Now is the time to address our failings

by Catriona McAllister, CEO, Jersey Sport

This article comes to you directly from Birmingham where I’m currently sat amidst the hustle and bustle of the ‘Welcome Centre’ for the Commonwealth Games, surrounded by people from all around the world here to cheer on their teams. It’s an honour and a privilege to be here supporting Team Jersey and I’m excited to get involved, watch the action and feel that deep sense of pride as our island’s athletes give the performance of their lives and hopefully bring home Jersey’s first medal in some time.

Back home, as Jersey settles into a new four-year term post-election, I am looking forward to working alongside our Government to bring forward priorities and focus on increasing activity levels amongst those who are least active. It’s important not to lose any time as four years passes quickly – just ask any athlete training for the Commonwealth Games!

At Jersey Sport, we’ve always advocated for inclusivity and equality, focusing much of our energy on providing new opportunities for those with long term health conditions, disabilities and low incomes, across all genders and within all communities. We’re also proud to support sport financially through funding schemes, ensuring our island’s talented sports players get the opportunities they need to successfully develop their skills and abilities at all levels.

We are now two years into the Inspiring an Active Jersey Strategy which aims to increase activity levels by 10% by 2030. In order to achieve this, the Government must prioritise investment in supporting the structure of sport and physical activity across all areas, whilst also ensuring that physical activity is a key component in the delivery of the reform of health and social care and education. It’s a sad statistic that only 52% of adults and 18% of children meet the weekly physical activity recommendations as outlined by the World Health Organisation.

Our priorities for the next Government term cover seven main areas: Sports development, the volunteer workforce, new sport facilities and ‘active places’, active travel and open spaces, increasing participation amongst the least active and improving health and prioritising schools and children.  By focusing across all these areas, we’ll ensure that sport and active living becomes a fair playing field for everyone on Jersey, regardless of their age, gender, ethnic group or postcode.

It’s been proven both scientifically and anecdotally (following a global pandemic) that active people have better mental health and are less anxious, more satisfied, happier and feel more worthwhile. Being active regularly is connected with a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes, depression, coronary heart disease and dementia.

Ensuring sport and physical activity is a priority across all levels – including funding athletes, supporting volunteers and clubs with training and building new facilities, and the delivery of community programmes – generates a significant return financially. This return is evident not just in terms of economic value, but also in health, mental wellbeing and community strength. In England, it is estimated that for every £1 spent on community sport and physical activity, a £4 return is generated.

Investing in people is one of the best ways to improve health and happiness and increase lifestyle satisfaction. If Jersey’s Government can begin to achieve and exceed their goals, we will be in a better position in four years’ time – for all islanders and for the athletes selected for the Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Australia in 2026. Now is the time to address our failings and move forward collaboratively, with a human-centric model for health, wellbeing and economic growth.

This article was originally published in the Jersey Evening Post on 6 August 2022.


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