Sport is one of the most important aspects of society as it has been recognised as providing an essential part in the growth and development of children and adults across the world. Jarvie (2006) states it is part of the social and cultural fabric of different localities, regions and nations and is regularly associated with issues such as crime, health, labour, migration, economic and social regeneration and poverty. According to Sport England 6.82 million people in Britain alone, play sport at least three times a week. It encourages good sportsmanship and teaches us to be competitive as well as providing jobs and entertainment and helping to reduce crime. Sport also helps to address wider social issues as It can contribute towards addressing gender inequality and assists with the development of life skills such as leadership, decision making, organisational and management skills
Svoboda (1994) states that participation in sport enables us to reduce feelings of stress and tension, build self- confidence and self- esteem and to meet and communicate with other people. Also it provides opportunity to take different social roles and develop social skills such as tolerance and respect for others as well as teams skills such as co-operation and cohesion. Wankel and Sefton (1994) feel that the psychological benefits of sport and physical activity reduces feelings of anxiety, depression and helps improve socialisation, community integration, educational attainment and social status. Furthermore sport can help tackle obesity and the subsequent illnesses associated with it.
The latest health survey for England revealed that nearly 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 10 children aged 2-10 were clinically obese. Sport has done a lot for many communities around the world in making places to live a lot safer by getting youths off the streets and in to different sports. It can be used as a distraction and getting people involved in regular sport will stop them filling their leisure time with antisocial behaviour. .Barrett and Greenway (1995) have reviewed evidence of the impact sport has on young offenders, they state that using leisure and cultural activities to attract young people develop their interest and skills rather than commit crime should help society both socially and economically. Sport England (1999, p7) admits it would be naive to think sport alone can reduce crime but suggests that strong experiential evidence exists to show that sport definitely has a part to play in preventing crime as it provides challenge, adventure and gives meaning and purpose to a lot of young people’s lives.
The West Yorkshire Sports Counselling project aimed at reducing the reconviction of offenders supported this view. The programme involved one-to-one participation centred basis for 3 hours per week. Trained sports leaders counselled participants in sports activities, familiarised them with appropriate clubs and this gave them experience of outdoor activities and encouraged independent participation. It was found that after a 12 week programme participants that completed more than eight weeks were less likely to be reconvicted. Ian Wright former England footballer once did a television programme on when he created a five a side football tournament in prisons around the country to get convicts into sport and out of trouble for when they are to be released. Now cities and towns all over London have night time sport clubs where a huge range of sport is shown to children for them to play and get involved with.
As part of the £95 million Active England programme which ran between 2005 and 2008, 665,000 people from communities suffering from high levels of deprivation had the opportunity to participate in various sporting activities. Research has found that people in poverty are half as likely as those better-off to participate in sport three times a week, be coached, be a member of a sports club, to compete or to volunteer. This is not due to lack of motivation, it is due to lack of opportunity. Sport Scotland have looked at the role of sport in regenerating urban areas.
The study focused on the social, economic and physical benefits of participating in sport in deprived urban areas, building community spirit, increasing social interaction, improving health and fitness, creating employment and to reduce the temptation to anti-social behaviour by giving people something to do. Sport England has also invested £680,000 into StreetGames which is a charity that helps bring sports activities to the disadvanted communities across England, Wales and Scotland and is currently branching out into Europe. StreetGames believe that sport makes a positive contribution to individuals and communities and aims to make sport as accessible to people in disadvantaged communities as it is for young people in better off communities.
A programme called International Inspiration has been piloted in Azerbaijan, Brazil, India, Palau, zambia Bangladesh, Jordan, Mozambique, Trinidad ; Tobago, Nigeria, South Africa, Malayisa, Turkey, Pakistan and Indonesia. It aims to enhance the quality of life for young people in these countries by giving them the opportunity to work with sports focused grass routes organisations and use sport to engage and empower them about life skills, youth development and leadership education, HIV/AIDS education and awareness, health and hygiene, gender and disability barriers
Gardiner (2006) states that sport provides employment for over half a million people in the uk and is worth £12 billion in consumer spending. For example when a country hosts the football world cup, millions of pounds are spent on new state of the art stadiums which will require managers, office staff, bar and catering staff, grounds men, stewards, police officers, ticket inspectors and cleaners. Companies such as Adidas, Nike and Umbro who produce shirts for the different football teams across the world employ hundreds of thousands of staff as well as all the staff involved in producing and selling merchandise. Sport helps develop a culture that enables everyone to become fully involved.
London is one of the most multicultural cities in the world with more than 50 ethnic communities of 10,000 or more people and where 300 different languages are used and therefore, diversity is the main reason it was chosen to host London 2012 games and they aim to recruit a diverse workforce with all sorts of job opportunities available to people currently out of work. More than 100,000 people will be paid to work on the Games in areas such as security, catering, retail, cleaning and waste. Also when world events such as The Ryder Cup and the Rugby World Cup are held, many employment windows open such as people to work the scoreboards, stewards, retail, course repairs and many more.
In conclusion, sport helps encourage a healthy lifestyle, promotes inclusion, provides employment opportunities, helps to reduce crime, improves educational attainment and above all brings the nation together. The promise made by the London 2012 bid team encompasses this as it aims to ‘reach young people all around the world and connect them to the inspirational power of the games so they are inspired to choose sport’, We live in a world where both rich and poor people participate in sport in some way and therefore it is a huge contribution to society as a whole.