sport England, shows that investing in community sport and physical activity plays an important role in boosting the economy and provides the opportunity to help level up inequalities within communities, and build a healthier, happier and more prosperous society generating GBP 3.91 in value for every GBP 1 spent.
The findings also reveal that community sport and physical activity brings an annual contribution of GBP 85.5 billion to the country (in 2018 prices) through social and economic benefits.
Its social value – including physical and mental health, wellbeing, individual and community development – is more than GBP 72 billion, provided via routes such as a healthier population, consumer expenditure, greater work productivity, improved education attainment, reduced crime and stronger communities.
It also generates more than GBP 13bn in economic value through the sports-related goods and services we consume as a nation.
The economic value includes more than 285,000 jobs that employ people within the community sport and physical activity sector.
Tim Hollingsworth, Sport England chief executive, said the report proves that investing in being active helps make us all happier and healthier, can create opportunities and brings communities together.
“Today more than ever community sport and activity has a vital role to play in offering a solution to some of society’s biggest problems like our health, both mental and physical, helping to make life fairer for everyone, and growing and improving our economy,” he added.
“Everyone has a responsibility to keep our nation active. This new research provides evidence that can help local authorities, businesses and the voluntary sector to understand the value of promoting activity, especially as it will play an important part in helping the national to recover from the challenges 2020 has brought.”
The findings also show how physical activity plays an important role in preventing a number of serious physical and mental health conditions, with the research showing this provided the economy with GBP 9.5bn in value.
Of this amount, GBP 5.2bn was in healthcare savings, while GBP 1.7bn was in social care savings.
More than GBP 3.6bn worth of savings were generated by the prevention of 900,000 cases of diabetes, while a further GBP 3.5bn of value was generated in avoided dementia cases and the related care.
A total of GBP 450 million was saved by preventing 30 million additional GP visits.
A further GBP 20bn in value came from stronger and safer communities, including:
- 10,000 fewer crime incidents
- The replacement value of work done by sports volunteers (GBP 5.7bn)
- Improved levels of social trust, belonging and community engagement (GBP 14.2bn).
The research gives a clear picture of how community sport and physical activity significantly contributes positively to all five outcomes identified in the government’s sports strategy, Sporting Future.
There are two parts to the research, the social impact and the economic importance.
Social impact was determined by using a Social Return on Investment (SROI) framework, which assessed the value of participating and volunteering in sport but excluded watching sport.
The economic importance was evaluated by adopting the National Income Accounting framework and provided a snapshot of the role and significance of sport in England in 2017/18.
Building on previous work, this new research expands and further demonstrates the enormous social and economic value of community sport and physical activity. The research comes from a national overarching model and organisations can use it to better understand the impact that being active can have on the lives of individuals and communities, the delivery of public services and our economy.
Organisations may also want to build their own modelling of economic value, for specific local areas, activities or audiences.
To help, Sport England has established a set of principles that will help all partners develop a consistent approach. The aim is to enable the sector to make the most compelling case for sport and physical activity for the benefit of everyone.