It’s a really exciting time for grassroots sport in the UK at the moment and we can sense there’s a big drive to provide people from every community with access to a safe and positive sporting environment. Inclusivity and accessibility are top of the agenda when it comes to new facility development but diversity is key when it comes to what these venues should be offering.
The recent indoor training facility we installed for Swindon Town Community Foundation has football at its core but is intended to offer a wider range of activities that can be enjoyed by those who are young, vulnerable, disabled and isolated. It’s a shining example of how multiple sports can come together to help bring a community together.
Swindon Town Community Foundation
National sporting bodies are starting to pool resources so they can create more opportunities for everyone to find something that inspires them to be active and engage with society. Our current project at Cefn Hengoed Community School in Swansea brings together the school, their adjoining leisure centre, the Football Foundation, Welsh FA, Welsh RFU and local council to create a multi-sport facility that can be used by elite athletes and school pupils alike as well as everyone in between. This facility is not looking to grow one sport in particular but boost the passion for and participation in sport in general.
Indoor multi-sport facilities of course have the advantage of being available throughout the year, regardless of the weather or light outside so the conditions are comfortable, which makes it more likely that people will keep turning up. From a commercial point of view, this is good news for the retention of members and quality coaches but from a social point of view, this is good news for community cohesion.
We appreciate that not every potential multi-sport venue is going to have the financial backing that could pay for an indoor structure but the Football Foundation is currently investing 40% of their funding in multi-sport facility projects. This could be as simple as improving the quality of a pitch and if that is the case, then one criteria for accessing the funds is that the site can support regular use of sports other than football.
Sites are also being selected for their ability to increase participation among underrepresented groups, including women, girls and those with a disability. Participation is more likely to increase if there are multiple sporting opportunities on offer.
A new 10-year strategy to make badminton a sport for everyone has just been launched and we know from our project at Welland Park Academy that multi-sport facilities are the ideal home for badminton clubs. Sport England’s latest Active Lives Adult Survey report shows that sports such as netball and basketball have seen significant increases in participation since Covid restrictions were lifted and they too are very much at home in a multi-use sports facility.
The opportunities for team sport in these venues are really significant because team sport not only promotes social harmony and community wellbeing but people who play team sports are more likely to find exercising enjoyable than those who sweat it out alone in a gym. If people get enjoyment out of sport, they are more likely to stick with it and these multi-sport facilities will thrive.