By Catriona McAllister, CEO, Jersey Sport
According to Sport England, ‘Every £1 spent on sport and physical activity generates almost £4 in return across health and wellbeing, stronger communities and the economy*.’ The contribution that sport plays within Jersey’s economy, community and population health cannot be underestimated. The time has come for sport to take its worthy place on the podium as a key player in rebuilding the health and wealth of the island.
While the impact of COVID-19 on sport, communities and the economy will be felt for years to come, it’s provided us with a better opportunity to understand the vital role sport can play in Jersey’s recovery, and how we can end up even stronger than before.
Sport must not be taken for granted. In addition to its financial contribution, it aids in the empowerment of individuals and communities as well as to education, wellness and social inclusion objectives. It’s vital that we place sport at the heart of our focus when considering long-term and short-term strategies for the island’s recovery.
A return of sport at all levels, from grassroots to professional, will boost consumer confidence and encourage local spending, thereby supporting local jobs, families and the economy. As many companies and individuals continue working remotely, this creates a host of new opportunities for sport and leisure activity providers. Islanders gained a shift in perspective over 2020, seeing the benefits of a healthier balance between work and play, and the importance of family time and physical social activities. At a strategic level, this places our leaders and innovators in sport in a better position to tackle inactivity, equality and diversity.
Hosting large sporting events on-island boosts community spirit and cohesion, and creates huge opportunities for income across the hospitality, hotel and tourist sectors. There is an opportunity here and now to support our local sports organisations to host on-island sports events and tournaments that bring travelling teams to Jersey. Events bring a welcome boost for travel operators and there’s a huge knock-on effect for local businesses to benefit from money spent by tourists and locals on everything from car hire to watersports to Jersey cream teas. The island has so much to offer beyond sport that falls under the umbrella of activity – including walking and cycling holidays and active holidays for families as well as annual events such as the Jersey Triathlon, Round Island Walk and the Jersey Marathon.
In addition to events and local sports being played on a regular basis, Jersey would benefit from positioning itself as the perfect off-season/pre-season training location for professional sports teams. Given that many borders across Europe may not open as early as those between the Channel Islands and the UK, or have different quarantine time scales in force, attracting sports teams to Jersey could bring multiple benefits. In addition to the financial boost of foreign teams living locally for a few weeks at a time, having access to friendly games could give our local sports players opportunities they might not otherwise attract.
In the short term, while the global pandemic is still creating challenges across all sectors, we must focus on getting local sport back in action and continuing to encourage an increase in islanders’ activity levels. Incorporating sport as an integral part of all health and economic strategies going forward will fundamentally support our population’s mental and physical wellbeing.
The indirect effect on the economy of a healthier, more active population is a crucial part of the equation.
*Measuring the Social and Economic Impact of Sport in England, 2020, sportengland.org
This article was originally published in the Bailiwick Express on 4 February 2021