On the day after the general election that ended in a hung Parliament, Theresa May gave a statement in Downing Street following her meeting with HM the Queen. May promised “…a government that can provide certainty and lead Britain forward at this critical time for our country”.
Despite the minority Conservative government, it is imperative that sport remains on the agenda even with the uncertain political backdrop because sport has far-reaching implications. How will the UK’s sporting industry and economy be maintained during this “critical time”?
In addition to our summary outlining the leading parties’ manifestos, it will be helpful to now include the view on sport expressed in the manifesto of the Democratic Unionist Party (“DUP”) as the two parties will now “work together in the interests of the whole United Kingdom”.
The DUP references sport on three occasions in its manifesto.
Firstly, under the heading “The Commonwealth” it states that “Northern Ireland should seek to host Commonwealth political and sporting events and maximise the range of sports in which Northern Ireland teams participate”.
Under the heading “Celebration of Northern Ireland’s Centenary” it states a programme of events should include “securing of major sporting events”.
Finally, and perhaps most controversially, under the heading “Recognition of Northern Ireland” it states “Recognition of Northern Ireland sporting bodies, the Olympic team should be referred to as Team UK and the freedom for athletes to choose their national team.”
In 2009, Gregory Campbell (former Sport Minister at Stormont) stated that Team GB “excludes, and indeed alienates, the people of Northern Ireland”. With the Conservative and DUP alliance, it is likely that the controversy over “Team GB” and “Team UK” will become increasingly prominent.
Meanwhile, the government has stated that it:
“…will put fairness and opportunity at the heart of everything…will fulfil the promise of Brexit together and over the next five years build a country in which no one and no community is left behind, a country in which prosperity and opportunity are shared across this United Kingdom.”
The sport sector is vital for economic development in the UK because a wide range of sectors, from professional services to design, engineering and creative services, rely on the sport and recreation sector. Sport has the power to bring communities together and ensures that “no one and no community is left behind”. There needs to be continued recognition that sport makes a significant contribution in facilitating a number of public policy challenges, including promoting economic growth and social cohesion, as expressed by the Sport and Recreation Alliance.
Whilst the Brexit negotiations are imminent, it is essential that sport does not get left behind on the agenda because sport is fundamental to economic development as well as the wider implications of sport in delivering public policy objectives. It is early days and we can only hope that sport remains at the forefront of the government’s work.