The Effectiveness of Sports


This paper proposes to study the effectiveness of sports orientated initiatives in areas of social inclusion. Currently there exists a host of sports development initiatives to tackle the various issues arriving from social inclusion.

Specifically focus will be with the effect on youth crime figures and quality of life in host neighbourhoods. Operation Reclaim in Glasgow's East end will be the chosen sports development initiative within a social inclusion zone. It is a relatively new project thus not yet evaluated.

Sport initiatives for the wider community are often used as tools in an attempt to tackle a range of society's ills. Governments perceive the value of sports initiatives as high and are increasingly investing resources in this area. Programmes are designed to tackle health, crime, education, employment and urban regeneration. As such these programmes are evaluated to gauge effectiveness, to secure further funding and to learn from previous initiatives for the benefit of future endeavours.

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There are currently an extensive range of studies into sports related initiatives as a means to tackling social problems in areas of social inclusion. The relationship between sports development initiatives and crime focuses on two main issues - crime rehabilitation and crime prevention, Operation Reclaim centres on the latter. Research on previous case studies is available and predominantly evaluates the success of a programme by quantitative analysis of crime figures.

Operation Reclaim is an initiative instigated and partially funded by Strathclyde police in conjunction with Culture and Sport Glasgow and Sidekix. Set up to provide the youth of Glasgow's east end with an opportunity to participate in a structured sports programme and to "Reclaim" the pitches of Glasgow from anti-social activity to recreational use. Police forces throughout the country are looking to sport as a diversionary tactic as some commentators consider that, when compared to the costs of the prosecution and detention process, such programs are good value for money.

The chosen initiative "Operation Reclaim" was established in 2004 by Strathclyde police. Operation Reclaim was designed to "reclaim the pitches of Glasgow" for use of recreational purposes and its broad aims were to;

  • "Increase participation in physical activity.
  • Increase opportunities for racial integration.
  • Break down territorial barriers.
  • Reduce both youth and racially motivated crimes.
  • Wider Communities feel safer; less fearful of becoming a victim of crime.
  • Community Vibrance, Personal Opportunities & Improved Quality of Life for Local Residents."

With on going localised gang related violence, crime figures relating to youth and integration of asylum seekers being an issue for the police and surrounding area, the best course of action decided was to pre-empt this disturbance. This social blight on the east end of Glasgow was to be tackled by development through sport - giving youth the opportunity to express themselves through playing games and tackle the boredom that lead to such problems.

"The recreation ground at Red Road was a typical example of these kinds of hot spots across the city . . . Residents just avoided it. There were running battles between kids every night of the week, and people no longer felt safe using it."

The purpose of this proposal is to validate the success of this sports development initiative, by evaluating Strathclyde police's success against their own aims for the project.

Literature review

A review of current literature relating to sports development initiatives for social inclusion zones was conducted predominantly through internet journal databases, particularly Athens. provided a useful library of reference materials, mostly these materials related to the period at the turn of the century when social inclusion was at the forefront of the labour governments agenda.

The most comprehensive of existing literature with regards to a holistic approach to studying the issue of social inclusion and the role sport has to play is the Scottish Executive Central Research Unit's "The role of sport in regenerating deprived areas". This study was commissioned jointly by the Scottish office and Sportscotland to explore the role sport has played in the regeneration of urban areas in Scotland and to explore the wider evidence for the assumption that sport can contribute positively to aspects of urban regeneration and social inclusion. Its diverse approach to this concept sees areas such as "potential contribution of sports to physical and mental health, reducing crime, improving educational performance, providing employment, contributing to volunteering and community development, environmental improvements and issues relating to minority ethnic groups" being covered. As Operation Reclaims aims are to tackle crime and social (predominantly racial) integration the aforementioned areas, although insightful, are only in part relative. This document also illustrates other initiatives in case study format, allowing for comparison. It must again be reiterated that operation reclaim focuses on the prevention of crime by preoccupying the subject rather than rehabilitation of an offender.

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Social inclusion itself is defined numerously in government policy (with a designated website administrated by the government's Social Inclusion Unit) both individually and within the context of sports initiatives.

"Social inclusion is a label for the issue of when individuals or areas suffer from a combination of linked problems such as unemployment, poor skills, low incomes, poor housing, high crime environments, bad health and family breakdown."

The definitions of social exclusion offered by the Cabinet Office and in Social Exclusion: Opening the Door to a Better Scotland both include "living in a high crime environment" which is a key aim for Operation Reclaim. Four policy-related reviews of the potential social value of sport list the prevention of youth crime as an issue to which sports can make a contribution.

Social inclusion is often tackled jointly with economic regeneration of cities or areas within. This can be attributed (in part) to social inclusion zones being an inevitable byproduct of economic hardship.

As shown above there is an issue within conditions in Scotland that lead to neighborhoods being classed as areas of social inclusion. Examples of these conditions being tackled by sport exist but predominantly success is judged by varying standards.


Quantitative and qualitative research method will both be used in the study. Quantitative method will be used to quantify the frequency and percentage of crimes that will be identified. A qualitative method will be employed to ascertain resident's opinion on operation reclaims social element targets.

Comparative statistical analysis of youth crime and racially motivated crime related figures will be produced using pre and post initiative data (One year into the programme). Youth crime related figures shall be those associated to all crimes committed by persons less than twenty years of age and over eight (eight being the age of criminal responsibility) as defined by Strathclyde police. Primary data shall be ascertained from Strathclyde Police though this shall be validated by findings from The Scottish Executive and Glasgow's Youth Justice Services. Results of findings shall then be compared to Operation Reclaim's objectives to gauge the program success by its own aims. These comparative statistical analyses will show the impact that operation reclaim has had in Glasgow's east end. Results will be shown in bar graph format with the year difference being main heading.

Attendance figures for the activity programme will be provided by Sidekix Ltd as to ascertain the relative percentage of participants in the initiative to general population within social inclusion zone.

A questionnaire (Appendix A) shall be carried out on a cross section of the population living in operation reclaims target zone. Equal numbers of participants shall be sought from each specific sight (i.e. Sighthill, Springburn, Quarrywood, Royston and Red road), 150 questionnaires in total. Subjects shall ideally be from various ethnic backgrounds and age groups to ensure a high level of varied cultural representation.

The questionnaire shall relate to two factors - community ambiance before and after Operation Reclaim. It shall use a series of Likert items to asses the respondents evaluation of a given criteria. Specifically to which degree they agree or disagree to a chosen statement on a one to five scale. The ultimate aim of the questionnaire shall be to direct the subjects towards answering if the aims of the project have been achieved.

Statistical analysis shall be administered using SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) to test the theory that the implementation of a sports initiative has improved conditions in a social inclusion zone.

As the Likert Scale method is being used all data collected will be numerical. Using descriptive statistics, the measure of central tendency used will be the mean value (to 1 decimal place) for each category calculated for each group (i.e. coded 0-5 for each area, 0-1 for year separation in crime figures) and presented graphically for easy reference purposes.


Operation Reclaims aim to "Increase participation in physical activity" may prove difficult to gauge as there was no structured exercise program in place previously and as such figures unavailable.

By conducting a questionnaire in the host community suggests that participants feel comfortable/safe enough, to a degree, to be active in their community. Another possible constraint to the questionnaire is language barrier. Being performed in a diverse cultural area it should be highlighted that again subjects who participate are already integrated into the area by means of reading, writing and speaking English. To tackle these issues subjects who are able to act as translators may be used to facilitate others.

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Subjects must also be asked if they have resided in the area for long enough to compare previous community conditions with those of an active Operation Reclaim.


It has been noted that a control group, of which consisted equal numbers of participants who were unaffected by Operation Reclaim, theoretically could be set up for comparative purposes.

Similarly to gauge the effectiveness of this initiative it may be compared to a similar case study elsewhere. This would imply having to have similar social conditions, although methods of carrying out the programme may differ.


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