The answers to the questions about the state of community sport in Scotland will be varied. What is community sport? Who is trying to answer the questions?
Sport can be a force for improvement of all aspects of life, with potential benefits impacting upon health and well-being, gender and race relations, education and social welfare, civic pride, law enforcement, business and tourism.
We believe that the best way achieve this is through an extensive programme of community sport.
To realise this, to develop and implement policy, needs the collection and analysis of a comprehensive level of information, which currently does not exist.
That is the case for An Observatory of Sport in Scotland.
The questions may not be obvious, but they surely exist. Where is the detailed information about sports participation in Scotland? What are the effects of austerity measures on community sport? Is community sport development in the contracts of the 23 newish Scottish Sports and Culture Trusts? Who is planning the facilties provision and access for sport on a community basis? With almost non-existant statutory requirements for Sport provision by local authorities, what is really happening to sport with all the cuts to local authority spending? What hard information is given to local and national politicians about community sport?
We hear of excellent practices around the country, how widespread are these examples?
Then of course there is the balance of performance/elite sport and on the other hand community and school sport. Can we trace how public money is being spent? Is sports participation being affected by costs and accessability? How do we compare Scottish participation figures with other northern European countries?
The idea of establishing an Observatory for Sport in Scotland is based on a number of Observatories already up and running in Denmark, Sweden, The Netherlands, and Switzerland, countries that are well respected for their high levels of sports participation. A number of colleagues in Scotland have also combined their ideas.
Our vision is to build an evidence-based platform that recognises the potential for improvement across the range of sports activities and levels, including school sport, but with a particular focus on community sport, which we see as the primary underpinning infrastructure.
The platform would be built on the development of a set of criteria, recognising, but significantly enhancing existing models, collecting data and measuring community sport participation, and facilitate benchmarking with other countries, such as Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden and the Netherlands, with high levels of sport participation and good governance.
The Observatory will fill a gap in the Scottish sports landscape by creating a body which, based on objective, independently-gathered information, will drive open, ongoing and transparent debate and decision-making aimed at taking sport forward.