Tuesday, May 10, 2011

It's no secret that sport is not my only passion in life...Prof Laura McAllister, Chair of Sport Wales.

The other (not sure 'passion' is the right word!) is politics. So when the two collide, I am in my element.

Sport Wales Laura McAllisterSo, as the party manifestos for the Assembly elections landed in my inbox back in mid-April, I was more than curious to see how sport had been embraced by the main political parties in Wales.

In the months leading up to the election, I have met with Assembly Members in my role as Chair of Sport Wales and have been speaking to them about sport and my hopes for how sport could be reflected in their respective manifestos.

What struck me was the genuine passion that everyone I spoke to displayed, not only for elite sport, but for the grassroots clubs and community opportunities as well.

And, turning the pages, it was encouraging that political commitments reflected many of the conversations I had, including referencing some of the key priority areas laid down in our Vision for Sport in Wales.

Now that a new programme of government is being developed, the next stage of my work is to ensure that these manifesto promises with regard to the power of sport are included and that the collective voice of sport in Wales is heard.

I strongly believe that advocating on behalf of sport is a team effort. We have developed the Vision with the support and input of the sector; the next stage is making it a reality and ensuring that our politicians are aware of the impact that sport makes.

I would like to see a sport sector that is proactively celebrating the achievements of sport, from engaging more children to elite success.

With a number of Assembly Members standing down,we have an exceptionally high number of new politicians which brings the opportunity to shape new ideas and fresh thinking.

The challenge, of course, will be to immerse our political newcomers in the world of sport, emphasising its reach and power.

Some might question my focus on political advocacy this past year, but I make no apologies.

Without the commitment of our political leaders at all levels, the infrastructure of sport would be in jeopardy and our ambitious strategies for coaching, elite and community sport would be impossible.

To continue demonstrating the often under-estimated ability of sport is right at the top of my 'To Do' list and I look forward to working with colleagues, partners and politicians from all parties to achieve this.

Cofion cynnes,

The view from Daran Hill - Managing Director and Principal Consultant at Positif Politics

He leads consultancy, research and monitoring work for a range of clients in all sectors. His specialisms include horizon scanning and picking up the political mood, which enables clients to be forewarned of shifts in policy and political emphasis.

"Over the past decade sport policy within the National Assembly and Welsh Assembly Government has become more centre stage, not least with the appointment of a Culture and Sport Minister in 2003. That change also saw the creation of a Committee in the Assembly to mirror that portfolio.

Daran HillIn 2007 the Committee structure was tweaked so that Culture (and by association Sport) fell in with Communities. Though the Committee continued to examine sporting issues, not least in terms of accessibility and also attracting large sporting events to Wales, the simple mechanics of such an arrangement is that the bigger the scope of a Committee, the more it will roam over the plains.

Quite how much emphasis the next Assembly gives to Sport policy will very much depend, therefore, on the design of government and the consequent architecture of the Assembly. On the latter point, changes to Standing Orders point to fewer but bigger Committees. This will present its own bigger challenge in making Sport a priority.

The auguries from the party political manifestos, however, are good. All four parties had clear commitments on sport, and all were united in terms of its importance in the school curriculum and in terms of widening access. Plaid also committed to a National Coaching Plan for Wales, while the Liberal Democrats proposed an innovative Arts & Sports Investment Trust, which would be a self-funding organisation dedicated to levering more private investment into smaller Welsh arts and sports.

It was Labour, though, that made the biggest number of sporting pledges including commitments on the sporting workforce, and a promise to nurture sporting innovation while at the same time doing more to attract major sports events to Wales.

At time of going to press, Labour is pretty much guaranteed to be the lead player in government, the number and level of these commitments and their support for the Vision can only be good for sport policy in Wales".