by Catriona McAllister, CEO, Jersey Sport
The Proposed Ministerial Plans 2023-26 recognise ‘the part sport can play in improving lives and strengthening communities’ and aim to deliver ‘a coordinated and enhanced sport offering for Islanders.’ While it’s great to see Ministers acknowledging the benefits of sport, unlocking the potential of sport will require consistent policy and targeted funding to ensure equality in sport and active living can be achieved.
I believe that it’s our job, as sports leaders and organisations, to advocate for sport and support the Government in their goal to enrich the quality of life for all Islanders. We want to ensure that sport and physical activity are not luxuries, but for everyone; a way of creating a vibrant community, a thriving economy, and a healthy, happy island where quality of life is the main driver to attracting and retaining skills and talent.
Sport transcends all areas of life. Active, healthy children perform better in school. Adults’ mental health is improved through regular physical activity that includes a social or community aspect. The health system works best when there’s less pressure from high levels of obesity, heart disease and other major illnesses that result, in part, from sedentary lifestyles.
As Professor Sally Davis, former Chief Medical Officer, UK famously quoted “If physical activity was a drug, we’d be talking about it as a wonder cure”. Yet little is done in terms of policy and investment to unlock this natural solution to the many negative health impacts from sedentary behaviours.
In addition to health and wellness benefits, the positive financial implications of sport to the island should not be underestimated. Investing in local teams, organisations, individuals, and facilities is vitally important, while the delivery of an elite sport strategy will support local talent, boost the economy and promote Jersey on an international level. Sport is a valuable tool across all sectors of society and should be used to inform future island-wide policies for the benefit of the community.
The ambitions of the Proposed Common Strategic Policy 2023-26 centre around building and strengthening a thriving community: ‘a place that cares for its community, environment, culture and heritage’. The seven interconnected Priorities for Change cover key areas including Community, Environment, Housing and Cost of Living, Economy and Skills, Children and Families, Ageing Population, Health and Wellbeing. While sport is mentioned in some of these areas, we want to shine a spotlight on the positive outcomes of investing in sport and encourage ministers to be passionate about doing more to make a real difference to people’s lives.
For each one of us, it makes sense to invest in the things that improve our quality of life. Physical activity and healthy lifestyles are crucial to success in other areas and sport can be a fundamental enabler and key partner in creating real impact. Jersey must not be shortsighted, especially at this critical point in time, post-pandemic and racing towards a recession. We must think about every islander as we consider the future in plans and policies.
It’s important to remember that when an Olympic athlete wins a gold medal there’s a whole group of people, including family members, expert trainers, volunteers, facility staff and sponsors, who have played key roles in their success. Jersey’s Government ministers cannot shape the future alone. As sports organisations, sports players, clubs, volunteers, and associations, it’s our job to continue to promote and highlight the key benefits of sport across all Common Strategic Priorities and demonstrate clearly how the Government can invest in sport for the benefit of every Islander, for now and for generations to come.
The green ‘policy’ shoots have started to push through the ground in the shape of the Common Strategic Priorities and the Ministerial Plans and I look forward to helping shape a ‘healthier, more productive and fairer society by being one of the most physically active populations in the world’.
This article was originally published in the Jersey Evening Post on 29 October 2022.