An Observatory for Sport in Scotland – a Project Proposal for Funding


– supporting the Scottish sport stakeholders and networks – a project proposal for funding through robust research, indexing of participation, and resultant opportunities

For me this is the most important post of mine to date. Very keen to get feedback from readers and followers asap. Of course, aspiring to enlist the support financial and “in kind” investment of individuals and organisations.

A seminar will be staged this summer to discuss – let me know if you wish to attend.


Sport can be a force for improvement of all aspects of life, with potential benefits impacting upon health and well-being, gender and race relations, education and social welfare, civic pride, law enforcement, business and tourism.

Our vision is to build an evidence-based platform that recognises this potential for improvement across the range of sports activities and levels, including school sport, but with a particular focus on community sport, which we see as the primary underpinning infrastructure.

The platform would be built on the development of a set of criteria, recognising, but significantly enhancing existing models, collecting data and measuring community sport participation, and facilitate benchmarking with other countries, such as Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden and the Netherlands (countries associated with high levels of  sport participation and good governance).

The Observatory for Sport will fill a gap in the Scottish sports landscape particularly  –  by creating a body, which based on objective information, will drive open, ongoing and transparent debate and decision-making aimed at taking sport forward.


  • To develop an evidence base regarding the impact of sports policy initiatives in Scotland and internationally, in particular related to community sport participation which is a fundamental human right.
  • To inform, initiate and analyse public debate on key issues impacting upon sports in Scotland.
  • To establish a pool of knowledge and general overview of academic and other forms of sports research, both nationally and internationally, based on existing and original research.


  • Develop criteria and collect information to faciliate the implementation of our vision and mission outlined above.
  • Raise awareness and create insights into the links between sports, formal and non-formal education, culture, health and society at a local, national and international level, thereby contributing to building a comprehensive understanding of sport.
  • Raise questions in the sports political debate and encourage a free, independent, transparent and fair debate on the affairs of sport and its development locally, nationally and internationally.
  • Create an overview of and provide perspectives on current research and debates about sport and sports politics nationally and internationally and assess the implications of initiatives on the fields of sports politics and formal and non-formal education.
  • Undertake and commission research, write reports and evaluate issues of importance for the development of sport.
  • Communicate insights and knowledge to the public in an accessible and relevant manner that gives journalists, academic researchers and decision-makers the inspiration and tools to work with in cultural, social and economic aspects of sport
  • Create networks and partnerships across national borders and professional boundaries to facilitate debates on the challenges that arise from a globalised sport and media world
  • Host an annual forum encouraging the discussion of relevant ideas and issues


The Observatory would be a charity with a Board of 5-10 Trustees. Board Members which would represent the principles on which the Observatory is based (see last section) Competencies would include Scottish and international sports, politics, media, sports research, and finance. Appropriate co-options might include sponsors and other stakeholders.

It is anticipated that initially the Observatory will have a staff of four – Director, Research Director, Research Assistant and Administrator, with work commissioned to eminent academics, journalists and others, participate in collaborations and employ interns.


To maximize our independence we intend to secure funding from multiple sources, fully engaging with all funders, but not being dependent on any one. These would include: individuals; trusts and foundations, in particular for specific research projects; the corporate sector; and government. It is anticipated income will also come from commissioned work, consultancy and other activities such as conferences.

The proposal is for an initial five-year project. The basic costs for staff, research commissioning and office costs are estimated at an average of around £225,000 per annum, with the heaviest expenditure in the first two years. However it is envisaged that the core work of the Observatory will require the establishment of indexing of participation (viz. in community sport, in school sport and in physical activity levels). This work would require to be established at an early stage following the launch of the Observatory. The indexing, which might cost an additional £125,000 – could be funded by the corporate sector, by foundations, by professional networks and government.

Critical Risks and Principles

Relevance, financial and other independence, and credibility and will be key principles.

Relevance: The Observatory must be of importance to key players in sport. That is the only way to ensure that the work is topical and dynamic.

Finance: Clearly raising and sustaining sufficient funding is a critical risk, but also raising funds, which have an impact that is not consistent with the Principles of the Observatory is a key risk.

Independence: The Observatory must be independent of political considerations or special interest groups. This is the only way to ensure that the work of the Observatory will be credible and above reproach.

Credibility and authority: The work of the Observatory must be highly professional based on high standards of academic excellence combined with the ability to communicate well. That is the only way to ensure the necessary degree of fairness.

A Successful Observatory?

After the initial five years of operations: the Observatory will have established Scottish indexes for sports and physical recreation; have identified sources of funding for sport; have influenced an improved monitoring of physical activity levels; will have generated links with similar organisations internationally; and through seminars and publications on trends in sport will have supported the endeavours of volunteers, professionals and local and national politicians.

Modus Operandi

This project proposal paper will continue to develop. Ideally individuals, organisations, foundations, government and its agencies will offer their support. A Chairperson of stature would be identified, an exploratory seminar held, a plan agreed and funding then identified. Funding, of course, could include support in kind ( viz. legal, H/R, finance).

One comment

  1. […] I am doing a wee bit of travelling just now – sailing this week and then two weeks in China observing the ISF World Schools Athletics Cup in Wuhan. So it is timely to give readers a wee update on the proposal. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: