Recognising the critical importance of sport and exercise for physical and mental health, in fostering community cohesion and inclusion, and also in contributing to social and economic development, the Commonwealth has long been working with governments to boost this sector.
Building on its previous advances in this area, the Secretariat has created the Commonwealth Moves initiative to help sustain and re-boot this sector in the COVID-19 new reality.
Impact of COVID-19 on sport and physical activity
One of the sad consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic is the decline in sport and physical activity. The impact on health and wellbeing, jobs and the community spirit supported by the sport and physical activity sector, is dire.
The pandemic has exacerbated and highlighted an existing problem – a global population that was spending way too much time sitting and not enough time moving. This silent ‘pandemic’ of immobility has had devastating effects on our health, contributing to a rapid rise in Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease.
In 2018, the World Health Organisation reported that NCDs were killing 41 million people each year, equivalent to 71% of all deaths globally. Inactivity is estimated to cost the global economy INT$68 billion in direct health care and lost productivity.
Research and resources
Commonwealth Moves is supported by pillars of research and includes a package of resources which were cleverly designed to respond to the current COVID-19 reality and create a sector and populations which are resilient enough to deal with future pandemics.
It aims to support countries in creating and modifying policies and modes of delivery in sport and activity programmes, that comply with guidance on social distancing, hygiene and safety protocols. Each of our collaborators has developed on-line, COVID-19-adapted resources, backed by robust analysis and research.
The sport sector has been among the most impacted by the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. As the global economy contracts, it is likely this market will be further affected, despite any public funding provided by government recovery packages.
In this context, innovative strategies and policies to diversify investment in the sector and stimulate domestic markets will be essential to scale sport’s positive impact on:
- health and wellbeing
- contribution to economic recovery
Research and policy recommendations
To address this issue the Commonwealth has launched a research initiative to investigate policy options to resource the recovery and sustainability of the sport and fitness sector.
The restrictions introduced to curb the spread of the pandemic has resulted in a shutdown of community sport and physical activity. This loss has magnified to many undervalued and positive impacts of community sport and physical activity on health and wellbeing.
COVID-19 has laid bare existing challenges which hampered the sector’s response to the pandemic. These include limited:
- vulnerable business models
- inconsistency in policy development
The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of creating effective and robust policies to support the sector, and of modifying delivery to suit the current challenges.
Sport and physical activity programme providers have a duty of care to their participants and communities and should always prioritise their safety.
Guidance on health, safety and hygiene
The World Health Organisation advises that gatherings (including for sport and physical activity) have the potential to strain the planning and response resources of the host country or community.
Any decision to modify or proceed with activities should be based on a rigorous risk assessment, strictly adhere to the guidance of local and national public health authorities and should integrate enhanced prevention, hygiene and physical distancing measures.
Safeguarding is about ensuring that everyone feels safe in their environment, and is protected from harm, bullying, from people who could abuse, and from discrimination or harassment.
Moving to on-line and modified delivery also increases specific safeguarding risks. For further information and guidance: