By Catriona McAllister, CEO, Jersey Sport
What a month it’s been! The Government of Jersey have launched their Inspiring Active Places strategy, of which I’m privileged to have played a part, as ensuring its delivery to islanders is a project close to my heart. I’m also delighted that we’re finally seeing a meaningful return to sport from 12 April, with a mass easing of restrictions allowing sport and events a return close to normality.
The global pandemic has given us the opportunity to individually re-evaluate our work-life balance and consider our personal responsibility for our physical and mental health. It’s also shown us that during a ‘crisis’, community becomes far more important than material possessions. I believe that the combination of all these factors will lead to a huge increase in community projects as well as a larger-than-usual uptake across all kinds of fitness challenges, sports events and physical activities and classes.
Now is the perfect opportunity to review our island’s sport facilities and reflect on how we can plan effectively for a fitter, healthier and more active population, for the years ahead.
It’s time to replace Jersey’s tired, out-of-date provisions with multi-purpose sports facilities that place health and wellbeing at the heart of the community. Intelligent design, sustainable delivery and consideration of all aspects of inclusivity that offer mixed-use community sport and leisure will benefit both service providers and customers and, ultimately, the health and wellbeing of our ageing, growing population.
Having state-of-the-art sports facilities on Jersey will make it easier to grow sport, attracting more international events as well as athletes coming to train in the off-season. In addition, having well-designed, inspiring, multi-use sports hubs within a geographical spread for everyone on the island will push up inclusion rates in sport and promote physical activity and health in a wider sense.
When planning the design of new facilities, it’s important to consider the full site and whether there’s an opportunity to create multi-purpose buildings and social assets, ensuring that every penny invested in construction brings a return – which in addition to revenue from sports events and ongoing club or community use, is a huge payback in terms of the long-term health and wellbeing of islanders. The cost of disease is crucial here: a more active, healthier society will cost the health system less money and place less strain on the hospital and community services.
Research has shown that the accessibility of sports facilities is associated with physical activity (https://rdcu.be/ciaKZ). Various factors must be taken into consideration when planning large scale multi-use facilities, including location, ease of physical access for all members of the community as well as the cost of activities or room hire. Whatever decisions are taken in Jersey, it is essential that sport is open to everyone with equality of access.
In a post-pandemic environment with more and more people working remotely, sports facilities, community centres and leisure hubs will become increasingly important for providing that all important aspect of social interaction and support. Tackling inequality in sport, health and wellbeing was already a huge problem, but COVID-19 has highlighted the issue significantly, showing us (as has been said elsewhere) that: ‘we’ve all been in the same storm, but not in the same boat’.
At this early stage of planning within the Inspiring Active Places strategy, dialogue with islanders is integral to the future success of the facilities. Inclusivity must be placed at the core of design plans to ensure that there is a constant synergy between sport, culture, community and mental health. I encourage everyone to take some time to offer their thoughts, suggestions and feedback in the consultation process. Together, we can make Jersey one of the healthiest and most active populations.
Have your say about the future of sports facilities on the island at: inspiringactiveplaces.je
This article was originally published in the Bailiwick Express on 8 April, 2021