Raising the game: how business drives youth sport participation

RUCK AND ROLL: Under 15s rugby in the mud.

We’re celebrating our third season partnering with AFC Business, the commercial arm of our local Premier League club AFC Bournemouth. To mark the renewal of our partnership, we’ve been writing about the relationship between business and sport. Gemma Thorne and Abbie Bradford, work placement students from Bournemouth University, have been researching the subject and sharing their insights on our blog. In the second of three weekly posts, Gemma looks at how youth sport benefits from business sponsorship. Here are her thoughts:

With 22,000 children classified as ‘severely obese’ when they leave primary school, and the number of those struggling with mental health issues on the rise, it’s essential our schools, businesses and charities help the next generation have a passion for sport.

According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists in 2015, keeping active is critical for lowering depression, feeling good about yourself, focusing and sleeping better.

Sport is the perfect outlet for allowing children to express themselves, be it on the field or on the court, in a way that will have a lasting impact on their lifestyle, motivation and concentration.

However, a 2018 report by Sport England suggests that one in three children are not getting the amount of exercise recommended by government guidelines.

In response, the government recently announced a £4.6 billion investment in primary and secondary schools to support sports programmes and promote physical activity for children.

At the same time, there have never been more schemes, boot camps, activity centres and funding to help keep kids fit – from Sainsbury’s Active Kids to AFC Bournemouth’s Community Sports Trust. Sponsorship from all types of businesses is what can really keep facilities, interest and teaching on track.

In the past, a lot of young people might have never got the chance to try a team sport, or learn a new sporting skill. Today, our big companies are changing that by helping to provide equipment and facilities to those who otherwise would have gone without.

Corporate social responsibility means that for the bigger companies, they need to be making an impact on the local community. When the cashier at Tesco gives you that blue token to slot into the glass container, we’re all helping to create and enhance the opportunities young people have.

Business sponsorships help to give our young people the chance to try something new and make friends for life. Our businesses are playing a key role to secure youth sport team survival.

Charities such as the Youth Sport Trust also put their minds to helping improve levels of youth sport participation, by organising physical literacy projects, girls’ football partnerships and mentor-led training.

But it’s not just children who will benefit from sponsorship of sports teams and local support- young adults from universities all over the country are competing in national competitions and leagues with the help of a local business.

You might think that university sports teams are solely funded by their respective student unions, but many sports that are less universally recognised such as ice hockey and cheerleading receive little funding. This is often because these sports don’t compete in the competitions which affect the university league tables.

By creating a partnership with a local business, these sports teams are enhanced hugely.

Being able to afford more facilities, hire better training grounds and have enough room to bring in more team members is just the start of why sponsorship is so greatly valued by a university team. As well as this, it means students will have a lesser membership fee to join a club, meaning greater accessibility for all students.

Accessibility is particularly important because of how daunting university can be. A team of therapists and psychiatrists at Insight Network conducted a study of 38,000 students across UK universities and found that 33% of them said they suffer from loneliness or isolation often or always.

Sport has been shown to significantly improve these problems, and team games offer greater opportunity for social interaction and friendships. Without the help of local support and funding, clubs and societies would be much more exclusive and lesser developed.

Next week’s post on the relationship between the worlds of business and sport will consider the impact of mega events such as the Olympic Games.