What is the definition of sport?

Sports Think TankHaving recently attended a Sports Think Tank discussion relating to sports policy and how it should be shaped over the next 10 years, one thing resonated. The 15 people in the room had different definitions and interpretations as to what exactly sport is.Despite several minutes discussion, no over-arching definition was reached or agreed amongst those present and this is a problem.

According to Sport England their definition of sport meets the the Council of Europe?s European Sports Charter 1993 definition of sport which is:

"Sport means all forms of physical activity which, through casual or organised participation, aim at expressing or improving physical fitness and mental well-being, forming social relationships or obtaining results in competition at all levels."

However this is where Sport England appear to contradict themselves.

Sports such as walking and parkour are not currently recognised at sports. Some might argue that parkour is an art form rather than a sport and and a casual walk around a park isn't really measurable or competitive so isn't a sport.

But if we go by Sport England's and the wider Council of Europe's definition, surely they are?

Acceptance or exclusion from being considered as a sport currently seems to be completely arbitrary when the broader issue is really about getting people active and giving them choice. More seriously an exclusivity over whether a sport is accepted as a sport by Sport England's standards presents barriers for anyone trying to introduce a new sport to the UK. For example if you wanted to promote padel, a squash and tennis hybrid and one of the fastest growing sports in the world, the barriers to getting this recognised are enormous. No where is this more apparent than filling in the extensive paper work involved in the application process when trying to establish a new sport. Once such question asks what your anti-doping policy is.  Who cares? Why is that relevant? This is about getting more people active, does it really matter if you are new sport and don't have an anti-doping policy?

Certainly Parkour UK have experienced this when trying to increase the recognition of free running which could be a great answer to getting more people active in poorer estates around the country. What Sport England should surely be doing is trying to identify new opportunities to get people active whether that is through parkour, playing dodgeball, tiddlywinks that really ought to be irrelevant.

What is needed is a common sense approach to this and defining what the ultimate goals are. Broadly speaking the goals are simple. People should be given the choice to participate in whatever they like, with local options (less than 1 mile away) where possible. Whether they choose to walk around their local park, jump over buildings, attend a dance class or play 5 a side football really shouldn't matter to anyone. People need to have the ability to try out to work out what garners their interest. The broad goal is to get more people moving, hopefully socially interacting and ultimately having fun. Surely that is what sport is about?

So if I were Sport England I'd look at changing the definition of sport to something very simple:

"An activity where people are moving and enjoying themselves?"

Now there's something for them to deliberate over?

By Sam Parton







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