A significant rise in Government funding to boost women’s elite sport and support green initiatives amongst clubs is vital for ensuring London’s £1.3bn sport sector continues to thrive, says a new report published today.
The joint ‘Competing for Growth’ report by law firm Irwin Mitchell and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) highlights the vital role of the sports economy* in UK and how further growth can be unlocked.
According to the study, total sport related GVA in the top 48 largest local economies stood at £6.0bn in 2019 and accounted for 170,660 jobs. However, in 2020 total GVA reduced to £4.6bn with headcount falling to 166,800, reflecting the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
London had the largest sport economy in 2020 but the total £1.3bn GVA figure in 2020 represented a 27.6% contraction compared to 2019. Employment levels were not as badly impacted with a 2.2% fall from 53,315 in 2019 to 53,165 in 2020.
Josie Dent, Managing Economist at Cebr said, “Sports make a substantial contribution to the economies of cities in the UK. The sports sector promotes expenditure and employment, with total GVA for the sector in 2020 estimated at £1.3 billion in London, while sports activities are also linked to higher productivity and wellbeing, further boosting the UK economy.”
To unlock the potential of the UK’s sports economy the report makes three recommendations to Government in the following three areas:
- Women’s Sport – Unlock funding to support the further growth of women’s professional sport including Women’s Super League (WSL)
- Climate change – Provide funding and guidelines for green objectives for sports clubs
- Financial sustainability – Legislate for a new independent regulator for English Football
The report says women’s sports can be a key pillar in the development of the future of the sports economy and highlights the positive economic benefit of the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 football tournament. It adds that more investment, together with potential benefits of the RFU’s plans to see 100,000 players by 2027, would provide a major boost to local economies.
It concludes that although both women’s rugby and football have taken huge steps in development in recent years, support from the Government would accelerate and unlock the full economic potential of women’s professional sports.
Thomas Barnard, partner and National Head of Irwin Mitchell’s Sports sector team, said, “This report highlights the strength and huge opportunities that exist within the sports sector but at the same time it reveals how vulnerable local economies can be to periods of economic turbulence.
“There are some interesting themes emerging in the report’s recommendations. Support and funding from the Government could accelerate and unlock the full economic potential of the WSL, as highlighted by the success of EURO 2022, and help RFU meet its ambitious objectives. Any scheme that promotes greater participation and viewership will boost economic activity both through higher match-day activity and longer-term productivity, culminating in a strong net benefit for regional economies across the UK.
“The report also calls for greater focus on financial issues and adapting to the climate crisis. Whether it is environmental or financial sustainability, both are key issues in sport and must be considered to future-proof the sports economy.”
Irwin Mitchell’s sport sector team advises individual athletes; sports clubs; leisure groups; national and international governing bodies and sports agencies. Its team of experts advise on a diverse range of issues including tax and image rights structures; dispute resolution and disciplinary action; commercial transactions; property; IP and employment law. Irwin Mitchell is the official legal partner of England Rugby; UK Athletics; and British Rowing.