A sporting chance

By Matt van Poortvliet 17 March 2011

Sport is a national obsession. For many, it is source of inspiration and an integral part of life.

Anecdotally, we also know that sport can be a powerful tool for tackling youth crime—it can get young people off the streets, out of trouble, engaged in education, and back on track. However, hard evidence is lacking, and without more detailed analysis, it is difficult to make a convincing case for investment.

NPC’s new report, Teenage kicks, shows that when sport is used as part of a wider programme of education and support, it can be highly effective at tackling youth crime, and provide excellent value for money. Given that youth crime costs society around £11bn every year, there is a compelling case for government and other funders to support such projects.

Boxing clever

For example, one of the projects featured in the report is the Boxing Academy in north London. It works with young people who have struggled in mainstream schools, many of whom are known offenders and have been excluded from school. The Academy combines boxing training with other sports and regular lessons, such as English and maths.

The results are impressive: young people who attend the Academy are more likely to achieve qualifications than their peers in Pupil Referral Units, and are less likely to re-offend. This means that the Academy is highly cost-effective: for every £1 invested, it creates £3 of value for the young people it works with and for society.

Numbers up

Economic analysis only tells part of the story—the report also includes case studies of young people whose lives have been transformed by sports projects, and a review of the evidence around effective sports interventions. But economic analysis is a powerful way of valuing and articulating social impact.

Measuring outcomes and comparing the costs of problems and solutions can provide valuable insights into what is effective, and speaks in a language that funders understand. But for analysis to be meaningful, charities need to measure their results, funders need to dedicate more money to research, and government needs to open its data sources. Only then can we really understand the full benefits of sport in tackling a range of problems.