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Sport and fitness sector issues open letter to Party leaders

Leading bodies for health, sport, recreation, fitness and leisure urge Party leaders to commit to making UK most active nation in Europe.

A coalition of more than 200 bodies, athletes, businesses and charities across health, sport, recreation, and physical activity has written an open letter to party leaders calling on them to use the General Election to #TakeTheLead and commit to making the UK the most active nation in Europe.


As the main parties announce their manifestos and the men’s Euros comes into focus this week, a survey* of British adults asked where they think the UK ranks in Europe’s league table for physical activity. Three-quarters (75%) guessed it would feature in the top 10, but the reality is the UK is a miserable joint-11th among 15 comparable nations.


The call for change is driven by the Active Partnerships network, the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity, the Sport and Recreation Alliance, the Sport for Development Coalition, ukactive and the Youth Sport Trust, which together represent thousands of organisations, gyms, swimming pools, leisure centres, sports governing bodies, and professionals across the UK.


The letter kickstarts a new campaign launched by the organisations today (13 June) called #TakeTheLead, which will showcase the importance of creating a more active nation and, crucially, highlight the need for leadership by our national politicians to create the conditions for change.


The 226 signatories to the letter range from major health bodies to sport’s national governing bodies, education providers and the nation’s biggest fitness and leisure groups, while stars such as Rebecca Adlington, Ugo Monye, Adam Olaore and Darcey Bussell have also added their support.


The letter outlines the urgent need as well as the “unique opportunity” for any new Government to unlock the full potential of the sport, recreation and physical activity sector, in a move that would be “transformative for communities across the UK”.

It says: “To overcome our national health crisis and deliver economic growth, we believe you must commit to the ambition of making the UK the most active nation in Europe and work with the industry to deliver this vision.”


Collectively, the sector already saves the NHS £9.5bn every year by preventing illness and in total generates £85bn annually in economic and social value. However, the value generated by the sector could be far greater if the UK reaches and exceeds the activity levels of its European peers, according to research by the Sport and Recreation Alliance.

If the UK became the most active nation in Europe, the research projects:

  • Economic growth – by increasing GDP by £3.6bn every year
  • Reduced burden on the NHS – by cutting spending on preventable disease by £1bn every year
  • An improvement in people’s life satisfaction – by increasing wellbeing benefits to the value of £71bn every year.


The letter highlights priorities for the party leaders to focus on to reduce growing inequalities across the UK and drive significant change in activity levels, such as ensuring every child is active for at least 60 minutes every day, cutting red tape holding back growth, and embedding physical activity pathways into health and care systems.


Sport, recreation, and physical activity bind communities together across all ages, abilities and backgrounds and make the population healthier, happier, more productive and more prosperous.


Making the UK the most active nation would help to reduce pressure off the NHS, boost productivity and economic growth by helping more people to stay in work, improve physical and mental health from childhood, support the drive to net zero, and create more connected, inclusive communities.


Rebecca Adlington OBE said: “It’s time for our political leaders to take the lead and be much bolder in their ambitions for sport and physical activity in the UK.


“It’s going to be a great summer for sport but it’s about more than inspiring the next generation of athletes, it’s about how physical activity can help fix our health crisis and improve so many lives.


“I want us to be top of podium as the most active nation in Europe and that starts with the next Government having a full plan to help us reach millions more people of all ages and backgrounds.”


Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, said: “The timing of the General Election and our summer of sport mean our political leaders have a golden opportunity to prioritise getting more people active to transform our nation’s wellbeing, boost economic productivity and save our NHS.

  “The rewards are clear but we are yet to see the political will or strategy to reduce our growing inequalities, with those from disadvantaged backgrounds, women and girls, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities missing out on physical activity.

  “Our nation’s gyms, pools, leisure centres and sports clubs are ready to do so much more, so we urge our party leaders to work with us and show their commitment to make the UK the most active nation in Europe.”


Tara Dillon, CEO of CIMSPA: "As we approach the election, it is crucial for all political parties to recognise the importance and value of sport and physical activity as the catalyst for improving health and wellbeing and economic prosperity across the nation. 


“By supporting active lifestyles, we not only create a healthier population but also drive economic growth through lower healthcare and income support costs, increased productivity, and thriving sport and physical activity businesses.


“Those with ambitions of forming the next government need to harness our dedicated workforce as they are integral to spearheading initiatives that promote physical activity especially in areas of the greatest health inequalities. Parties must recognise that where coaches, instructors and trainers are working hand in glove with healthcare professionals there is a strong body of evidence that demonstrates significant social and economic value.


“With economic growth and relieving pressure on the NHS at the top of the to-do list for whoever walks through the front door of 10 Downing Street on 5th July, putting sport and physical activity at the heart of policy planning to make the UK the most active nation in Europe, is imperative.”


Hitesh Patel, Executive Director of the Sport for Development Coalition, said: “The evidence is clear – multiple returns on investment can be achieved if we fully realise the wide-ranging benefits of sport and physical activity. As we enter another packed summer of sport and ahead of the General Election, the #TakeTheLead campaign is a timely opportunity to remind our politicians that, by committing to making the UK the most active nation in Europe, they will be committing to tacking health and societal inequalities in the UK’s most disadvantaged communities. This is reflected in the Sport for Development Coalition’s #OpenGoal framework and being delivered everyday through over 400 organisations in our network.”


Andy Taylor, CEO of the Active Partnerships National Organisation, said: “We want all political parties to commit to ensuring that we become a more active nation, making active lives the norm for everyone, no matter where they live or the barriers they currently face.

“Supporting every adult and child to move more would not only lead to a healthier and happier nation, it would also ease the pressure on the NHS, increase productivity in the workplace, help children and young people to be better learners and bring local communities together. 

“The sport and physical activity sector also stands ready to support the next Government on major issues such as tackling climate change.”


Ali Oliver MBE, CEO of Youth Sport Trust: “The upcoming General Election and the exciting summer of sport ahead gives the opportunity for all parties to set out how they would create a more active country. Currently fewer than half of children are meeting the Chief Medical Officers’ recommended guideline of 60 minutes of physical activity a day, so it is imperative children and young people sit at the heart of this ambition to make UK the most active nation in Europe.


“Increasing physical activity will not only lead to happier and healthier children and young people, but will help us get upstream of challenges in education including absence, attendance and behaviour and in time reduce the burden on the NHS. I am proud to stand with other leaders from across the physical activity sector, united in our desire to work with whoever forms the next government to achieve this compelling ambition.”


National Sector Partners Group:

Active Partnerships 

The Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA) 

The Sport for Development Coalition 

The Sport and Recreation Alliance 


The Youth Sport Trust


The signatories:

Abbeycroft Leisure

Access Sport

Action Group PR

Active IQ

Active Luton

Active Pregnancy Foundation

Activity Alliance

Alliance of Sport in Criminal Justice

Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre


Alliance Leisure

Angling Trust

Anytime Fitness

Archery GB

Arthritis Action

Asian Sports Foundation

Association for Physical Education

Association of Colleges Sport

Asthma + Lung UK


Basketball England

BH Live

Bigwave Marketing

Boccia England

Bolton Arena

Bowls Development Alliance

Bowls England

Brio Leisure - Cheshire West & Chester Leisure CIC

British American Football

British Association of Sport Rehabilitators

British Cycling

British Equestrian Federation

British Fencing

British Gliding Association

British Gymnastics

British Horseracing Authority

British Horse Society

British Judo

British Mountaineering Council

British Nordic Walking

British Obstacle Sports

British Orienteering

British Para Table Tennis

British Rowing

British Shooting

British Society of Lifestyle Medicine

British Sub-Aqua Club

British Taekwondo

British Universities & Colleges Sport

British Weightlifting

British Wheelchair Basketball

British Wrestling

Bury Leisure

Business for Health

Canoe Camping Club

Club Kingswood

Coach Core

Code Fitness

CSSC Sports and Leisure

David Lloyd Clubs



Edinburgh Leisure

England Touch

England and Wales Cricket Board



Endurance GB

England and Wales Cricket Board

England Athletics

England Hockey

England Lacrosse

England Netball

England Squash

English Amateur Dancesport Association

English Indoor Bowling Association


Everybody Health & Leisure

Everyone Active

Faculty of Sports & Exercise Medicine

Fearless Women

Fit Hire Limited


Fitness First

Focus Awards


Freedom Leisure


Future Fit Training

GB Boxing

GB Snow Sports

GB Wheelchair Rugby



GM Active

Goalball UK

Good Boost

Gravesham Community Leisure

Greenhouse Sports


Haringey Sports Development Trust


Hurlingham Polo

Hutchison Technologies Ltd

Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing

InBody UK

Independent Gyms

IndigoFitness Ltd

Intelligent Health

Inverclyde Leisure Trust

Junior Adventure Group

Keep Fit Association

Kew Green Group Limited

Kickboxing GB

Laban Guild International

Lampton Leisure Limited

Language of Dance Trust

Later Life Training

Lawn Tennis Association (LTA)

Leeds City Council - Sport

Leisure Energy

Leisure Labs

Les Mills Fitness UK Limited

Life Fitness

Life Leisure

Lifestyle Fitness

London Sport

Love Recruitment




Miha Bodytec GmbH


Mosaic Group


Move it or Lose it

Move Technologies

Muslim Sports Foundation

Mytime Active


National Association of Teachers of Dancing

National Centre for Sports & Exercise Medicine - Sheffield

National Indoor Climbing Award Schemes

National Orthopaedic Alliance

National Trails

NextGen EHS

Northern Counties Dance Teachers Association

Nuffield Health

Oldham Active

Oldham Community Leisure

On The Mend


Orthopaedic Research UK

Outdoor Industry Association

Paddle UK

Parkour UK

Parkwood Leisure

Pendle Leisure Trust

Places Leisure

Play England


Plymouth Active Leisure

Pozzoni Architecture Ltd

Precor Fitness Limited



Quartz Sequoia Events Ltd (Elevate)



Right Directions (Management) Ltd

Rounders England

Royal Society for Public Health

Royal Yachting Association

Rugby Football League (RFL)

Rugby Football Union (RFU)

Sandwell Leisure

SCL Education Group


Shapemaster Global (Innerva)

Skateboard GB

Special Olympics GB

Sport for Confidence

Sport 4 Life UK

Sport in Mind

Swimming Teachers Association (STA)

Strategic Leisure


Surfing England

Swim England

Swimming Teachers Association

Table Tennis England

Technogym UK Ltd

The Adult Cerebral Palsy Movement

The Grounds Management Association

The Gym Group

The Ramblers

The Taskforce for Lung Heath

Thomas Pocklington Trust

Total Fitness

Trafford Leisure

Trail Riders Fellowship

Trilogy Leisure

Versus Arthritis

Volleyball England

Women in Sport

Wythenshawe Forum


Zoom Media

3 1 5 Fitness

3D Leisure


Rebecca Adlington OBE

Morgan Bolding

Dame Darcey Bussell DBE

Jacob Dawson

Thomas Digby

Charlie Elwes

Dr Dale Esliger

Rory Gibbs

Professor Ben Kelly

Professor Rosie Meek

Dr Hayley Mills

Ugo Monye

Adam Olaore

Professor Greg Whyte OBE

Amy Williams MBE



*The consumer poll was carried out by Savanta in June 2024 and polled 2,732 people.


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