The Welsh Government Response to the Independent Review of Sport Wales

Oct 3, 2017Articles, Assembly Business0 comments

Plenary Tuesday 03 October 2017

Gareth Bennett AM

Gareth Bennett AM

Party: United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

Spoken Contribution – 17:01:49
Watch this contribution on Senedd TV | View this contribution in the Record of Proceeding document

Thanks to the Minister for her statement. There have obviously been some issues over the running of Sport Wales, which Russell George alluded to earlier, and we, as Members, don’t have the inside information to understand all of what it was about. But it seems to me that part of the problem with the organisation in the past year or so has quite probably been about its remit. Now, we did touch on this earlier on today, but I will just quickly go over a couple of the points that have been mentioned. Traditionally, Sport Wales tended to specialise at the elite end of sport and it’s only in much more recent times that it’s been given any kind of responsibility to oversee grass-roots sport. It seems to me that, although it may sound like a good idea to group the two sectors together, in practice they are very different, and this can cause problems for an organisation like Sport Wales.

Now, there was some evidence in the independent review that some stakeholders believe that Sport Wales prioritises elite sport at the expense of the grass-roots level. My first question was going to be: given that situation, did you still think it was viable to have one organisation representing both the elite and grass-roots levels? I think you answered that, to be fair, in your fairly strong response to Russell George’s questions. But, given that there is this idea from the stakeholders that the elite level tends to get the priority, how can we overcome this? And how can you ensure that there is equal consideration given to the grass-roots level as well as to the elite level? If there are disputes over spending, over resourcing, how is that going to be resolved? Now, you did mention in your response to Russell that we needed to create a pathway to elite sport for everybody. And, yes, of course, the elite athletes have to start somewhere. I think in reality, perhaps, the children who eventually make it to the elite level of sport will generally be the ones coming from families who already have a keen interest in developing their children’s sporting activities. But what we have to ensure is that we increase the take-up of ordinary physical activities by the rest of the population or, as the Welsh Government’s ‘Taking Wales Forward’ programme puts it, increase the physical activity levels of Welsh citizens in those groups that currently have very low physical activity levels.

Now, John Griffiths spoke about park runs, and I think that’s exactly the kind of activity that we should be encouraging, so I’m also encouraged by your supportive remarks, and I hope that, in future, initiatives like parkrun, if they need financial support, hopefully they can get it, although I guess, with parkrun, perhaps the one thing that they may not need a lot of is financial support. But things like active travel, that certainly will need help with resourcing.

This brings us on to the issue of the difference between sport and physical recreation. The 1972 royal charter that established the predecessor body to Sport Wales clearly uses the term ‘sport and physical recreation’. But more recent documents associated with Sport Wales have only sometimes used both terms. Sometimes, they only mention sport in relation to Sport Wales, but contain no reference to physical recreation. Now, the report states, and I quote:

‘This inconsistency is very confusing for Sport Wales’ partners, some of whom claimed the organisation is “changeable” and lacking in clarity of purpose. It is equally confusing for Sport Wales’ staff’.

So, my next question is: does the Minister think that Sport Wales staff themselves are given a clear enough steer by their parent body on where their remit lies? And does the Welsh Government need to clarify somewhat the position? There is also another issue, which is the gap between sport and health. The danger is that the all-embracing approach could leave Sport Wales’s best efforts falling in the cracks between sport and health.

Now, the stated intention in 2015 was to develop a new strategy that aligns Sport Wales’s measures with the chief medical officer’s physical activity guidelines. However, quoting again from the report,

‘despite the introduction of a Memorandum of Understanding with the NHS Confederation very little progress had been made to establish a platform…between the sport and health sectors.’

Now, I see that, in the Minister’s statement today, she does mention Sport Wales and Public Health Wales and the idea of working jointly together towards joint targets. But, just to clarify that point, does the Minister think that the Welsh Government needs to give us more information on how exactly sport and health should interact? And which body does the Minister think should be taking the lead for researching and overseeing physical activity—Sport Wales or Public Health Wales? Thanks.