Critically Evaluate the Policy Process for the following issue in Sports Development

For this essay we must also understand what policy processes are. A policy is, ‘a response to a crisis.’ A social inclusion policy benefits society because the cost to the taxpayer in health service and criminal damage is astronomical, and sport is viewed to reduce these problems.

An example of the cost to the taxpayer is £228m was spent on youth prisoners in 2003. Because of this the Government set up a Policy Action Team, PAT 10 to tackle the issue of social inclusion. The government acted in response to pressure from the media, sports organisations (eg FIFA and the IOC), and from government agencies such as Sport England. All of these agencies have highlighted the limited success the nation has at elite level and the escalating costs of health and crime. The social inclusion agendas aim to increase success and reduce Government costs.

Jones et al (1994) state that the three main stages in the policy process for success are initiation, formulation and implementation.

Finally we need to understand that social inclusion provides equal opportunity for all to participate in sport irrelevant of their age, sex, gender or ethnicity, Hylton et al (2001) and Donnelly (2004). “Sport is directly influenced by society and consequently many of the wider processes of society express themselves in the realm of sport,” (Hylton et al 2001 p37). This statement refers to the notion that if prejudice and discrimination are present in society, they will be prevalent in sport.

Almost half of adults participate in some form of physical activity, (DCMS 2000) yet there are many reasons why the rest of society does not participate. The reasons vary depending on the individual and their specific situation. To truly achieve the Government’s objectives of the 1970s ‘sport for all,’ these barriers must be apprehended.

Inequality is shaped by different social, political, cultural and economic factors, Hylton et al (2001). Houlihan (1997) and Hylton et al (2001) identify the key factors in the search for equality are, age, gender, class, occupation, education, wealth, ethnicity and motor access. Barriers to participation include:

stereotypes of athletes from sociological ideologies, such as women being inferior; religion and cultural differences; disability and the social constraints for disabled people.

For some children athletics is running, and usually for fairly long distances. Many children dislike this because the feeling of fatigue is uncomfortable. Compared to sports such as football, athletics receives little broadcasting. There seem to be two renowned competitions in athletics, the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games. These competitions do get TV coverage, but only every four years. Athletics is not as well covered or publicised as competitive games such as football.

Another aim would be to change people’s views about athletics and sports in general. It is not just for men and muscular people. Sport is for all and participation is not necessarily competitive. This is shown by the notion that more people partake in individual sports compared to team sports, Hylton et al (2001).

However, more men participate than women, and more of the youth participate compared to the elderly. Policies to encourage female and elderly people have been introduced for this reason..

In areas of social and economic deprivation such as Merseyside, many local people do not have the disposable income to participate in sports such as athletics. The cost of equipment and membership to a club has to be paid.

In an affluent community where an individual works fulltime, finding time for sport is low on the priority list.

In some local communities, transport to and from the sports centres can be difficult. Provision of transport by local government is needed to gain access to the sports centres. In major cities such as Liverpool there are fairly extensive bus and rail networks and so should limit the numbers of people who view transport as a barrier to participation.

The lack of successful role models is a problem. As a country, relatively little success on the track and especially on the field has been gained. There are also very few successful role models in English athletics. Limford Christy and Steve Backley are probably the most recognised track and field stars of the English team but there are only a few more athletes with such high a profile. Paula Radcliff, Tessa Sanderson and Denise Lewis to name three.

Many people have stereotypical and sexist views about athletics, which also limits participation. A century ago women were told that they could not participate in sports because it was detrimental to their health. Some men even claimed that women’s wombs would fall out it they participated in excessive physical activity. It is only since the 1980’s, that women have equal rights as men to participate, mainly due to the women’s movement, which started in the 1960s and the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975. A more recent policy, the Brighton Declaration 1994, enables equal opportunities for female participants. This internationally devised policy allows the full involvement of females in every aspect of sport.

Other barriers to participation are religion and race. Since the Race Relations Act of 1976 all members of society should be able to participate in sport without any discrimination or prejudice. This can also be a key factor in participation since racism still occurs in sport. Football is a key example here with the ‘kick it out campaign’ and the ‘show racism the red card’ campaign of the 1990’s. However, some families may feel it is inappropriate to participate on their Sabbath day, such as Christians playing Sunday league football. Religion may also stipulate their dress code and so this may hinder performance. The individual may become de-motivated and not even participate.

An example of this could be Hindu women in their Saris (long dresses) would find it nearly impossible to be competitive in the 100meter hurdles. This would be a hard area to combat lack of participation because it would be extremely difficult to change people’s religions.

Alternative measures could be offered such as offering ‘women only’ days so that Hindu women could participate in shorts and a T-shirt without the fear of Hindu men seeing their bare flesh. This has to be community specific ensuring that the policy designed must be done for each separate community.

Since 1995 when the Disability Discrimination Act was introduced, all sports facilities must provide access for disabled people. This has enabled disabled people the opportunity to participate in physical activity but has not broken down other barriers such as transport to and from the venue, stereotypical views, and prejudice, from other members of the community.

All these factors have resulted in limited participation in athletics.

Policy setting needs to follow a staged process. This could be as follows:

* Agenda setting

* Issue filtration

* Issue definition

* Forecasting

* Setting objectives and priorities

* Options analysis

* Policy implementation, monitoring and control

* Evaluation and review

* Policy maintenance, succession or termination

(Hogwood and Gunn 1984)

Agenda Setting:

Devising a SMART action plan will improve the participation within all sports. Problems at this stage are that the main focus will change with time. Constant re-evaluation is needed which is both time consuming and costly. Also what sports must be the priority? And which members of the community are the priority?

Issue Filtration:

This can be established through interviewing, surveying, questioning and devising community meetings with members of the community to establish the needs of the community.

However, these all have drawbacks. Interviews, surveys and questionnaires are all subject to socially desirable answers, and at community meetings generally people attend to complain and not to praise the current situation. This leads to inaccurate sports development for that specific community.

Issue Definition:

This could be using the funding from the National Lottery to enable sports to be part of the social inclusion agenda. This then reduces costs in other Government agencies such as for crime, health and education. The National Lottery may not be able to provide enough funding for the desired developments so other funding may also be required. Another problem is the funding allocation. Which community should get the most funding and why? This has to be devised equally and fairly to avoid community disputes.

Forecasting:

There are many barriers to participation, which need to be addressed. If the barriers mentioned above can be overcome then increased participation of the local community is expected. If not, a re-evaluation of the policy is required with new strategies being constructed.