Sport England chief Jennie Price on governance changes, boosting participation, and winter beach walks

Written by Civil Service World on 1 January 2018 in Feature

At the end of 2017, we asked the UK's top civil servants to look back at the year, outline their goals for 2018 – and tell us what they cannot do Christmas without

What are you most proud of achieving in 2017?

Launching 10 funding programmes to implement Sport England’s new strategy. We are focusing particularly on the wider outcomes sport can deliver like increased physical and mental wellbeing, individual and community development.

We also want to reach those traditionally under-represented in sport and activity like women, older people and lower socio-economic groups.

The team here has worked amazingly hard, and we have had a great response both from existing partners and a wide range of organisations we haven’t worked with before. My personal highlight was being awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

What was your most difficult decision in 2017?

Assessing compliance with the new governance code we have produced jointly with UK Sport, which is now a condition of receiving our funding. It wasn’t just one decision – it contains over fifty requirements which set high standards of probity, independence and transparency.

And non-compliance means potentially no public funding so these decisions are really important and we need to be confident every aspect of our assessment is accurate, consistent and fair.

What are your organisation’s top priorities in the year ahead?

Finding ways to make it easier for people from lower socioeconomic groups to get the health and wider benefits of being active. Those from more affluent backgrounds are almost twice as likely to be active enough to benefit their health, and I am determined to close that gap.

It’s tempting to think it’s all about free provision, and whilst cost is definitely a factor, our insight shows there are many other issues. You can build a shiny new sports facility in a deprived community but the risk is it will attract only people from outside the area who already have a strong relationship with sport and activity.

We need to invite the community in, actively support people who are currently inactive and make them feel completely comfortable.

For you, no Christmas holiday is complete without...

A walk on a freezing cold beach. My husband comes from Cornwall and on Boxing Day we head to the fisherman’s cottage he was born in. I love Cornwall in the depths of winter, and a brisk walk on one of the many beautiful beaches followed by tea in front of a roaring fire is one of the best moments of the Christmas break.

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