Memorandum submitted by Business In Sport
and Leisure Limited
Business In Sport and Leisure is delighted to
submit evidence to the Culture Media and Sport Committee as the
primary representative of private sector companies involved in
the provision of community sport in the UK.
We would welcome the opportunity to give oral
evidence to the Select Committee.
Private sector investment in health
and fitness centres is growing with nearly 2,000 clubs with membership
of over 500 people. Local authorities need to take the lead to
encourage greater partnerships with these providers and identify
sites in the new Local Development Frameworks. There is a need
for specific guidance from ODPM to achieve this.
Private sector companies operate
332 local authority sport and leisure centres in the UK, with
investment up to £30 million a year, but the Government is
providing an average subsidy of £290,000 per annum to a medium
sized centre set up by a local authority as a Trust and in some
cases preventing private sector companies from bidding for these
BISL welcomes the introduction of
"Active Places Power" from Sport England, but deplores
the fact that this tool to help plan community sports facilities
will not be available to the private sector.
BISL believes that funding for National
Governing Bodies of sport should come from the Exchequer and not
from the vagaries of the National Lottery to ensure they have
the resources to invest in the grass root development of their
The recently published DCMS Five
Year Plan makes no specific mention of potential role for the
private sector sport and leisure sector despite being well aware
that growth and investment in sports facilities must come from
private sector resources.
1. Business In Sport and Leisure (BISL)
is an umbrella organisation which represents over 100 private
sector companies in the sport and leisure industry. Its members
include most of the major owners and operators of private health
and fitness centres and those leisure contractors that operate
local authority owned sport and recreation facilities in the UK
and many consultants who specialise in this field. BISL also has
some of the major National Governing Bodies of sport as members
including the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA), the Football
Association (FA), the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) and the Rugby
Football Union (RFU). Members of BISL who are listed on the London
Stock Exchange have a combined market capitalisation in excess
of £40 billion.
2. The benefits to the community of sustained
participation in sport and active recreation are now almost universally
acknowledged both across government and amongst the wider community.
3. Sport for young people should be and
very often is by its very nature a highly enjoyable pastime, but
also one that encourages and helps many sections of the community
towards a healthy and rewarding lifestyle. Within school it undoubtedly
encourages many of those who would otherwise be less engaged to
attend and in many cases can contribute to improved academic as
well as physical attainment. In the wider community, taking part
in sport and active recreation can contribute to community safety
as well as economic and environmental improvement.
4. DCMS has clearly identified that Sport
England will provide the strategic direction for community sport
at a national and regional level, but Sport England would readily
acknowledge that in its leaner form it cannot hope to ensure the
delivery of wider opportunities for the community to take part
in sport and recreation, without established partnerships across
the public, private and voluntary sector.
5. The absence of any real mention of the
existing and potential role for the private sector sport and leisure
industry in the DCMS Five Year Plan is particularly disappointing.
6. The effective delivery of community sport
and recreation at a local level is directly or indirectly dependent
upon the commitment, quality and resources available in the local
authority; a factor reflected in the recent welcome proposal from
the Audit Commission to include a culture indicator in the form
of a measure of sports participation in the Comprehensive Performance
Assessment (CPA) in 2005. BISL has already indicated its support
for this proposal and has welcomed the contribution made by Sport
England to this work through the valued secondment of a senior
local government officer and the work directly driven by Sport
England to provide the tools to improve the performance of local
government through Towards an Excellent Service (TAES).
7. At a regional level the launch by Sport
England of "Active Places Power" is a further valuable
contribution to assist local government to improve in planning
for the provision of more accessible, viable and appropriate opportunities
for community sport and recreation to take place. BISL welcomes
this initiative, but is very disappointed that access to such
a useful planning tool is present denied to the commercial leisure
8. It is understood that the stumbling block
relates to charging the private sector to use the system as the
Ordnance Survey require a percentage of the charge as the map
data is provided free under the Pan Government Agreement. The
proposed solution from OS is apparently too complicated and costly
to implement and this may need Ministerial intervention to resolve
9. The need for both the inclusion of a
sport's participation indicator in the CPA and the work of TAES
is a reflection of the problems in community sport that result
from the very different levels of commitment, expertise and resources
allocated to sport and recreation by local authorities in England.
The evidence, albeit anecdotal, because there still remains a
serious dearth of empirical evidence; (a matter for which those
charged with strategic guidance and monitoring need to respond
more urgently), is that in those well performing authorities with
commitment and political will, the expertise and the resources
to take part in sport and recreation are providing for the local
community. There is a clear understanding of the social and economic
benefits of sport and recreation.
10. Elsewhere the gap is widening, as facilities
close or are in such need of refurbishment that they no longer
are efficient or attractive to the customer. This is often also
in places where sport development initiatives are short lived
when the external funding, often provided by the Lottery that
was the catalyst is removed. These are often those local authorities
where the leisure/sport and recreation portfolio is difficult
to identify and define both in cabinet and within the officer
11. The DCMS and Sport England have recognised
the important role that local government will play in the delivery
of community sport, and have also recognised the role of the voluntary
sector in delivering to the community. The voluntary sector, whether
in the form of the National Governing Bodies and their formal
structure of sports clubs, or in the many voluntary organisations
that include the delivery of sport amongst other services to their
membership, remain for many people at the heart of their sporting
experience. The opportunity to plan over a longer period (four
years) for NGBs is a huge step in the right direction, but there
still needs to be a more stable financial regime based on a funding
stream from the Exchequer rather than the Lottery.
12. The level of change in community sports
participation envisaged in "Game Plan" is enormous and
however rigorous the strategic planning, is unlikely to be delivered
by the public sector alone.
13. There has undoubtedly already been significant
investment in school sport infrastructure and more continues to
come on line through "Building Schools for the Future".
A much greater co-ordination of leisure and education building
programmes is required to ensure community access and that voluntary
community sports clubs have access to this emerging public resource.
14. Private Sector Funding for Community
Sport is invested through two distinct sectors. There are almost
2,000 private health clubs with membership in excess of 500 in
the UK. Average attendance is between on and one and a half times
a week. Nearly 45% of members pay less than £50 a month.
15. In some towns and cities there can be
four or five private sector health and fitness clubs (with swimming
pools) within a catchment and yet often there is no effort expended
by the local authority to engage with operators of very similar
facilities to those they own.
16. It is often claimed that private sector
facilities are not affordable to those on low incomes, but there
are examples of private facilities being built adjacent to schools,
with school use or next to "pay and play" facilities
in partnerships with local authorities that could be extended
elsewhere. If the cost of buying a month's subscription to sky
television is £50 this is directly comparable with the 45%
of members of health and fitness clubs paying less than £45
a month. Since most local authority leisure centres now also offer
membership schemes, the difference in cost between public and
private facilities is becoming more and more blurred.
17. Very few local authorities provide sites
for private sector health, fitness and tennis centres in their
Local Development Frameworks. This prevents the private sector
from maximising its investment as often their proposals are treated
as "departures from the local plan" and subsequently
called in by ODPM. It is essential local authorities are they
are encouraged to identify sites through practical planning guidance.
Why is it that facilities for health and fitness have to respond
to a "needs test"? Surely all sports facilities are
needed if they are well used.
18. The second sector covers companies who
contribute to community leisure through the management of over
300 local authority owned leisure centres with a direct capital
investment of over £30 million in 2002-03.
19. Independent research undertaken by Sheffield
University, using Sport England's benchmarking service, shows
that private sector operators perform better on key performance
indicators for financial performance and equally well on key performance
indicators for social inclusion, compared to in-house operators
20. The contribution by the commercial sector
is being delivered however, on a very uneven playing field that
delivers a subsidy from national government to locally operated
trusts through UBR, VAT and Corporation Tax that for a medium
sized centre is estimated to be of the order of £290,000
per anum. The growth in the number of local authority established
trusts for sport and leisure facilities which now total in excess
of 150 trusts represents a significant cost to Central Government.
21. The financial imbalance is undoubtedly
a constraint to the development of the commercial leisure management
sector, but the playing field is further unbalanced where an authority,
driven by the fiscal incentive to establishes a trust, decides
that the contract will not be offered for external tender.
22. There are several implications for the
development of community sport. A consolidation within the commercial
operator sector and even a potential contraction with the potential
reduction and loss of commercial capital investment and savings
at a time when the scale of investment to sustain and regenerate
the facility base is enormous.
23. Those authorities willing and able to
deliver directly will continue to do so, those actively seeking
partners for delivery and management in the private sector will
continue to seek them and deliver ,but many authorities will do
neither and consequently the gap between the delivery of community
sport in different parts of the country will widen not shrink.
24. In conclusion BISL welcomes the opportunity
to contribute to this Inquiry and would be pleased to provide
further oral evidence if requested. BISL believes that the role
now clearly identified by DCMS for Sport England as the strategic
leader for the delivery of community sport in England is entirely
appropriate, but would urge Government to recognise that by its
own admission neither DCMS nor Sport England can deliver the community
sport requirement of Game Plan without partnerships in the public
private and voluntary sector.
25. DCMS and wider Government along with
Sport England has acknowledged the essential roles of both the
local authority and again recently the voluntary sector, but neither
have adequately come to terms with the enormous contribution that
the commercial sector already makes on an uneven playing field,
nor the greater contribution it could make to a step change in
community sport on a level playing field.
4 April 2005