Ever since Nelson Mandela famously decreed that “sport has the power to change the world”, the clamour to prove the great man’s theory has been growing. The same speech insisted that sport “speaks to youth in a language they understand” – but where is the proof of that alchemy? Because of its unofficial status as a national religion, and since so many of us play sport – or follow it as spectators – sometimes we are in danger of assuming, or over-simplifying ‘the power of sport’ – especially when it comes to engaging with young people. Why not music, or social media instead? Sport for social change, or ‘sport for development’ has become an industry in itself, with a vast array of charities using sport as a tool for intervention when generating positive social outcomes, whilst you won’t find a Premier League football club or rugby team without a community department or charitable arm behind them.
Thankfully this shared, innate sense of sport being inherently ‘good’ for society has been challenged with more rigour in recent years, and the good news is that – at global level – it’s been rubber-stamped as part of a plan to build a better world. The Sustainable Development Goals, published in 2015 as part of the United Nations’ Agenda 2030, set 17 targets for the decade ahead, ranging from gender equality (global goal number five) to decent work and economic growth (number eight) and climate action (13). Agenda 2030 acknowledges the role that sport, and physical activity, have to play in achieving those goals. “Sport is also an important enabler of sustainable development,” it reads. “We recognise the growing contribution of sport to the realisation of development and peace in its promotion of tolerance and respect and the contributions it makes to the empowerment of women and of young people, individuals and communities as well as to health, education and social inclusion objectives.”
Paul Evans, CEO at LTSB