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27 June 2012

Thinking sport

Thinking sport

Former Labour MP for Loughborough and Evangelical Alliance Council member Andy Reed explains why he has helped set up the Sports Think Tank. 

Anybody who knows me will usually be overwhelmed by my passion for sport, not just playing but what positive impact I believe it can have on society. Many would say I am too passionate. 

After losing at the last general election I was unsure how God wanted to use the previous calling in my life. I always understood my calling around issues of international development but always wondered how my passion for sport would be used for the Kingdom. 

My prayers were answered in two ways. First, I had been responsible for drawing together the Sport Manifesto by the prime minister for the 2010 election. I had started to realise that poor and short-term policymaking was part of the problem with the political system. I saw this in my 15 years at the heart of sport policymaking. 

After the election I was speaking to my friend, Nick King, who had been behind the Tory party manifesto on sport and we shared our frustrations with the whole process. I realised I had not been thorough using all the evidence-based research available when writing the manifesto. He said he felt the same. So we set about making our idea come to life.

The idea of a think tank for sport was not new – it just needed the energy and the right people to make it happen. So in 2011 we tested the idea and set it up ready to launch in 2012 – the Olympic year. We have as our patrons Lord Coe and Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and wide support in the sport landscape. All we aim to do is bring sense to the making of policy in Westminster and Whitehall and provide a public space where people can voice their views and share their experiences. I am sure like in many walks of life people get fed up with people re-inventing the wheel every two to three years. 

As Seb has said in his endorsement: “A sports think tank would be a great legacy from the 2012 games, enabling future generations to benefit from long-term, well-researched, and evidence-based sports policy making in the UK.” 

Andy ReedWe are not just about dry sports policy in Westminster. One of our first projects is to join with Theos to look at the claims made for sport as being a common good and to challenge those assumptions in the Olympic year. Our report and findings are being launched at the end of June, just before the Games start. We have already brought together theologians interested in sport with practitioners for a round table event earlier in the year. 

My passion for what sport can do is not necessarily shared by everybody – and at the Sports Think Tank we want to produce the evidence to show our claims are valid – for reducing obesity, increasing health, increasing educational attainment, increasing self-esteem, learning respect and discipline as well as reducing crime and anti-social behaviour. There is so much sport can do in hard-to-reach communities and there are serious lessons for the Church. We hope they use the evidence too. 

The final part of the jigsaw fell into place when I was approached by Kick London – a Christian charity that uses the power of sport to engage with young people and to transform lives. My new life really started to make sense. Their aims are to “transform young people’s lives with God’s love through football”, combining football and life skills, underpinned by Christian values.

I am excited to be working for them in the Olympic year to grow this really important area of ministry. Sport can reach groups of people in their environment that would otherwise be untouched by so many churches. I want the whole country to use sport for the Kingdom.

Kick London and the Sports Think Tank are just part of the wide portfolio Andy has undertaken since he established SajeImpact.

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