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‘Sport Is Not A Priority For The Government’

An independent review of sport in Jersey has revealed 'serious and significant' failings and a 'catalogue of broken promises'.

The report, led by a former Head of Sport for the Mayor of London, Simon Cooper, was commissioned by the government in May

Its remit was to consider and examine government policy and review the relationship with the arms-length organisation Jersey Sport, which had not been assessed since its formation in 2017.

From the consultation responses he received, Mr Cooper found 'serious concern', which he says should not be overlooked or dismissed.

He says the sports sector feels it was sold a 'deal' which has not been delivered when it was asked to support the organisation.

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"There is currently deep dissatisfaction with the situation."

"This seems to be driven by a feeling that there has been a catalogue of broken promises and commitments, resulting in real concern among a large number of stakeholders."

Sports Minister, Deputy Lucy Stephenson, says many of the findings are not a surprise.

"It's all well and good, me as an individual coming into an arena that I've not worked in before, as a new member, and saying that I don't feel things are quite right.

We need the evidence to back that up.  Identifying them is one thing, but how do we move forward in a positive and productive way, and that's what producing a report like this enables us to do."

Jersey Sport is a not-for-profit organisation covering sporting development, physical activity, sports literacy (PE and school sports), swimming and active travel. Mr Cooper found issues with how it functions, including:

  • The high admin costs;
  • Its independence from the government;
  • Spending on promotions and PR;
  • And the lack of specialist knowledge in a few areas.

There is also confusion about its role in child protection and safeguarding.

The government commissioned Jersey Sport to deliver its 2020 strategy, 'Inspiring an Active Jersey'. The report found that led to confusion  the organisation's roles and responsibilities, who the strategy belonged to and what the strategy's overall targets were.

 

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“Jersey faces a significant challenge if we are to succeed in our mission of reducing physical inactivity by 10% points by 2030.”

“Jersey will increase physical activity by 10% by 2030.”

Issues with the strategy were to be corrected by an 'Active Jersey Alliance', but this never happened. The review says it is still unclear what progress has been made towards its delivery.

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"It is difficult to conclude that this is anything other than a serious and significant failure."

However, the report recognises the strategy has shaped parts of Jersey Sport's activities, and credited the 'excellent work' of the staff who are 'knowlegable, dedicated and determined' to provide 'high-quality services'.

The 'Move More' programme has received praise from the review's consultation, as it encourages islanders to take part in physical activity regularly.

The scheme makes exercise more accessible, costing between £0 and £5.50 a class, depending on age and income support.

However, people have expressed 'serious concern' that sport has fallen to the expense of 'Move More'.

The Sports Minister says physical activity is a part of having a thriving and good community.

"Sport is a really good way for islanders and people more generally to meet each other, to socialise, it's very good for mental health as well as physical health.

It's my job to keep promoting that around the Council of Ministers' table."

The Cooper review has also highlighted omissions from the government's strategy, such as disability, equality and inclusion, community sport, sports events and tourism, high-performance/elite sport pathways, travel grants and inter-island travel.

The review admits the situation could be a result of 'well-meaning but misguided optimism and misunderstanding' about commitments when Jersey Sport was initially formed.

The organisation was created to advocate and be a 'champion' for sports in Jersey.

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The impression given was one of a brighter future for sport, with an improved and richer experience for sports clubs and volunteers, with increased funding to help support their work.

In practice, the opposite has happened.

Funding for sports has been reduced since 2017, and those in the sports sector claim to feel 'alienated' from the organisation which is supposed to support them.

The report says the government has not managed the relationship with Jersey Sport effectively, allowing the current confused and unwelcome situation to develop.

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"Urgent action is required to put this right."

Since several ministers contribute to the government's work in sports and physical activity, they must communicate effectively.

However, the review has found this does not seem to be the case.

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"Consultation for this review suggests that sport is not a priority for the Government of Jersey."

Alongside the Sports Minister, who has lead responsibility, the ministers for Health and Social Services, Children and Education, Housing and Communities, Social Security and Infrastructure also have a say in Jersey's sporting legislation and developments.

Deputy Lucy Stephenson says sport is one of those areas that touches on various areas and crosses many ministerial portfolios.

"There was no way to link all of those areas together to ensure there was effective communication, we're changing that, we're working to address that already."

There are five main options for the government to consider:

  1. Return delivery of sport and physical activity ‘in-house’.
  2. Continue the existing arms-length arrangement with Jersey Sport but with delivery strengthened.
  3. Assign the delivery function to a different arms-length organisation.
  4. Separate the delivery of sport and physical activity.
  5. Establish a ‘Statutory Strategic Body For Sport and Physical Activity’.

Simon Cooper has recommended option two as the best, immediate way forward, but other than that, option five is also viable.

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