It’s no secret that sport has always been a particular passion of mine. I think most people would expect it to be, given that I’m the Sports Minister.
When I was growing up, I enjoyed every sport going, graduating from playing in local teams to becoming an FA-qualified football coach and managing, until recently, an all-girls side in my constituency.
But for me sport is more than just a passion, I believe sport plays a key role in society. I believe sport has the power to transform lives, to bring people together, to help mental and physical well-being, and to teach life skills such as discipline and teamwork.
Think back to London 2012 and the sense of pride instilled in the nation. Remember how this singular sporting event united us all in Britain’s bid for glory. We all lived and breathed it and it did encourage more people to get involved in sport.
That passion for sport does not waver in Britain, although we still have more to do to turn that passion into greater participation. There are 1.4 million more people playing sport every week now than when we won the bid in 2005, however since October 2012 the trend has been one of decline. Today 15.5 million people play sport once a week, but that is 400,000 less than in 2012.
And it’s not for lack of investment either, with over £1 billion of public money going to Sport England to invest in community sport in the five years since 2010.
But the current strategy has gone as far as it can and things need to change. I think everyone can see that. I want more people participating in sport. I want to see more people getting active. I want sport participation to become part of our country’s DNA.
That’s why I’ve launched a public sports consultation.
The first of its kind in over a decade, this consultation will help to create a whole new vision for sport.
To achieve that aim, I want your input. Over the next nine weeks, I want you to tell me how we can improve sport for the better in this country.
We will use this consultation to consider every level of sport: from grassroots to elite and professional sport.
We will look at equality, at safety and well-being, at coaching, and at good governance.
We will consider how sport and technology can work hand-in-hand.
But most importantly, we will consider how we can encourage more people to get active and reap all the benefits that comes with participating. We want to create a culture of sport for everybody. Together, we can do that.