Investing in sport gives good return
HOLD THE BACK PAGE:IN TESTING economic times, State funding of sport has a habit of rising to the top of the list of budgets to be filleted, despite persuasive arguments that the return for investment, most notably in terms of tackling health issues and youth crime, can far outweigh the cost.
It’s an argument the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation has been making since it was set up in the 1990s by South African businessman Johann Rupert, the organisation now funding over 100 sports projects around the world, specifically aimed at disadvantaged children – like its first, the Mathare Youth Sports Association in one of the largest slums in Nairobi, and another which backs sports projects for Aborigines.
Among the “legends” of sport working with the foundation are Boris Becker, Cathy Freeman, Franz Beckenbauer, Jack Nicklaus, Martina Navratilova, Nadia Comaneci and none other than Mick McCarthy, who was one of those who cycled 526km from London to Champagne during the summer as part of a fundraiser for Laureus, proving his engine is still in fine fettle.
They, needless to say, all promote the foundation’s belief that sport can make a positive difference in people’s lives in any number of ways, and is therefore more than worth investing in, but actually quantifying those benefits has always been the tricky task for those trying to persuade the budget-setters it’s a false economy to cut funding. Laureus, though, has attempted to do just that with a report, Sport Scores, they released this week.
In it they studied the impact of sports-based crime prevention programmes in Germany, Italy and Britain and concluded that for every one euro invested there is an average return of €5.02 to society “by reducing costs to victims, police, prisons and courts”.
To those dubious about their ability to put such a precise figure on that “return”, Laureus said they drew on “validated research methodologies from outside sport, including economic impact assessment, health research and literature on youth crime”. (You can see the full report at their website, laureus.com).
The projects they studied were Fight for Peace and Sport and Thought in London, KICK Im Boxring in Berlin and Midnight Basketball in Milan, all of which, they argue, have had a significant impact on the reduction of youth crime in their areas. The Milan project, for example, provides late-night basketball for young people in a city centre park, thus “keeping them off the streets and out of trouble”.
“What we see from the projects are the positive benefits that sport can generate in relation to health, education, and employment,” said Edwin Moses, the eight-time Olympic gold medallist and chairman of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.