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Leaders gather to discuss power of sport and physical activity

Ahead of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, the Beyond The Games conference explored how sport and activity can be used to address the country's social and sectoral issues

Villa Park played host to more than 200 leaders from the domestic and international sport sector yesterday as they came together for the Beyond The Games conference.

We partnered with Beyond Sport and UK Sport to put on the event, which coincides with the start of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games tomorrow.

The delegates spent the day exploring, debating and sharing insights on sport’s role in addressing the country’s most pressing social and sectoral issues.

Speakers on the day included the chief executives of both UK Sport and Sport England, Sally Munday and Tim Hollingsworth, respectively, as well as world champion boxer Carl Frampton, chief executive of the Women’s Sport Collective, Sue Anstiss, and Jill Puttman, head of social impact at the British Paralympic Association.

Hosted by Radha Balani – co-managing director of thinkBeyond – the day consisted of a series of on-stage panel discussions, as well as a period of group discussion and two deep dive roundtable sessions.

Both Tim and Sally were on stage together for the ‘Uniting a Movement of Change’ session, which saw the chief executives discuss how, 18 months on from the launch of our Uniting the Movement strategy, we’re working to use sport and physical activity to transform lives and communities.

“If we’re genuinely going to tackle inequality and get rid of, or reduce, the barriers to entry that still exist for so many in our communities, then we have to think, work and behave differently,” said Tim.

“That is an enormous journey of change for every single one of us – Sport England included – and it’s not going to be quick but it has to be consistent and determined.

“We’re at a really important staging post because the journey is now one of transactional programme delivery, it’s one of system change, and it’s partnership that we hope is where Uniting the Movement has shown progress in the first 18 months.

“Good collaboration is a contact sport – let’s not hold back from working together so we can shift the nation’s health and wellbeing through sport and physical activity.”

Continuing on the collaborative theme, representatives of Liverpool City Council, the Nishkam Civic Association, NHS England and the Royal Society for the Blind were part of a discussion titled ‘Nothing about us, without us: trusting our communities’.

In it, strategic physical activity and sport development manager for Liverpool City Council Nicky Yates said: “That’s what our strategy in Liverpool is all about, underneath all the big words, it’s about fairness.

“It’s about giving people opportunity to be happy and healthier – that’s what we strive to do every day.

“We’re working with organisations that are based in communities and know people best within those places and are able to deeply understand them and what they’re up against.

“That’s increasingly how we’re trying to engage in Liverpool and acknowledging that as the Liverpool authority we shouldn’t expect ourselves to have all the answers, because we don’t.

“It’s looking to those organisations to co-create with us.”

The second morning session saw consecutive discussions dedicated to women in sport, with the first introducing the International Working Group on Women and Sport and saw their incoming co-chair, Annamarie Phelps, discuss why the group’s work is so vital.

“Never before has women’s sport been more visible, more talked about or better resources, but it’s all relative,” she said.

“There are still barriers and behaviours and discrimination that create challenges to women and girls, even participating, let alone thriving in the sporting environment.

“The IWG is the world’s largest group of organisations committed to achieving gender equality in sport and physical activity.

“If ever we needed a multi-organisational international collaboration, it’s now.

“Despite real advances in women’s sport in the UK, the pandemic reinforced that those gains are not only slow, but fragile.”

Timing the conference to coincide with the Commonwealth Games allowed leaders from across the world to attend.

And an afternoon session saw international leaders share their global perspective on maximising the potential of sport to meet changing local needs.

Joan Smit, African Regional Development Manager of World Netball, said: “For us it’s about leaving a legacy and ensuring that sport, not only netball, is a vehicle to bring about change to lives, and of course opportunities for people to develop.

“I work across Africa, so my job is to empower women and girls, which started in 2008 when UK Sport decided to invest a lot of money into the power of women and girls in Africa and I have so much gratitude for how UK Sport, and eventually the Commonwealth Games Federation, have helped us.

“We started working in only three countries, who were members of World Netball, and we now have 21 countries on board for our projects.”

We’d like to thank all delegates for their attendance, enthusiasm and engagement on the day.

We’re continuing to implement our Uniting the Movement strategy and look forward to further collaboration to make our targets a reality.

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