Today the Commonwealth Secretariat has launched a new policy tool to help member countries make informed sport decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Developed in collaboration with the University of Toronto, the online tool offers best practices from across the Commonwealth to support policymakers in tackling emerging sport challenges in a continuously evolving health crisis.
Essential lockdowns and mobility restrictions have devastated the sport sector, significantly reducing opportunities, especially for already under-served groups such as poor individuals, women and girls, LGBT+ people and persons with disabilities. This has had a particular impact on the sector’s resilience and a knock-on effect on the health of Commonwealth citizens.
According to a Commonwealth study, the sport industry is expected to experience a recession several times worse than any other sector. Thousands of jobs, livelihoods and social benefits could be at risk.
“It will not be enough to return to what we had before,” said Dr Bruce Kidd, one of the co-authors of the policy tool from the University of Toronto. “We must build back better, with an intersectional gender lens, and a stronger commitment from governments.”
The tool identifies the challenges posed by the pandemic in five critical phases ranging from curbing the spread of the virus to mobilising the sport sector in COVID-19 response, resuming sporting activities, adjusting programme delivery and building back better.
In response to the current crisis, it offers evidence-based guidance to policymakers to address the distinct challenges and deliver a safe return to sport and exercise.
Speaking ahead of the launch, Senior Director for the Economic, Youth and Sustainable Development at the Secretariat, Dr Ruth Kattumuri said:
“Sports and physical activity are crucial for physical well-being and mental health of people, and for promoting friendship, peace and development in our communities and our world.
“Essential measures such as lockdowns to protect people against COVID-19 have consequently resulted in major reductions in sporting events and physical activity, which could have implications leading to higher rates of obesity and non-infectious diseases.
“With the light at the end of the tunnel through the administration of vaccines globally, we can focus on the road to recovery. In this recovery process, it is essential to pay particular attention to overcome the challenges facing the sports sector.
“We hope our ‘Policy Analysis Tool for Community Sport and Sport for Development in Response to COVID-19’ will serve as a guidebook for governments to take a prudent course of action to sustain the vital contribution of sport to sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development towards building forward better.”
In line with the Sustainable Development Goals, the tool contributes to ensuring upcoming sporting activities meet the necessary safety rules and make a positive impact on the health and well-being of communities across the Commonwealth.
Under the Commonwealth Moves initiative, the tool is part of a range of resources and assistance being provided by the Secretariat to help governments protect and revive the sport economy beyond the pandemic.