2008 saw the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) redefine it’s sporting philosophy. In the backdrop of preparation for the Olympic Games in London in 2012 the DCMS changed the focus from "sport as a social intervention" to that of performance and excellence, or “sport for sports sake”
Built on the social policy agenda of the “combating of social exclusion” the 2002 DCMS policy entitled “Game Plan: A strategy for delivering the government’s sport and physical activity objectives” the new policy “Playing to Win: A new era for sport” represents for some a step change in “Sport” policy; the term “social inclusion” so central to Game Plan, printed in it over thirty times, is completely absent from “Playing to Win”; sports’ engagement with wider social policy apparently disconnected ; or is it?
The change in title of DCMS’s sport policy does reflect a change in focus and justification for the operation and funding of sport; the 2002 Minister for sport, Richard Caborn, suggesting that Government will ‘not accept simplistic assertions that sport is good as sufficient reason to back sport’to the statement by Purnell in 2007 that ‘Sport matters in itself…too often sport is justified on the basis of its spill-over benefits’……… the then culture secretary goes on in Playing to Win;
"When you play sport, you play to win. That is my philosophy. 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 , 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 [Playing to Win] seeks to achieve: shared goals, clear responsibilities, everyone playing their part.”
This Ruff guide is not a commentary on Playing to Win; nor one on Game Plan. It is designed to provide some directional signs and ask some of the questions that will assist students in answering, what will become a popular sports student assessment question, “what is the difference between Game Plan and Paying to Win?”. A good answer will probably explore the conflicts and contradictions that may exist between the two; the changes in responsibilities of the various players; the assumptions implied; the validity of the research work that advises the two and, most fundamentally; the values that underpin each. Comparing these policy statements is relatively straightforward in the context of the ‘who, where and what’ of sport yet it is the critical evaluation of the ‘how and why’ that reveals the more interesting differences and avails the student of demonstrating a level of understanding that is after all, graduateness…
Playing to Win: A New Era for Sport
Published in 2008 this is the Government’s sport policy for England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their sport own policies, yet parts of this DCMS statement applies to the UK as a whole. The action plan to deliver this Government policy is articulated [in part] in the Sport England 2008-2011 strategy.
In it, the DCMS suggests to us that;
“This is a new era of unprecedented opportunity for the development of both sport and physical activity in England. Physical activity by its nature is a cross-Government responsibility and a range of Departments are leading on creating more opportunities to get physically active. Our reforms of sport are set against this backdrop of the Government’s drive to raise levels of physical activity. Offering free swimming for those over 60 and under 16 is a key component of our physical activity plans and is a signal of the raised level of our ambitions.
Our vision is to give more people of all ages the opportunity to participate in high quality competitive sport.
To create a world leading sporting nation, it is essential to have clear aims. They are:
To engage a million more people in regular sport participation.
To produce a seamless ladder of talent development from school to the elite level, with opportunities for more competition and more coaching at each level.
To ensure every member of the sporting family, and every part of Government, plays its part.
DCMS – to set the overarching strategy and work with stakeholders from across the sporting landscape to guide and oversee the development of a world leading sporting nation, with key delivery bodies working together effectively to a shared vision.
Youth Sport Trust – to support the delivery of the PE and Sport Strategy for Young People, working with Sport England and led by DCMS and DCSF to:
Increase the numbers of 5-16 year olds participating in at least 2 hours of high quality PE and sport in school each week . Create new opportunities for 5-16 year olds to participate in a further three hours each week of sporting activity. Support the work of Sport England to create new opportunities for 16-19 year olds to participate in 3 hours each week of sporting activities
Sport England – to take a strategic lead for community sport, developing a world leading community sport system to sustain and increase participation and develop sporting talent at all levels:
Grow sport participation by at least 1 million more regular participants by 2012 - 2013
Sustain participation by reducing the post-16 drop off and increase user satisfaction
Excel in developing people’s sporting talent through high quality clubs and coaches
UK Sport – to lead on the development of world class sporting talent, focused on winning medals at international championships, and creating a world leading high performance sporting system that will support that success into the future. UK Sport is responsible for investment in UK level programmes and therefore works in partnership with the three other Home Nation Sports Councils and Institutes alongside Sport England and the English Institute of Sport.”
In contrast, Game Plan; the DCMS’s earlier (2002) statement attempted to provide a rationale and stimulate both an action plan and research context for the development of sport as a social instrument by reducing “social exclusion” through the provision of tailored opportunities in sport participation, based largely on the claims made for sport in the Report of the Social Exclusion Units’ Policy Action Team 10 (PAT 10), which in turn was largely, but not exclusively, predicated on the research by Collins et al at Loughborough University in 1999.
Game Plan suggested that sport represented a potential intervention in achieving the government’s then, 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 to participate in one of the social structures in British society, sport. It suggested that through sport and physical activity, a wider population that is often marginalised, could access better health, gain employment, be diverted from antisocial behaviour and be better educated, since “given its popularity and inherent properties sport can contribute to neighbourhood renewal”. PAT 10 (1999)
So there we have it; on the face of it, the current policy of Playing to Win is about more people accessing and benefiting from competitive sport; the earlier Game Plan about sport’s potential contribution to neighbourhood renewal and the combating of social exclusion thus an attempt to address a part of social inequality in British society.
The Central Council for Physical Recreation (2008), the umbrella body of all sport national governing bodies, provides an interesting commentary;
“Sport policy in the UK is undergoing its latest shift. The recent  announcement of Sport England’s new three-year strategy [the action plan for Playing to Win – England] heralded a firm commitment to funding sport for sport’s sake. This contrasts with much of what has gone before. For the last decade or so, an emphasis on the instrumental value of sport – its presumed contribution to health, crime, employment and education, for example – has reflected a government agenda of developing communities through sport, rather than developing sport in the community.
In 2003, at CCPR’s annual conference, Richard Caborn, the then Minister for Sport, stated that the Government would ‘not accept simplistic assertions that sport is good as sufficient reason to back sport’. Contrast this with the speech made by James Purnell, the then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, who initiated this latest policy shift in 2007: ‘Sport matters in itself…too often sport is justified on the basis of its spill-over benefits’. While this statement of sport’s intrinsic benefits has been welcomed by many of the national governing bodies of sport, this does not imply that sport and recreation organisations are reluctant either to recognise their role, or to invest, in helping to achieve wider social and economic objectives. Indeed there are countless examples of organisations seeking to use sport and recreation as a means of positively influencing both individuals and communities. Furthermore, there is a rapidly increasing evidence base which supports the premise that sport and recreation can make contributions across a very wide range of government policy areas. Some of this evidence relates to specific, targeted sport-based programmes, while some refers to the wider benefits of general forms of sport engagement – participating in sport, volunteering in sport, or being a member of a sports club. Nor does this change in emphasis suggest that the Government has abandoned its belief in the wider benefits of sport and recreation. In fact, several current government policies and programmes are based on these convictions. To take just one example, the PE and Sport Strategy for Young People (previously the PE, School Sport and Club Links strategy), was founded, in part, on sport’s capacity to improve health and physical fitness and pupil concentration, commitment and self-esteem, leading to higher attendance, better behaviour and attainment.
Nevertheless, despite explicit recognition of sport’s inherent and external benefits in various government speeches and policy statements, in many areas of social and economic policy, the role of sport remains ignored, poorly understood and under-supported.” CCPR (2008)
Playing to Win devolves the distribution of a good portion of Lottery monies to national governing bodies of sport; their influence in sports’ governance will increase as a consequence, yet their capacity to deliver on the community potentials of sport or to properly account for the distribution of public monies, remains uncertain. The position expressed by their umbrella body, the CCPR, may confuse the non-discerning reader, since it appears to advocate and support the wider role for sport as expressed in Game Plan.
It is the case that the “Game Plan” policy was in itself quite extraordinary, not since Wolfenden (CCPR) in 1960, was there such a comprehensive attempt to situate sport in wider society.
Game Plan was constructed on the potential social value of sport participation, the interrogation of the value of sport performance chapters in Game Plan appear, to us at least, to be somewhat less committed in terms of performance sports’ value to society. We have suggested elsewhere that it may be that in the future that the two areas (contested definitions of sport development) will command separate policy documents since the domain assumptions that underpin each are different in principal yet related conceptually, some would say that competitive sport and community sports participation are pole opposite at a domain / purpose level, the former being based, at a fundamental level, in inequality, the latter based in the pursuit of social equality. Our, always optimistic, view is that “Playing to Win” could be that separate document; the missing chapter if you like, from Game Plan, since performance sport and the attracting of large events are perhaps the weakest chapters in Game Plan, both clearly taking second place in the wider agendas. The development of performance sport being characterised in Game Plan as having a mere “feel good” influence to wider society and the value of sporting role models as having a mixed, sometimes damaging, influence in British society.
Conflicts and contradictions aside for the moment, what connects the two policies is the pursuit of the objective of increased participation in sport and physical activity.
Playing to Win makes explicit that “an important legacy from the 2012 Games will be increased levels of physical activity throughout the country. Our ambition is to get 2 million more people more active by 2012”, although we know from research that “previous reviews have demonstrated no robust evidence of the impact of sporting success or sporting role models on sustained participation” Lyle (2008) and he goes on that “evidence from the Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games found no evidence of an impact on participation”, and “evidence more generally suggests that any benefits will only accrue from a more integrated and better planned sports development strategy.”
Game Plan’s approach too suffers from poor participation reports, according to Collins (2008) “during 2006-08 participation increased by 1 per cent, half the required rate.” he further explains that “the core of exclusion is poverty, and still 24% of adults and 30% of UK children were poor by EU standards, and this limits greatly their sporting participation.” and “it does not seem conceivable that it will be able to meet our 2012 and 2020 participation targets without major policy and resource changes, and cannot meet them without making major inroads into the lower–paid, lower participant groups.”
Central then to both policies is participation and whilst both recognise that other government departments could have an influence, research suggests that we remain painfully distant from properly understanding the determinants of participation in sport and physical activity, poverty it appears is just one many barriers. In response to Game Plan’s challenge to provide research based answers to these difficult questions, Sport England commissioned Oxford University to explore the research into barriers and facilitators to sport and physical activity participation in 2005.
What unpicked Game Plan’s participation aspirations for policy makers and academics was it’s comparison of participation in the UK to that of Finland; and according to Collins (2008); "Ministers compared Britain with Finland – a society that has small gender and class gaps, a high–wage, high–tax, high-benefit economy, which provides strong support for its voluntary sport and has united nutrition, diet, exercise and anti-smoking policies for over twenty years. In contrast, Britain is a relatively low–wage, low-tax, low-benefit society that has much more modest resources for sport and culture, bigger inequalities and keeps sport and health policies separate".
The Playing to Win strategy is to “link the sporting landscape with the work of other Government Departments such as the Department for Health and the Department of Transport on physical activity – not least because sport plays an important role in helping reduce obesity by getting people more active. The sports sector at a local level will continue to work with Primary Care Trusts and others to provide joined up delivery of sport and physical activity. However, sports bodies will focus their efforts and investment on sport, while other bodies will lead on the delivery of physical activity.”
It would appear that for now the DCMS place the Youth Sports Trust at the centre of sport for young people (school children), with a further new challenge to engage “out of school” 16-19 year old’s in which their capacity is untested and some would say out of context , UK Sport as the performance and lottery funding vehicle in conjunction with [a select few of] the National Governing Bodies - the not so well hidden subtext then, of this new statement, seeks to pass, at least in part, responsibility for the health objectives of sport and physical activity to the already stretched Department of Health and as for the other important community potentials of sport, these are left to local authorities, with the incentive of limited funding for a few free swimming lessons, and Sport England. [the reader is directed to Houlihan & Green for a better understanding of the background to the 'modernisation' of Sport England and UK Sport.]
It could be argued that Playing to Win is a return to the bland “sport is good” policies that characterised the 1970’s to 1990’s, at best it is the missing chapter from Game Plan, at worst it takes the UK out of the position of world leader in sports development policy. It could further be argued that this new policy is unsustainable – certainly after London 2012, yet after that…. perhaps it will form that missing chapter that will further support the fact that Sport has a potential in society.
To further understand and to be able to compare Playing to Win & Game Plan, we offer the following reading for students, consider them as breadcrumbs to follow;
- Game Plan >> Framework for Sport in England (2004) and/or Sport21 (Scotland), Climbing Higher (Wales).
Game plan was advised by and built, amongst other things, on......
Follow the related content in each to build your understanding.