The Structure of Leisure and Sport Provision in Great Britain Essay

In this essay I am going to briefly discuss the history of leisure and fitness, going right back to its roots in the medieval period of the 500’s to the 1300’s. I will pass through different time scales on my way such as the pre-industrial times, the industrial revolution period, Victorian times and then eventually on to the modern day era, I will be looking at the way sport and leisure was back in each of these periods, outlining the changes that have been made during these times and looking to see how different leisure activities are now than they were back then.Through all periods I will highlight the most popular leisure activities of that generation.

I will then very briefly outline the types of leisure activities that are on offer to people in today’s society and point out that it is not just sporting events that are classed as leisure activities. Keeping in line with modern day leisure I will discuss in detail the three major sectors in the leisure industry, these being the Public sector, the Voluntary sector and finally the Commercial sector.In these paragraphs I will outline the roles of each sector, the strengths and weaknesses of each sector, the role that politics and the government plays in various sectors and look to give illustrations of my explanations wherever possible. To conclude my essay I will put together a detailed paragraph highlighting how all three of the above mentioned sectors can work together to provide a greater service to the public in today’s society. I will do this by outlining the importance of ‘sector convergence’.

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During the medieval period (500 – 1300) sport and leisure activities consisted mainly of traditional folk games which were played by peasants. Tournaments would be linked in to military training for knights and nobles, who would serve for the royal family and their country. These activities would often involve animal baiting. (Dunning, 1999) The upper class on the other hand would play much more sophisticated games as they had more access to equipment and facilities due to their wealth.Usually these activities involved horses to participate or some form of hunting. If a peasant was ever considered reckless enough to emulate a sport that their masters undertook then they would be instantly punished by death. (Guttman, 1978) Women were also not encouraged to take part in any physical activity. There duty was seen to be housework and taking care of the family.

During the pre-industrial times of 1500-1700 there was an intellectual and cultural movement that started in Italy and worked its way through Europe and eventually to Britain.This brought leisure activities such as; art, architecture, music, drama and dance all performed in theatres and on stage. This also brought about liberalism, which meant that people were more prone to drinking and gambling now and taking part in cruel sports such as ‘cock fighting’. After this came the industrial revolution (1750-1900’s), this led to profound social changes, as populations uprooted from small villages in the countryside to work in the factories in the major towns and cities.

As a result of this there was very limited space for recreational activities and even if there was sufficient space, with people working twelve hour days, they just simply did not have the time to take part in any leisure activities. Owners of the factories feared that too much leisure time would allow their work force to get drunk and increase absenteeism. “Rise in population, poor housing, poverty, crime, increase in working hours all worked against leisure” (Torkildsen, 2005) Rational Recreation then had a massive impact on sport.It was seen to be a response to the appalling social conditions that had to be endured through the times of the industrial revolution. It was brought about by the Victorian middle class beliefs in self improvement, the two main acts that were regarded as significant legislation linked into leisure were, The Museums Act (1845) and The Public Libraries Act (1850) which both encouraged the building of museums and libraries in largely populated towns. The mid nineteenth century marked a turning point in the length of the working week as the recognition of the importance of leisure grew stronger.First there was The Factory Act of 1850, which limited the hours of work in a week to sixty, and then there was The Bank Holiday Act of 1871, which enabled the banks and factories to shut on special occasions.

There was also the introduction of the Saturday half day holiday which spread from Lancashire, from this came the establishment of the weekend which ultimately became a major period for leisure time and activities. The twentieth century saw the growth of recreation with leisure for enjoyment, places like swimming baths, pubs, parks, music halls, cinemas, spectator sports and TV etc.All of the above have led to the way sport and leisure has been formed in today’s society which will be touched on more later in the essay. There are a huge number of leisure activities that are available to everyone in today’s society. Many people get confused and think that a leisure activity is only considered as a sport or an event, but a leisure activity can be anything, it is classed as an activity that an individual enjoys, activities such as; Swimming, drinking, eating, reading, walking, hiking, climbing, playing sports, drama, acting, dancing, picnics, theatre etc.The list is endless and a leisure activity mainly comes down to what an individual person wants to do at that specific time, whatever they feel they will enjoy and will relax them outside of their normal working hours.

In modern day Britain there are three main sectors when it comes to sport and leisure within society. These are the Public sector, Commercial sector and Voluntary sector. All three of the sectors each have different origins and traditions, as well as having different aims and motivations.The role of the public sector is to provide low-cost community based leisure services for everyone – ‘leisure for all’.

It is large scale provision of public recreation that is provided by both the central government and the local government. One main weakness of the public sector is that it is largely non-statutory and therefore the level of provision can vary considerably across authorities. The public sector will be found providing leisure services through the local council in recreation centres, swimming pools, local parks with leisure facilities, libraries, museums and art galleries.Places that will provide leisure for low or even no cost at times and can facilitate for a large number of people if need be.

Politics plays a huge part in the public sector as its principles are outlined by local governments and by the national government. Each new government that comes to power has its own views on leisure and sport provision and will in no doubt change things to their liking, that is why the sector is forever changing and will continue to as long as electoral power is being fought for.With the successful bid to hold the Olympic Games in 2012 in London, the government have therefore promised high levels of investment into the sector to increase popularity, inclusion and create more jobs in the sector, all positive outcomes of such a massive sporting event and the mass income expected to be gained from hosting the event. The origins of the public sector are that in 1905 there was the Foundation of Welfare State, which recognised that it had responsibilities to care for the welfare of citizens.Between 1907-1937 various acts were passed such as; 1907 – National Trust – access to land 1919 – Forestry Commission Act – access for leisure purposes 1937 – Physical training and recreation Act – provision of playing fields and gyms In 1965 sports councils were established and in 1974 the local government’s recognisation that led to a substantial increase in local authority investment in leisure. This is showed in 1972 there were 30 municipal sports centres and less than 500 indoor pools and by 1978 there were 350 sports centres and 850 swimming pools.

In 1997 the election of new labour replaced virtually everything the conservatives had done in the previous reign with local authorities, but most memorable was the change of CCT (Compulsory Competitive Tendering) to ‘Best Value’. This shows that the public sector is a forever changing sector due to the influence of politics and the constant change. Modern Structure of Public Sector National Government ? National Agencies/Organisations (Sport England, Youth Sport Trust, NGB’s) ?? Local GovernmentLEA’s (Sport Dev.Units/SPAA’s)(PDM’s/SSCO’s/Comp Managers) The next sector is the voluntary sector, the poorest sector in regards to funding and cost as usually it is providing a service to people for free and with very basic equipment. This sector relies heavily on limited government funding. The term ‘volunteer’ is seen as giving a service to others and can also be seen as a leisure activity in itself. (Torkildsen, 2005) Jarvis and King (1997) point to the three elements that make up a volunteer: The gift of time The element of free choice The lack of paymentThe role of the voluntary sector is providing sporting and leisure opportunities to the local community through grass root organisations for little or no cost.

They are independent of government initiatives and targets and are usually run by like minded people for the love of what they are doing and nothing else. The sector is also seen as a great way for newly qualified coaches to gain valuable experience in there chosen sport or activity. Usually in some volunteer organisations there is a possibility that they will offer organised amateur competitions for its members in a number of different sports. Volunteering is undertaken with different motives and in pursuit of different purposes” (Torkildsen, 2005) As Parker (1997) identifies and outlines the four different types of volunteer; -Altruistic – giving time and effort unselfishly to help others -Market – giving something ‘freely’ but expecting something in return at a later date -Cause serving – promoting a cause they believe in -Leisure – primarily seeking a leisure activity The strengths of the sector are that it has the ability to respond to special needs which is perhaps not offered in the commercial or public sectors.It can also involve local people in meeting these needs with community development and it can relieve the government of such duties and responsibilities.

The voluntary sector can work in partnership with the other two sectors if need be, it most commonly partners up with the public sector as they can both provide low cost large scale leisure for a wide variety of people. The weaknesses are that the sector often struggles to find suitable facilities, resources and equipment, and sometimes will falter through its lack of qualified personnel or volunteers.The sector does not gain enough recognition for its commitment to leisure services and ultimately will lose experience and qualified staff to the public or commercial sectors as they will pay the employee. The final sector is the Commercial sector or sometimes referred to as the ‘Private’ sector. This sector is usually run by big national companies owning a number of sites across Britain, the most common example being gyms and health clubs.

This sector is all about the money, they want to make as much revenue as possible and quick as possible, it will usually involve a membership fee to sign up nd then costly monthly membership payments after that, this ultimately isolating their facilities only to people that can afford it. The strengths of the commercial sector is that they are the ones that make the most money as they offer the best services, the best facilities and they tend to offer more than the other two sectors. It makes a member feel special or proud to say that they are a member of that organisation or club. They will look after their members, usually giving away gifts, prizes or free incentives after reaching certain milestones within the club, but they are always looking to recruit new members.

Because of their revenue and wealth they often have fancy recruitment campaigns, free trials and various other promotions and offers to try and attract the new members. Therefore they always have the upper hand on smaller, public sector organisations with the finance that they have at their disposal. The weaknesses of the sector are that it only caters for the people that can afford to use their facilities and sometimes their prices are extortionate and inaccessible for most people. This is then cutting off the service to the mass participants and forcing them to go elsewhere where the facilities are not as good.

Another weakness is that sometimes the people running the organisations will be so focused on figures and numbers that they lose track of the most important thing, which is the customers. Also the sector is usually very specific, it doesn’t really offer a wide variety of leisure activities, it will just offer a select few and work around their strengths, this also isolating members of the public. Although each sector has its own set of beliefs and its own vision which differs from each other, there are still occasions where sectors will team up and work together to help attract a wider target audience.This is called sector convergence. The most common sectors that will tend to work together are the voluntary sector and the public sector, mainly during school holidays where local council will set up sports activity weeks and recruit volunteers in to assist with the delivery of the activities.

The commercial sector will sometimes work with the voluntary sector also and it’s only on rare occasions that they will team up with the public sector.Commercial organisations will sometimes take on volunteers to help them gain experience in their chosen field, usually with a view to make it a permanent at the end of the voluntary period, although the commercial organisation will always have a view of how it can help there business. Sector convergence can be seen as a good thing as it seems to open up the leisure provision to a greater target, but with sport and leisure, what seems to be the common trend is that it is all about the individual targets needs.


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