Bishop & Sewell

Fair play to the House of Lords, actually calculating what the contribution of sport to society and the economy, must be practically impossible, but they’re giving it a fair go, writes David Little, a partner in our Corporate and Commercial department who increasingly handles Sports Law cases, too.

Earlier this month they posted this comprehensive briefing paper in the House of Lords Library recognising that sport has many benefits for individuals and communities, as well as for the economy more broadly. The government published a new strategy for the sports sector in August 2023. The ambition of the strategy was commended; however, sports charities and the Opposition suggested that more was required from the government to deliver on it.

According to data from YouGov from September 2023, around 22% of adults in Great Britain play at least one sport. The same data found that 58% followed at least one sport (defined as watching games on TV or live and/or supporting a particular team).[1] As illustrated in figure 1, football is by far the most popular sport played and followed, with tennis, rugby and cricket also followed by substantial numbers.

According to Sport England, the arms-length body responsible for growing and developing grassroots sport, the playing of sport has a range of benefits, including:

Physical wellbeing. Sport and physical activity can help prevent ill health as well as provide therapeutic and management effects for those suffering—particularly for people affected by cancer. It can also lead to improvements in strength, balance, movement and motor skills, and help in maintaining a healthy body weight. Other physical wellbeing outcomes backed by evidence include improved quality of sleep, increased energy levels, healthy early years development, reduced unhealthy behaviours like smoking, reduced mortality, effective pain management and improved quality of life in ageing.

Mental wellbeing. Physical activity can contribute to enjoyment and happiness, and more broadly to life satisfaction through increased social interaction. Volunteers and sports fans also have an increased sense of purpose and pride, while self-esteem and confidence are known to increase through participation or volunteering. Sport and physical activity also have the potential to reduce anxiety and depression symptoms.

Individual development. Sport can have a positive impact on a person’s employment opportunities and provide support to those who are not in employment, education or training. There’s also clear evidence being active improves educational behaviour and attainment, through greater self-esteem, confidence and direct cognitive benefits. It can also help reduce anti-social behaviour in disaffected young people and increase willingness to volunteer and the development of soft skills, such as integrity, responsibility and leadership.

Social and community development. As well as developing individuals, sport and physical activity can help build stronger communities by bringing people together. Sport is widely seen as a way for people of different backgrounds to interact and integrate by taking part, volunteering and spectating. It can provide opportunities for migrants to adapt to living in England and can bridge divides between men and women, homeless people and those who are not homeless, and people with different employment backgrounds.

My favourite conclusion, as a Swansea City supporter, is that following sport is also reported to have tangible benefits. For example, a recent study published in the Sport Management Review suggested that watching sport enhanced wellbeing. The study found that “watching sport was positively associated with increased brain activity and the structural volume in the specific brain regions related to wellbeing”. The researchers noted that the positive effect was intensified when watching sports that were more popular.

There’s a good deal more in the House of Lords’ report, here. I commend it to the reader.


Contact our Corporate & Commercial and Sports Law Solicitor

David Little is a Partner at Bishop & Sewell in our expert Corporate & Commercial and Sports Law team. If you would like to contact him, please quote Ref CB472 on either 07968 027343 or, 020 7631 4141 or email:

The above is accurate as at 28 May 2024. The information above may be subject to change.

The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Category: Blog, News | Date: 28th May 2024

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