Regular readers of this blog will know that we have long questioned the lack of any strategy for delivering the promised 2012 legacy of more people participating in sport. Now, a new report is warning, “the legacy promise will come in time to be viewed as a highly effective sales pitch that was never fully realised.”
The Centre for Social Justice have today published a report damning the promised Olympic legacy as little more than a sales pitch and suggesting that it was never possible to deliver that promise.
However, while I agree with the sentiment of the report I find myself disagreeing with the claim that the promised legacy was impossible to deliver. It is probably more palatable to believe that than it is the alternatives that either we never tried or that those tasked with the job were simply not up to it.
Whether we call it an Olympic legacy or whether we call it the benefits of sound sports development planning is irrelevant. It is true that the opportunity to put such planning in place with the benefit of the Olympics placing sport into the front of minds up and down the country has likely been missed. However, that does not mean that it is too late to begin adopting the principles that have been absent and start better developing sport both for its own sake and for the purpose of social benefit.
The sad truth is that for modern day sports managers whether they are at the DCMS, Sport England or with governing bodies, a good sound bite will always trump a good strategy. It has reached such proportions that it appears possible they actually do not know the difference.
Last year, after promising his government had a strategy for the development of sport, Hugh Robertson was asked to “show us your strategy
Minister.” We still wait and Robertson has not returned to that debate.
He was present for the launch of ‘Places People Play’ frequently presented as a strategy for developing grass-roots sport but in reality little more than a collection of initiatives given spin and a brand name.
It is a game the previous government also played, not just with sport but with any number of issues. In place of sound planning, create an initiative; what Robertson damned as ‘initiativeitis’ before then continuing its use in sport.
For many of the managers filling roles in sport, it has never been any different. To them, this is how you ‘develop’ sport. Many are ‘generalists’
employing generalist skills to the specific specialism of creating strategy. The result is that while many of those strategies sound good at the press
conference they fail to deliver. They announce to the world what they seek to achieve without considering how. Then quietly they fall from use and within another couple of years there is another press conference, another announcement and another ‘strategy’ doomed to the same demise.
It is no use looking for blame; the sorry truth is that there is little likelihood of anyone being to blame. They are operating in a blind spot, where
they assume a level of knowledge based on a ‘this is how we do things’ approach which everyone else is also employing.
Good managers should be able to say, “this is not my specialism.” They should know the difference between management and leadership. Good managers ask for help from the experts in order to do things better next time, in order to seek continual improvement.
The management of sport, from Minister down, unfortunately views the maintaining of a mediocre status quo as the pathway to success and, until they change, it is not just the promised Olympic legacy which will go undelivered – it is the development of sport to its full potential within society.
‘More Than a Game’ – The Olympic legacy report from the Centre for Social Justice
Previous Cowan Global blogs of relevance:
‘Initiative-it is – A Welcome End?’- 26 May 2010
‘Initiative-it is Returns Before It Had Even Left’ – 29 June 2010
‘Is It Initiative-it is? The Minister Says Not’ – 15 July 2010
‘The Public Funding Of Sport And A Legacy From 2012’ – 31 October 2010
‘Sports Strategy Still Absent While Initiative-it is Continues Unchecked’ – 18 December 2010
‘Legacy Or Smokescreen?’ – 31 January 2011
‘Now The Stadium Is Decided Can We Please Debate The Legacy?’ – 13 February 2011
‘The Clock Finally Stops For The Promised Legacy’ – 3 April 2011
© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global Limited, 2011