British Sports Minister Tracey Crouch today launched a wide-ranging public consultation on sport in the United Kingdom amid growing concerns that the country is failing to live up to the legacy promise of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.
Latest figures for Sport Wales, Sport Scotland and Sport Northern Ireland all demonstrate increases in participation levels, but 222,000 people stopped undertaking regular activity in England from October 2014 to March 2015, according to Sport England.
The Government wants to ensure that public funding is targeted at those organisations who can deliver in encouraging people to get involved in sport and physical activity.
In order to do so, it is keen to hear from interested groups and the public - people who are involved in sport and people who aren’t - on what more can be done to use sport to help improve many more lives.
The consultation sets out 10 broad themes on which the Government wants to engage with the public including, participation, physical activity, children and young people, financial sustainability, coaching, and workforce and good governance.
Other themes are elite and professional sport, infrastructure, fairness and equality, safety and wellbeing, and international influence and major sporting events.
Last month, Crouch pledged to "rip up" what she described as the UK's "severely outdated" sports strategy following a major decline in swimming participation, with 144,200 fewer people visiting their local pool from October 2014 to March 2015.
The newly-launched public consultation will run for just under nine weeks, from today until October 2, in what could be a significant shake-up of sports policy.
"Sport has such a positive impact on people’s lives and I want to embed participation into this nation’s DNA," said Crouch.
"I want to make sure that the sports sector gives everybody - no matter who they are and what their ability - the chance to take part.
"However public funding is a privilege not a right and has to go to the organisations that can make a real difference.
"I want to hear views from people and groups on what more we can do to strengthen sport in this country across the board."
Adrian Christy, chair of the National Governing Body CEO Forum whose membership includes 39 national governing bodies (NGBs) drawn from mass participation, Olympic, non-Olympic and disability sport has welcomed the Government’s consultation.
"This is a pivotal moment for sport and our members look forward to playing an active and constructive role in this consultation," said Christy, the chief executive of Badminton England.
"Over the past decade NGBs have been transformed with the injection of Government and National Lottery money and a much more professional and focussed approach that has seen almost one million more people play sport at least once a week over the last decade and a massive increase in the number of sports winning medals on the international stage.
"Our members are absolutely committed to continued professionalisation, embracing innovation and working with appropriate partners to ensure maximum impact in everything we do."
Although it is claimed 1.4 million more people are participating in sport now than when the bid to host the London 2012 Games was won in 2005, the success Britain has enjoyed in elite sport over the past three years has been in stark contrast to the struggle to make the nation more active.
"Britain has punched above its weight in elite sport in recent years with fantastic results but we cannot be complacent," said Crouch.
"I want sport to do all it can to bring on the next generation of talent so that the nation continues to enjoy success and inspirational performances."
Christy added: "One area where we believe change is needed is in how participation is measured so that the whole picture is presented, not just part of it.
"For example, the current Active People Survey (APS) measurement presents a limited snapshot of participation, as it does not reflect participation among those under the age of 14, and does not make full use of modern technology in its sampling methods.
"It’s counter-intuitive that one of the key groups that were meant to be inspired by London 2012 are not included in the APS.
"A sport like hockey has seen a 40 per cent growth in participation among under 16s since 2012, yet this progress is not registered by APS.
"In 2010, handball had 25 teams competing in their national schools competition - three years on from the Games, that figure has grown to over 900.
"In my own sport, we have witnessed incredible growth of young people playing in our National Schools Championships which grew from just over 300 players to 35,000, however the vast majority of these young players would not have been captured by the APS model."
In March 2015, the CEO Forum unveiled new research by Sheffield Hallam University Sport Industry Research Centre on the state of sport in England.
The study, entitled "State of Play", was led by Professor Simon Shibli and demonstrates the impact of the CEO Forum’s 39 NGBs in helping to deliver sport in England last year.
The report points to there being more than 1.8 million people belonging to sports clubs, over one million more than the total membership of all UK political parties.
Over 1.9 million volunteers were calculated to have been linked to NGBs, a greater number than the entire National Health Service workforce, while their financial contribution was estimated to have been worth around £4.9 billion ($7.6 billion/€7 billion) for the year.
"We also want to see an overall vision for sport that aligns central and local Government with NGBs and stakeholders in the sporting landscape, enabling a seamless system from school and community sport through to the podium," said Christy.
"It is critical that NGBs remain at the heart of the sports system to enable us to build on the significant progress achieved over the last decade and as demonstrated by 'State of Play' research earlier this year."
For more details on the Government's new consultation document click A New Strategy for Sport.pdf
The sports sector and interested public can access the consultation paper, including an online response form by clicking here.
March 2015: National Governing Body Forum launches by publishing "State of Play" report