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How the AoS network can help with ‘Levelling Up’

Alliance of Sport’s comms lead Mike Dale on why Levelling the Playing Field (managed by AoS and the Youth Justice Board) has such strong crossover with the Government’s topical ‘Levelling Up’ agenda.

Levelling the Playing Field is a £1.7m project funded by the London Marathon Charitable Trust and delivered by a network of specialist partners across England and Wales who are deeply embedded in the fabric of their communities.

Their frontline work using sport and physical activity to support ethnically diverse children is vital, but it’s also all-consuming. It stretches so far beyond 9am-5pm hours that, in many cases, it leaves little time to answer calls or emails, strategise, record data, apply for their next round of funding, upskill staff, update social media, or any other duties that distract staff from the coalface of delivery.

After all, the less time they spend on engaging their participants face-to-face, the higher the odds of those children falling prey to nefarious temptations which compete for their attention in areas of social deprivation. 

Inspirational people like Safiya Saeed and Imran Ali from Sheffield, Daryl Chambers, Ranjit Singh and Joe Jackson in Wolverhampton, Martine Smith and Jalal Goni in Newport or Ben Eckett and Rebecca Donnelly in South London (and many more – don’t worry, we see you!) all understand the daily struggles of their participants, because they live and breathe them every day too. 

Participants at Levelling the Playing Field specialist partners PKC Academy in South London

These people run projects to support children in areas ‘left behind’ by decades of austerity and neglect. Successive generations of poverty and lack of opportunity have bred anti-social behaviour, crime and violence. These streets are dangerous places. 

That’s why a boxing club, sports hall or five-a-side court offering a safe space with positive role models, qualified mentors and like-minded friends where children can improve their health, wellbeing, mindset and future prospects, can be of immeasurable value in the community. 

This is precisely what Levelling the Playing Field achieves through its carefully selected specialist partners. 

Their targeted use of sport and physical activity can play a key part in the current Government Levelling Up agenda. The agenda includes 12 ‘national missions’ to address the huge inequalities faced by people in under-privileged communities (inequalities which have been exacerbated even further by Covid-19) by 2030. 

Among these missions are improvements in health in areas of the lowest life expectancy, reduction in crime, a rise in people’s perceived wellbeing, over 200,000 taking part in high-quality skills training and a rise of “pride in place” including people’s engagement in their local community. 

These are precisely the areas being positively impacted in some of our most deprived communities by Levelling the Playing Field’s specialist partners. They work with heroic dedication, often forming partnerships with families and local statutory and justice agencies to provide interventions and opportunities for children whose life prospects have been harmed by the environment they’re growing up in. 

This work often goes unseen outside the sporadic pockets of the country in which it takes place.  

That is precisely why the Alliance of Sport fuses the collective strength, experience and expertise of these local organisations, increases their impact with training, amplifies their voice, raise their profile, showcases their impact and collects the evidence that proves the potency and effectiveness of what they do. 

Through the Levelling the Playing Field project, the APPG on Sport and Physical Activity in the Criminal Justice System and the new Taskforce, we collect and showcase this evidence base in order to advance policy, improve practice and generate investment to ensure their good practice is replicated and spread across the country. 

The Sport for Development Coalition’s #OpenGoal campaign brilliantly highlights the role sport and physical activity could play in levelling up. Through Levelling the Playing Field and its other projects, the Alliance of Sport can help turn that potential into positive and sustainable change. 


(Main pic: Levelling the Playing Field session at specialist partners Big Brother Burngreave in Sheffield)