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Passing on the Baton

As we all know, 2020 has been an extremely difficult year, and the sports industry is no exception to the hardship felt by all. However, we have reached a critical time for governing bodies, sponsors and rights holders to think hard about how they reach young people and continue to grow their sport before it’s too late.

Towards the end of 2019 Sport England informed us that the number of children and young people doing an hour or more of physical exercise each day had risen by 279,600 to 3.3 million compared to the previous year, clearly proving the success of their hard work. However, will we still see such positive results this year in a wake of this global pandemic? How have different governing bodies managed to keep children and young people interested in sport?


Well firstly technology has been a huge tool to help keep people engaged. Today’s youth spend hours on their phones each day and so it has been essential that sports have harnessed their social media accounts to keep them relevant by connecting with their members and follows as much as possible, and also use it to attract new people into their sport. By providing families and young people with the online resources they can use at home, for example exercise videos or skill lessons, certain sports have made use of their community and grown it online thus securing them a brighter future. When schools closed, Premier League Primary Stars was also quick to create a home-learning hub which built strong links with young people and demonstrated support for local communities. Until face-to-face activations are allowed again digital methods are the most successful and cost effective and need to be utilised by all sports in order to continue growing.


Secondly governing bodies, sponsors and rights holders that engage authentically with important social issues can build strong links with young people and persuade more of them to take up their sport. For example, the award-winning ‘This Girl Can’ campaign has made substantial progress in addressing the gap between male and female participation in sport by tapping into young women’s anxieties about being judged for their appearances or their priorities. Young people like to feel like they're making a difference and are a part of something bigger than themselves, thus by creating a community where they can do this is vital in attracting youth into sport. By building your membership base, you can keep your sport both financially stable and also safe from any future adversities.

Furthermore, it is widely recognised that athletes themselves are the best ambassadors for their sports, as giving young people role models to look up to and aspire to become is the best way to draw people into the sport. During lockdown we saw a lot of athletes and celebrities speak directly to their follows and audience about how they stay motivated and about how their sport changed their lives and this will have spoken to many young people and with any luck made them keen to either start or continue being active. You only have to look at Marcus Rashford MBE having such a huge impact on Government policy concerning child food policy to see the changes that these athletes can make.

Youth remains sport’s future and bloodline, thus it is crucial that governing bodies, sponsors and rights-holding broadcasters continue to invest and have an interest in young people coming into their sport, whether as fans or as participants. They need to come up with even deeper, more cost-effective and scalable solutions to reach these young people and engage with them effectively in order to contact with them permanently. It’s time to pass on the baton.

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