We’re about to be treated to a spectacular summer of sport. But what happens next? The Olympic and Paralympic Games promised to provide a lasting sporting legacy for young people. Disappointingly for the many grassroots sports organisations struggling for survival, it remains to be seen if and how this commitment will be honoured. Determined to seize the Olympic opportunity, and inspired by the impressive community legacy of the 1984 LA Games, a group of funders yesterday launched Legacy 2013>, a vision for a successful and sustainable post-Olympic future for grassroots sport.

Photo: John Curnow on FlickrJudging by the packed room of funders and community sports organisations at the launch, there’s certainly lots of support for establishing an endowed fund to bring new money into grassroots sport. As Anita DeFrantz, Olympic medalist and IOC member, explained, it’s a model that’s worked before. Anita is President of the LA84 Foundation which, endowed with $93m surplus funds from the LA Olympics, has invested over $200m to promote youth sport and increase knowledge of the impact of sport on people’s lives, and is now self-sustaining. With the conviction that ‘sport is a birthright’ and firsthand experience that a small investment in sport can generate a huge return, Anita applauded the Legacy 2013> initiative for taking the lead in ensuring that London delivered on its promise to be a legacy games.

Unlike the LA Games, where the LA84 foundation knew it would receive 40% of any Olympic surplus to invest in community sport, Legacy 2013> has no such guarantee. In addition to lobbying for funding from the Olympic underspend, Legacy 2013> is exploring a broad income generation and sponsorship model, including targeting corporates and philanthropists.

Yet, as Anita cautioned, sport doesn’t always sell. This reflects a key message that emerged from the ‘Sport for Good’ event which NPC chaired a few weeks ago—that the sport for development sector needs to do more to evidence its impact. As NPC’s research has demonstrated, sport can boost fitness and health, improve social skills, and can be a powerful tool to tackle youth crime and anti-social behaviour, getting young people off the streets and engaging them in something they feel passionate about. The grassroots sports sector knows this—everyday it witnesses these benefits of sport on the lives of young people. Now it’s time to make sure that everyone else is aware of these benefits; to ensure that sport is recognised as a life changing tool, not just a luxury.

It’s encouraging that the Legacy 2013> feasibility study recognises the need for more continuity and consistency in monitoring, evaluation and impact measurement in grassroot sport, and establishes proper funding for this as one of its core grantmaking criteria.

This forms part of what Andy Sutch, Chair of the London Federation of Sport and Recreation, stated should be the real legacy of the games—to coordinate and fund sport more effectively. Spurred on by the current crisis in grassroots sports funding and the recognition that there really was no one taking responsibility for ensuring a sustainable community sport legacy for the Olympics, Legacy 2013> marks an attempt to move away from ‘initiative-itis’, towards a truly collaborative approach between funders. Rather than add to the already complex, fragmented short-term funding landscape for grassroots sports, Gaynor Humphreys, Director of London Funders, explained that the proposed endowment fund would act as an independent intermediary, directing money through established grant makers, into areas of community sport most neglected by existing funding streams.

It’s a great concept, and, if successful, could act as a blueprint for more collaborative, demand-led funding approaches beyond London, and in other issue areas. The clock is ticking though. As the event drew to a close, Edwin Moses, Olympic track and field gold medalist, was asked for advice on overcoming the hurdles faced by Legacy 2013>. Act now, was his response— ‘things are going to get a lot more difficult after the Games’.

Find out more about the project on the London Funders website.

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