Pwyllgor Diwylliant, Cyfathrebu, y Gymraeg, Chwaraeon, a Chysylltiadau Rhyngwladol

Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport, and International Relations Committee

04/05/2022

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Alun Davies AS
Carolyn Thomas AS
Delyth Jewell AS Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Heledd Fychan AS
Tom Giffard AS

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Aled Lewis Ymddiriedolaeth Cymdeithas Bêl-droed Cymru
Football Association of Wales Trust
Chris Munro Undeb Rygbi Cymru
Welsh Rugby Union
Fergus Feeney Nofio Cymru
Swim Wales
Geraint John Undeb Rygbi Cymru
Welsh Rugby Union
Hanna Guise Nofio Cymru
Swim Wales
Leshia Hawkins Criced Cymru
Cricket Wales
Matthew Williams Cymdeithas Chwaraeon Cymru
Welsh Sports Association
Mojeid Ilyas Criced Cymru
Cricket Wales
Noel Mooney Cymdeithas Bêl-droed Cymru
Football Association of Wales
Phil John Pêl-fasged Cymru
Basketball Wales
Victoria Ward Cymdeithas Chwaraeon Cymru
Welsh Sports Association

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Lleu Williams Clerc
Clerk
Martha Da Gama Howells Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Robin Wilkinson Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Rhun Davies Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Tanwen Summers Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:30.

The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:30.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau.
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Bore da. Croeso i'r sesiwn yma o'r Pwyllgor Diwylliant, Cyfathrebu, y Gymraeg, Chwaraeon, a Chysylltiadau Rhyngwladol. Heddiw, dŷn ni'n cynnal sesiynau i mewn i'n hymchwiliad ni i gyfranogiad mewn chwaraeon mewn ardaloedd difreintiedig. Hoffwn i groesawu'r Aelodau i'r pwyllgor hyn a hefyd y tystion. Dŷn ni wedi cael ymddiheuriadau gan Hefin David y bore yma. Oes gan unrhyw Aelodau fuddiannau i'w datgan? Dwi ddim yn gweld bod yna rai, felly fe wnaf i symud ymlaen at ein sesiwn dystiolaeth gyntaf y bore yma.

Good morning. Welcome to this meeting of the Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport, and International Relations Committee. Today, we're holding an inquiry into participation in sport in disadvantaged areas. I'd like to welcome Members to this committee and also witnesses. We've received apologies from Hefin David this morning. Do any Members have any declarations of interest to declare? I don't see that anyone does, so I'll move on to our first evidence session this morning.

2. Ymchwiliad i gymryd rhan mewn chwaraeon mewn ardaloedd difreintiedig: Sesiwn dystiolaeth gydag undebau chwaraeon (1)
2. Inquiry into participation in sport in disadvantaged areas: Evidence session with sporting unions (1)

Gaf i ofyn i'n tystion gyflwyno eu hunain ar gyfer y record, plis? Mae gyda ni rai tystion ar y sgrin, so fe wnaf i fynd at y rhai ar y sgrin yn gyntaf. Fe wnaf i fynd at Aled yn gyntaf, sydd ar y sgrin.

Can I ask our witnesses to introduce themselves for the record, please? We have some witnesses on the screen, so I'll go to those on the screen first. I'll go to Aled first of all. Thank you.

Bore da, bawb. Croeso, mae'n bleser bod yma heddiw.

Good morning, everyone. It's lovely to be here this morning.

Aled Lewis, head of football development, Football Association of Wales.

Diolch, Aled. Neil—Noel. I was thinking, 'That's Noel Mooney—why does it say "Neil" on my screen?' Sorry, Noel.

Bore da. Noel Mooney, chief executive officer of the Football Association of Wales.

Chris Munro, national club development manager with the Welsh Rugby Union.

Bore da, bawb. Geraint John, community director for the Welsh Rugby Union.

Leshia, yes. Bore da, bawb. Leshia Hawkins, chief executive, Criced Cymru/Cricket Wales.

Bore da. Mojeid Ilyas, diversity community officer for Cricket Wales, and diversity champion and talent scout for Glamorgan cricket.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Mae'n bleser cael chi i gyd gyda ni y bore yma.

Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to have you all with us this morning.

I'll go straight into questions, if that's all right, and this is an overarching question that is going to be relevant, I think, to all of the sports covered here. How do you think that reducing access to watching elite sport will impact, if in any way, on participation in deprived areas? Obviously, in the context of the last Wales autumn rugby internationals being moved behind a paywall, and something similar happening with football as well. What impact do you think that will have, if at all, on participation in deprived areas? If anyone wants to go first, if you want to raise your hand on this. No-one wants to go first. [Inaudible.] Noel. Noel would like to go first.

Yes. It's quite topical for us at the moment, of course. Our rights are sold by UEFA, as you may know, and recently there was an announcement that our rights for 2024-28 are sold to a subscription channel. We don't know what 2022-24 is yet; that will be announced quite soon.

We've got a very strong relationship, as you may know, with S4C, who have played a very integral part in the growth and development of Welsh football, the whole energy behind our red wall, the popularisation of football—S4C have played a magnificent role in that. So, it's something that is quite topical for us at the moment. We believe that, with the Welsh language being such an important part of the FAW and of Welsh football—I'd like to see us as champions of the Welsh language and Welsh culture and Welsh life. That relationship with S4C is very important.

So, in the last week, as you know, we see that our rights for 2024-28 have been sold by UEFA to a subscription channel, so there's a lot of discussion here about it. We've spoken to S4C pretty much every day since then and we're in a lot of discussion about how we can really build and grow our relationship with S4C. But in answer directly and succinctly to your question, our view is that we'd like as many people as possible—. Accessibility is a crucial part of sport, and being able to see Jess Fishlock or Gareth Bale or Aaron Ramsey, or these inspirational figures that have grown up in Wales and have gone on to become global superstars, is very important to people in all communities, but certainly in deprived communities.

Football is clearly coming from a working-class background. The sport grew up in the working class and belongs very much to the people. For us, we want as many people as possible to see our matches and to see our stars, to inspire them to get out and to kick a ball, to do whatever sport they do, but to be inspired by our stars. So, we believe that accessibility to our players and to the Welsh national teams—whatever sport that is, of course—is absolutely crucial.

It's something we're very cognisant of here at the FAW, and something that we will always work towards is to get people in every community, but, of course, deprived communities, who need to dream—they need to be able to see a brighter future, and by watching our players, they see a brighter future; they have their dreams in front of them, and we don't want to deprive anybody of that, so it's really important to us. We strongly believe that as many people that can see the sport—. It's very important to the sport of football that people can see it. So, yes, it's very important, I would say, Chair, that people can see our stars. 

09:35

Thank you very much, Noel. Thank you. 

Geraint, roeddech chi'n 'indicate-io', beth bynnag ydy 'indicate-io' yn Gymraeg, eich bod chi eisiau dod mewn hefyd. 

Geraint, you were indicating—I don't know what indicating is in Welsh—that you wanted to come in too.

I'll just sort of reiterate what Noel said there. I think one of the key things is accessibility for youngsters in today's world, and to get them active is vitally important, and having the accessibility of being able to—. Yes, I'm here representing rugby, but for us, and I think Noel mentioned this as well—it doesn't matter what sport, we just want young people being active. We've got cricket here today, ourselves, rugby, and football. We just want people to see the stars that are out there. I think one of the key things is that the biggest, whether it's an ally, or a big strength that we have is our Welsh language, and that enables us to help that negotiation, to get sport on our tv, and S4C plays a part in that. We're fortunate—. Yes, it's behind closed doors. We've got the six nations that isn't behind closed doors, and we've got to protect that and make sure that continues to be seen and be accessible for all people, whether that's in the English language, but also mainly in the Welsh language. And, again, when we do the deals for November, as you said, for the autumn internationals, the Welsh language plays a major part in our negotiations and our discussions with regard to that.

I think we're always pushing for that, because it's about how we get our youngsters out there, being active, being healthy, being engaged in no matter what sport. And I think you'll find, probably all the way through this conversation, that we do have really good relationships as sports. We want to work together and help each other to get people in Wales active. I know it's a very common way of saying it, but it is true. But the language plays a massive part for us, and S4C plays a massive part for us as well. 

Thank you very much for that. And, Leshia, you wanted to come in. 

If I may just make this point—it's more of a personal point, I guess. I sit here as a product of cricket being on free-to-air tv in the late 1980s, early 1990s, and being able to stumble across the game and fall in love with it. I wouldn't say that I came from a particularly disadvantaged background; I think the point is wider than just people being able to access sport, and, as I say, fall in love with it and form a lifelong love of the sport. 

I also can speak as a former employee of the England and Wales Cricket Board. Obviously, cricket itself went behind a paywall after the 2005 Ashes, and I guess there's a bit of a romanticised view of 2005 and Channel 4. Well, firstly, if England hadn't won such an amazing series, perhaps people wouldn't hold it with such high regard, but I think also people forget that Channel 4 used to switch to the 2.30 p.m. at Haydock for large chunks of the Ashes. So, there's a balance here, I think, and I think what Sky brought to cricket was being able to expand cricket. I appreciate behind a paywall it's very difficult, it's very contrary to say that. But what Sky did for women's cricket in particular, being able to dedicate that amount of hours to both women's cricket and domestic cricket took it potentially to a wider audience. I guess there's always a balance of the financial sustainability of the sport, but also the accessibility of the sport. And I do think—of course I would say this—that cricket now has it right with Sky's money, and the outstanding production values and so forth, but also having the BBC for the Hundred, and obviously we're looking at trying to get cricket back onto S4C in Wales as well, to pick up the points around the Welsh language. But I think it is a balance. 

Diolch yn fawr iawn i chi gyd. Alun, oeddech chi eisiau dod mewn ar hyn?

Thank you very much. Alun, you wanted to come in. 

Yes, if I could. I grew up with cricket on the tv and I watched it. My son grew up with cricket not on the tv, and he has no knowledge of cricket, not just no interest, but no knowledge. He's got a Glamorgan season ticket for the first time this year, so he'll go through the same experience as I've been through. But I'm interested because an important part of all—. One thing that all sports have in common is the importance of role models, and one thing that I think cricket did very well last season was the male and female games at the same time, and I enjoyed that. I watched women's cricket for the first time last season, and I think it's a real improvement. But if you are restricting access to sport for financial reasons, which is essentially what you're doing by putting things behind paywalls, then you are reducing the exposure of people to that sport, you're reducing the ability of people to become role models and the rest of it. And all of those different impacts are going to be worse for poor people than people who are not poor—all of them. So, my constituency will suffer proportionately worse, in Blaenau Gwent, as a consequence of that. And what we're seeing at the moment is that there's far less cricket in Blaenau Gwent than there was when I was growing up—far less—and I think that's partly as a consequence of that. We're seeing a reduction, Geraint, in the number of people playing rugby, and you know that. And I think Noel is absolutely right, in terms of the way that tv has improved the place of Welsh football. When I watched Wales in the 1970s, frankly, it was a pretty lonely experience.

So, the importance of access to the high-level games, I would have said, is essential for everything else. And so how do you balance those different priorities? Because I remember, Geraint, we had this conversation a couple of months ago, with the WRU, around the six nations, and the west car park is a different place to Westgate Street, and you know that, and I know that, and the audience for Welsh rugby is different to the audience for English rugby, for argument's sake, and Irish rugby and Scottish rugby. It has a different place in the community, and so the priorities have to be different as well. I'm interested as to how you're going to prioritise all those different imperatives.

09:40

Very happy to respond to that. Look, I can't disagree with your point on ECB. Crunch the numbers over that time when cricket was behind the paywall, and for all the benefits that I've described and the investments that we—they—could make into women's cricket and so forth, it was recognised that there was a lost generation. And cricket does already suffer from a perception—and I'm not sure that I see it as much in Wales—that it's an elitist sport. It certainly has that reputation, though, certainly, over the bridge, and you only need to look at the proportion of people who play for England, or even play professional cricket, both male and female, who were privately educated, so that bears out. So, as I say, I think it is a balance between financially sustaining your organisation—national governing bodies are always told to reduce their reliance on the public purse, and where is the best way to do that, particularly as a very big, high-profile sport? It's in tv rights. The tv rights will make more money than any tickets or secondary spend will ever make you, however many fixtures you have.

So, I think it is the balance of bringing the money in and then distributing proportionately, ensuring that we are bringing more kids into the game, accepting your point—I think team sports, across the board probably, have plateaued, if not declined, in most areas in England and Wales, but we're now seeing growth in sections, particularly in junior sections. We've grown female participation in Wales over the last eight years by 658 per cent. That doesn't happen by accident, that happens from investment of resource, great teams that I have, brilliant volunteers that we have on the ground. But as I say, it has to be a balance because it can't be one way or the other, but, equally, I don't think it's a binary argument.

It becomes one, doesn't it? If you take rugby, for example—£100 a ticket, which means I can't take my family to watch games as I used to, and it's behind a paywall, so other people can't even watch it on tv. And so you can't price out the population from the teams that are supposed to represent them.

Absolutely. And for what it's worth, the Hundred will be on the BBC, and I think it's £40 to take two adults and two kids to see the Welsh Fire this season.

Look, I think the ticketing policy, from my experience as a season ticket holder in Glamorgan, is reasonable, it's good, and it works. But the access isn't just for those of us who go to the ground, it's for people who are at home as well.

Just to support, I think, as Leshia said, it's the balance there. I will pick you up on one point, if that's okay—the numbers have not decreased, the numbers have actually increased, and we can prove that fact if you need the information, I'd be happy to support that. But numbers, from pre COVID to post COVID—I don't know about other sports—we've actually got more people now who are registered and playing the game than we've ever had before, which is a real, real plus for us. But, again, it's how we actually put the support, the finances, back that balance it out, put it in there to grow the game, what other aspects do we actually—. As you said, Alun, it's how we get to the people who want to see—are there other ways of doing it through other sorts of methods, in terms of streaming et cetera, the community aspect et cetera? We do make sure, especially in our rugby clubs, like the cricket clubs and football clubs, that there's the element of support for those people in those communities. So, we do have major reduced subscriptions for those club houses, for communities so that they can go to their local rugby club to be able to watch the game and have access to that.

So, those are types of things that we've got to look at and say, 'If it's behind closed doors, how do we invest that money? Where does it go back to? How do we support the communities? How do we grow? And as Leshia said, in terms of, probably, from the female game, and probably Noel will say it again, it's a growing sport for us right now, for everybody. We just had a 40 per cent increase in the female rugby game in the last 12 months, and it's growing dramatically. So, how do you get the investment in? And I understand the question, Alun. So, we're now going into a professional era of women's rugby. To do that, to find finance to support that, we have to support them and where does that money come from?

So, again, it's a balance, but whenever we make these decisions, I think it's important that we make the decisions, saying, 'Yes, we still want our youngsters to be active—how do we get them to be active? Yes, they need role models, so how do they get access to the people?' So, it's that balance all the way through, and that's why we constantly negotiate to get free-to-air—when does it happen?; the prices of tickets—different prices for tickets for families in November internationals, for Six Nations internationals. We talk abut the high-level ticket, but we don't talk about the other level tickets. So, it's that balance all the way through to actually continue to grow the game. But I hope you didn't mind, as I had to pick you up on the point about numbers, because the numbers aren't decreasing.

09:45

It's my experience—it's my experience that doesn't reflect that.

We're going to have to move on, I'm afraid. Thank you for that.

Fe wnawn ni symud ymlaen at Heledd Fychan.

We'll move on to Heledd Fychan.

Diolch yn fawr iawn i chi. Dwi'n gwybod bod nifer ohonoch chi wedi darparu tystiolaeth sydd yn cyfeirio at hyn, ond buaswn i'n hoffi clywed eich barn chi o ran beth rydych chi'n credu yw’r prif rwystrau sy’n atal pobl rhag cymryd rhan mewn chwaraeon mewn ardaloedd difreintiedig yn benodol, a sut mae’r rhain yn croestorri â ffactorau eraill, gan gynnwys oedran, rhyw a rhywedd, statws economaidd-gymdeithasol, daearyddiaeth, anabledd ac ethnigrwydd?

Thank you very much. I know that a number of you have submitted evidence that does refer to this, but I'd like to hear you views on what you think the main barriers are that prevent people from participating in sport in disadvantaged areas specifically, and how do these intersect with other factors, including age, sex and gender, socioeconomic status, geography, disability and ethnicity? 

Ydyn ni'n gallu mynd at yr FAW yn gyntaf ar hyn? 

Can we go to the FAW first of all on this? 

Noel or Aled, would one of you like to pick that up? No?

No, it's okay—you go ahead, Aled.

Yes, you want me to go, Noel? You're happy for me to go? Yes, as we submitted in our evidence, there's huge intersectionality between inequalities in disadvantaged communities, and I think it's something that can't be seen in just isolation with under-represented groups. But one of the things that we're particularly fortunate with with football is that we have a huge network of clubs—over 900 clubs—that are embedded in almost every community in Wales and they are driven by a fantastic network of volunteers that provide fantastic opportunities for community citizens to play football at all ages.

I think the main challenge that we have within disadvantaged communities is accessibility as a broad headline, and, under accessibility, it can cover a broad range of areas such as affordability, choice of appropriate opportunities, access to travel, kit and equipment, but also the appropriate facilities. And I think Noel and I are very much in agreement on this—that facilities are a huge driver because, without facilities, you can't access those opportunities. Investment in facilities needs to be far greater across all sports in Wales, and particularly investment in facilities in disadvantaged communities, to ensure that those facilities are fit for purpose, they're of high quality that inspire individuals to take part in sport, but also at a low cost as well so that the cost of access to those facilities isn't a barrier.

Okay. Alun, were you indicating that you wanted to come in on that? No, you were just smiling—

Diolch, Aled. Leisha, you were nodding as well. Did you want to come in on that?

I was just violently agreeing with everything my colleague said. I looked at the FAW submission yesterday, and I just thought they'd nicked our homework, because I think we're completely aligned on this—facilities in particular, both provision thereof, quantity thereof, but also quality and affordability, and of course cost. But I think this is not unique to cricket; this is not unique to sport. You could choose any leisure pursuit, or way to spend your spare time, and all of these barriers to participation would be the same. But, yes, I would wholeheartedly agree on the facilities point.

I think you've got three sports here that are right across every community right across Wales, and that can have an impact right across Wales as well, with every single person in Wales. But in terms of the facilities part, we all do our own individual programmes to try and get youngsters or get people to play, and we know, obviously, from our submission, in terms of little things that we try and do to get there, there are also certain barriers that are there. We try and overcome those barriers and try and support the youngsters there but, again, it's about—going back to what Aled said—how you actually bring investment in and how you put that investment back out to try and engage with people. But do you mind if I just ask Chris to talk about it from the facilities perspective a little bit more?

09:50

No, not at all. Yes, Chris, and then I think Noel wanted to come in as well, but we'll go to Chris first, and then we'll come back to Noel.

Okay, thank you. So, there are a couple of examples, really, of how we have tackled barriers, with one being our boot recycling scheme. We invested £50,000 into accessing boots for children and adults in high-deprivation areas. I actually spend a lot of my time in work not speaking about rugby. Rugby has obviously got a huge part to play in these areas, but also our rugby clubs are serving these areas as well—they're community facilities, so beyond rugby. We do a huge amount of work in these communities not just tackling health and well-being, but also employability, looking at getting people more skills, CV building, getting these people more active in their communities as well. So, sometimes it transcends the sport as well, and that's where I think rugby's got a real opportunity in the future as well to play a role.

Diolch, Chris. Mi wnawn ni fynd at Noel, ac wedyn nôl at Heledd. Noel.

Thank you, Chris. We'll go to Noel and then back to Heledd. Noel.

Yes, just to build on what the guys were saying and, again, I can speak for football. We are heading towards 120,000 registered players, with probably three times that playing football recreationally. We're extremely strong in the 10 most deprived areas of Wales, and people from black, Asian and ethnic minorities are twice as likely to live in these deprived areas where football is extremely strong, as are, of course, the other sports. Again, as Geraint was saying earlier, we're here to represent football, for example, our respective sports, but it's a sports collective, and it's the sports collective I would be concerned about as well. From a football perspective, we're about £150 million short of anywhere near the facilities we need to have to have a game that functions normally, compared to our neighbours next-door. So, certainly, our role here is to raise the £150 million to build pitches across Wales, because our grass-roots facilities are absolutely disgraceful here. I'm really shocked by how bad the facilities are here. So, if you want to talk about accessibility, Wales is a shocker when it comes to facilities. We've got a plan, though, and thankfully the guys at Sport Wales and the Welsh Government have been excellent in terms of understanding our messaging—they get it. They know what we need to do to address this huge inequality in Wales—never mind in our communities—with the inequality that's in Wales compared to other lands around us. So, we've got an enormous job to do to raise that funding with our friends in the likes of Welsh Government to address this huge accessibility issue, which is the really poor grass-roots facilities we have.

I suppose, as I say, Sport Wales get it, and the Welsh Government get it. One thing I would flag, though, is that we need increased resources to get at these communities where we need to grow our sport—all sports—and, for example, we've been notified that our funding from Sport Wales goes down by 27 per cent as of next April, which is really difficult for us because it means we just can't run the programmes that we want to do in deprived areas, and it means that the communities will lose out, obviously, as a result. From the football perspective, I know very well from Sport Wales that they're trying to increase the pot for all sport, and that should be very much welcome, but, again, as as the chief executive of football, when you get a very significant amount of funding reduced by the Welsh Government through Sport Wales to football, which is clearly a very working class-focused sport that really tackles inequality, tackles deprived communities, really focuses on equality, diversity and inclusion, that's quite hard to take, to be honest with you.

So, I suppose we have an environment here where we're very focused on the facilities and putting the programmes on. And I don't mean short-term programmes; I mean long-term programmes that are sustainable. It's easy for us to go in and get up the bunting and take photographs with the local politician who's opening some short-term programme. That's not what we're about; we do long-term programmes that give really clear social return investment for taxpayers' money, for our own supporters' money who buy the tickets to go to the matches, who follow the Wales team, and who fund their clubs. So, we've got a mixed environment here where we're very well working with the Government in they're ongoing, which we have to do, facility funding, but we've got a very difficult circumstance in terms of funding the sport itself, which will directly impact deprived communities.

Diolch, Noel, am hynny.

Okay. Thank you, Noel, for that.

Your point about grass-roots facilities is something that's come up a lot in evidence. It's something that I think we as a committee are going to be particularly looking at in the course of this inquiry. Carolyn indicated that she wanted to bring in a supplementary, and then I will come back to Heledd. Carolyn.

It was just regarding grass-roots accessibility. I visited Rhyl Rugby Club and they've moved from a semi-rural area into the middle of an urban area, and I know that participants have doubled, haven't they, over the last few years. But it's a community facility as well, with 24 community groups using it as well. And when I visited there, there was a game being played, but there's a play facility, they serve meals, it's on a cycle path and within an urban area. I think 340 children take part now, and two men's teams and a ladies team.

I also visited another facility within the heart of the community. It's had Welsh Government funding—that was community facilities and activities programme funding from Welsh Government—to build the new facility, which was for rugby union, in Queensferry. Again, Welsh Government funding for the new facility, working with the community and volunteers, and I think WRU are involved as well in that one, again, in a deprived area of Shotton, or Queensferry—Deeside, anyway. And there's a women's rugby club there now as well, but it offers other sports and activities—keep fit—just to get people involved, and food, and it's next to a pupil referral unit and an adult disability learning centre. And I just think that these are really good ways forward, engaging the community in deprived areas, bringing in funding from everywhere.

So, how do you work? Do you work with the third sector? How do we get into all these community areas? Is it through Sport Wales? Do you do it yourselves? I'm just interested to know about that, really. And, through schools, I know different areas have—. I know in Flintshire it's Aura Leisure now. Some are still within local authorities, and then some community facilities are through the third sector. So, how do you link with those to try and work with communities?

09:55

I'll bring Chris in in a moment, but I think you've just hit a really important point, and Noel mentioned it as well: the importance of sport and what we can do for everybody across Wales, whether it's, again, football, cricket and rugby that are here. We get people out, we can get people active, but we also can help to grow that positiveness around a lot of the communities as well. As Chris mentioned there, we know that some children and some people find it difficult to take part in sport with the cost, et cetera.

In the Easter programme, we just went around 75 communities and not only had them being active, but we actually fed them. I will say this, that was harrowing. It was really, really harrowing just to see these youngsters and how hungry they were, but the local community came together, and with what sport could provide them as well, and get the mums and dads there as well. This goes back to—. We want these youngsters to continue playing sport throughout their career, and we want them to be active throughout their career.

But going into the Rhyl part, I'm going to hand you to Chris, because Chris was an integral part. We actually tease Chris a little bit because we think it's sort of like his rugby club, the way he talks about that. But you're right in terms of what a community and what a building—. Getting into the right area, getting the right people behind it and showing the support can actually really bring a community together.

I could speak all day about Rhyl and Shotton.

I think the key to it, really, is collaboration, so third sector, other sports, local authority—all of those things, really. It's about what best fits the needs of that community, and you do that through the stakeholder analysis at the start. Aled and I sit on the collaborative group in terms of artificial surfaces. But I think the key thing in this is Welsh Government funding is vital to all the projects that you mentioned there. Yes, we can put in a contribution ourselves, and we do that through finance but also people's support as well. But each of those schemes was Welsh Government funded.

And it wasn't just sports funding, though, was it? It was the community facilities and activities programme funding, and it was education funding as well.

Forgive me interrupting, but I'm really aware of time, I'm afraid. Leshia, you wanted to come in, and then I'll bring in Aled on it as well. Sorry, to interrupt you, Carolyn. Leshia.

Thank you. I particularly wanted Mojeid to speak, but just to, again, violently agree. That is the dream, isn't it, of bringing in multiple partners, multiple funds. I've lost count of the number of cricket clubs that also act as a crèche during the week because, obviously, you're not playing cricket 24/7. Cricket clubs are post offices. In COVID times, Lord's cricket ground became a vaccination centre. So, you know, the possibilities are endless. But I wanted Mojeid in particular just to give you some rich experiences of Grangetown pavilion in particular, if you would. 

So, Grangetown pavilion is one the facilities we use for our street cricket. One of main learnings was we wanted to go into inner-city communities to hold our cricket sessions, rather than ask people to come from Grangetown, Riverside or other areas like Newport to Sophia Gardens. We thought that the Grange Pavilion was a fantastic facility. You'll see there that the amount of community work that goes on is incredible. They've got a cafe where people who maybe can't afford three meals a day can come in and they get their meals for their children. There's a fantastic 3G football facility there. Sometimes, when I wake at 7 a.m. in the morning and go for a walk, you'll see kids who've lined up cones and they'll be doing football drills and cricket drills. You ask them how they're paying for these things and a lot of them say that they're using their education maintenance allowance from sixth form. There's a real passion in those communities and that community centre is where sport really thrives. And like your point, there's a lovely playground facility there, there's a lovely coffee shop now. So, people from different communities and different ages come together and almost celebrate sport in the form of cricket and football as well.

10:00

Diolch, Mojeid. That's lovely, thank you so much. Aled, you had your hand up as well.

Diolch yn fawr. I just wanted to reiterate the huge opportunity that's already been mentioned about the power of sport, but it needs to be utilised much more as a preventative measure and an opportunity, rather than a cure and a reactive opportunity. I think the collaboration with the health sector and the education sector is significant here, and I think that there needs to be more opportunity for us to capitalise on working together with different industries. It's working really well in certain communities and the impact has been significant, but it needs to be scaled up and it needs to be a national drive from the Government, really, to really drive that collaboration between education, health and the sports industry to really look at the huge benefits to the health and well-being of individuals by working together better to impact on communities, but also on individuals, critically.

I think Chris's point around meeting community needs is hugely important. It's not going to be a one-size-fits-all approach. Each community has different needs and has different challenges and I think the opportunity for our sports clubs and our sports network to impact on those in a positive way is huge, and it's something that we just need to have greater resource and a greater drive to really impact on those in a really positive way.

Thank you so much.

Gwnawn ni fynd nôl—. Na, Heledd, wyt ti'n siŵr? Ocê, grêt. Diolch yn fawr iawn am hynna. Gwnawn ni symud ymlaen at Tom Giffard.

We'll go back to—. No, Heledd, are you sure? Okay, great. Thank you very much for that. We'll move on to Tom Giffard.

Briliant. I'm very conscious of time, so I've just got the one question. I just wanted to ask how you measure unmet sporting demand in areas of deprivation. How does that guide any investment decisions that you make? And independently of that, how does Sport Wales use any data it collects effectively to meet demand in those areas as well?

Did you catch that? No. Tom, I think that your sound was picking out a bit. Were you asking about how the organisations use data to measure unmet demand and to make sure that that's how investment is decided? That was the crux of your question, was it?

Yes. And on Sport Wales, as well, whether they use that data effectively when working with some of these organisations.

Great. Thank you very much. Diolch, Tom. Who'd like to go first on this, please? I'll go to someone in the room first. Geraint.

In terms of data, I think we've supplied just a little bit of information about one area that we're looking at right now in terms of the Bargoed area, and how we look at population facilities, et cetera. You look at the participation number, the health and well-being there, the deprivation, child poverty. We try and pull all of that together to look at where we need to go in the future. That's one of the key things at the moment. We'll do that for all of our 300 rugby clubs right now, right across Wales. So, strategically, we'll look at some areas that are very, very strong and other areas that may find that their numbers may be a little bit less than expected—how do we go into those particular areas? So, those are key things. In terms of data, yes, we have all the data from all ages, from minis right through to adults, male and female, for who is actually playing. And then we strategically look at where we actually go.

In terms of Sport Wales, I think Noel touched on it earlier by saying about less funding; we are going to have less funding as a governing body. We're down to over 30 per cent less funding through the school sport survey, because we're not using the data that we particularly have, it's separate data that they will be collecting. And personally, it's not showing what is actually happening out there. So, for us as a sport that wants to grow, same as in cricket, same as in football, we have large numbers, we can reach a lot of the communities; we are going to end up with a huge decrease if the numbers stay the same, moving forward. But it is important that we get into this particular data, we really look at what is required per area, and then, strategically, through officers around the country, say, 'How do we actually get into that particular area, where do we employ staff, where are the key areas to try and up the growth of the game?' I don't know if you want to add on that one in terms of this particular element.

10:05

Yes. I think as well we overlay it with things like local development plans as well—so, where there are going to be new housing populations, what are councils' approaches in terms of green technology. It's an area that we're growing in. I think we have the data, it's bringing that to life now, and I think, as a staff, we've got the means to do that. As Geraint touched upon, I think it will impact around our investment decisions in the future. And you've talked around the Welsh Government community facilities programme—if there are going to be any grant applications made for future money, this information is vital, really, for those informed decisions to be made.

I went to school in Bargoed, so I was very pleased to see the case study. Had Hefin been here, he would've been very pleased as well, because it's the area he's from too.

Just to add on that one, I think one of the key areas is that there is population change where people are moving, and I think, again, collaborations in what is happening in those particular areas. We talked about facilities earlier—what is happening in those particular areas, particularly new schools that are coming in, what facilities are going to be there? We need, as all sports, to be part of that. We need to be engaged in that, we need to be having discussions around that, to help make sure that those young children in that particular area are going to be given the services and the facilities to make them actually become healthy, whether that's in any sport. But I think those are key things, and I feel, sometimes, those key things are missing and we're not heavily involved. And perhaps it's us—as sports, we go off as governing bodies and do things, but if we did things collectively together, I think we'd have a far better return for all communities.

Great. Diolch yn fawr iawn, Geraint. Leshia, were you saying that you wanted to come in, or are you just nodding because you are agreeing?

Completely agreeing. It's one of my big hobby horses around collaboration, particularly sitting here as pitch sports. I appreciate we're not always playing at exactly the same time, but football and rugby are both encroaching into my summer. But that collaboration piece around not only how many teams do we all have and how many times do they want to play and have we got enough pitches—. That is very important, and we're all fortunate that we have data and resource in order to do that, but I'm also very interested in the unmet demand of a different definition, of the people who aren't yet in the game, and how can we all get better, through Sport Wales, looking at behaviours and desires. I appreciate some of that will come out of the surveys, but I do think there's some richer data that we could all get better at collaborating on.

Diolch am hwnna.

Thank you for that.

Noel or Aled, did you want to add anything to that?

I just wanted to add a little bit about the way that we approach things from a football perspective. We have our own football management system where we can monitor levels of participation by age, gender, ethnicity, and overlay that with the Welsh index of multiple deprivation as well, which gives us a really good understanding of access to opportunities across different communities in Wales. But we do access Sport Wales data as well, through the school sports survey and active adults, to understand demand in certain areas, and interpret, then, how that influences decisions. I'll give you an example of our Huddle programme, which is our entry programme for young girls to play football for the first time. We identify locations, based on that data, where there is a lack of opportunities, and target those communities to ensure that they are the future Huddle centres, and working with community organisations and clubs to ensure that those opportunities are embedded within those communities that need it the most. As a result, then, we have the biggest impact, because we are targeting areas of need and providing opportunities and access to opportunities for communities that need it the most.

Diolch, Aled. Okay. We're into our final 11 minutes of the session. Time is against us this morning, but we'll move on to Alun.

Thank you. I was interested in reading the papers on Bargoed as well. I think it'd be useful for the committee to commission some research on that level of analysis in terms of a much more local view of the place of sport and physical activity in areas such as Bargoed. But, in terms of where we're going now, I was interested in reading through all of your papers—and we're grateful to you for that. Both the WRU and the FAW have spoken about the reduction in funding from Sport Wales, and we recognise the importance of that point. But what would be your shopping list to the Welsh Government if you were going to say, 'There are three things that I want for Christmas from Welsh Government'? What would those three things be?

10:10

Now's your opportunity. Leshia was nodding just before Noel, so I'll go to Leshia first and then, Noel, I'll come back to you.

Thank you. I'm also sitting here as a recipient of a more significant cut than my colleagues, so parking that, if I had a shopping list or a Christmas list, we've spoken about meaningful, long-term and sustainable investment into projects. To pick up Noel's point, it's dead easy to go for a weekend and have some great PR shots, but we are very fortunate to have investment from the Lord's Taverners for three hubs for Wicketz, which is a specific programme aimed at disadvantaged communities. Mojeid again may be able to speak, although I'm very conscious of time. We have three hubs in south Wales, in Abercynon, Ely and Llanrumney. We will be the recipient for the first time this summer of Chance to Shine Street investments; there'll be two projects immediately within the next couple of months, kicking off in Wales.

So, we would love to see more sustainable public investment into, as Aled said, where it is needed most. We get the difficulties in investing in sport for sport's sake, but I'm not, unfortunately, convinced that the current model recognises how difficult and how much time and investment it takes to really change lives, and these programs do change lives. I would very much like to see that, and also recognising the, in our view, unique opportunity that cricket has to reach certain communities, particularly ethnic minority communities. It's such a rigid model, and I absolutely admire the data-driven insight and decision making around data, but we need a level of flexibility, recognising those kinds of tactical opportunities. And, of course, more money for facilities.

I'd just like to touch on the work we've done with Cricket Wales on putting activities on within inner-city areas. The main part of my job was promoting cricket within the inner-city areas of Newport and Cardiff, and we've been able to put on a variety of activities of street cricket in Newport and Cardiff, women and girls-only cricket, asylum seeker and refugee cricket, Dynamos programmes, a diversity festival, school cricket, a variety of things. The main challenge we had to overcome was almost understanding that when we measure participation, we look at who plays in the leagues on Saturdays and Sundays and recreational leagues, but there is also a market where people within these areas work on the weekends. If you haven't got a great education or a lot of skills, the well-paying jobs are taxi drivers, working on security sites, working in restaurants and other food places, and if you've got a family and you're a taxi driver, I think you'd much rather earn £250 to £300 on a Saturday to feed your family rather than go and play in a 50-over cricket match.

Upon realising this, we thought it was really important that we made sure there was cricket activity for these people to play during the week, and I think that's where we've managed to excel. We've used tape ball cricket, which is very famous in south Asian countries and it's a really cheap, quick way of playing cricket and reducing the costs of pads, gloves and all that, and facilities. There are massive opportunities within the community lanes, streets and other areas for that, as well. Also, we have the second largest midweek cricket league in the UK. I think that's something that we've grabbed hold of with both hands. We realise that people don't have the time to play weekend cricket and travel if they've got families and jobs, so midweek cricket takes place for two and a half hours. 

There's also the women's and the girls' part in the ethnic minorities. When I first joined the job, I thought it would be very difficult to promote cricket in this area, finding a safe place due to the cultural and religious reasons of most of the women that we're working with, but the response was incredible. We have weekly sessions at Sophia Gardens, at which we have 20, 30-plus women there. With the Dynamos programmes, we have 35-plus girls who went to Riverside warehouse centre, and we've just done general street cricket in those areas.

When I was a kid, we were quite lucky, at the Grange Gardens facility there was a concrete park, and we used to play cricket there all day. There were loads of streets and lanes where we could play cricket, and there was an artificial pitch. I think where we're playing catch up now is that the Grange Gardens facility has turned into a football 3G pitch, which is brilliant in the community, as there have been so many more kids playing football there. As long as they're playing sport, that's brilliant. But, obviously, we've lost a massive number of participants playing there. The Greener Grangetown project has reduced the amount of lanes and streets that are accessible to playing street cricket in, and the Marl park pitch facility was vandalised quite a while ago and it's still in the same condition it is today. That used to be a massive centre for cricket in the community, and other areas as well. So, I think that's why we are playing catch up a bit.

We wrote in our—I'm not sure what it's called—basing on the Rucker Park model—. Ironically, that was created by an influential teacher in Harlem, where he got different community groups together to come to a park, similar to what the lady talked about earlier about working within the community. If you look at the Rucker Park model now, it's incredible. It's almost a centre for sporting excellence by promoting street cricket and by working with inner city areas and those areas. And that's something that we really, really want to do. We don't want to just make cricket a game for the elite or people who can afford specialist coaching sessions.

10:15

Thank you so much. I'm going to go to Noel and then Geraint. And, forgive me, we've only got four minutes left, I'm afraid, of the session. There's a lot more we would have wanted to ask as well. But I'll go to Noel and then we'll come to Geraint.

Delyth, I want to end with a shopping list, which I'll get to in a second, because it's heading towards Christmas in a few months. We are very encouraged by the relationships, right from the First Minister, who spends lots of time at our sports, understanding our sports. He really is invested in what we're doing. We have an excellent Deputy Minister in Dawn Bowden, who has been really supportive of football, certainly, and all sports, I'm sure. She's fantastic to deal with. Sport Wales—Brian Davies and his team—I was at a great event last week where they showed their strategy. Wonderful people. So, I feel the platform is certainly there.

But our shopping list is three Ps. It's very simple. It's places where people can play, which we need significant investment in. It's programmes, like Huddle, which Aled mentioned earlier, that are designed to get more people active, and especially in deprived areas, we'd say. Specific programmes for them would be very welcome. And people: we need people to deliver these, of course. So, I would say places, programmes and people.

What I would say, finally, before I hand over to Geraint, is that it's not just the sport department, of course. We need to cross cut, as Brian Davies would say, with health and education. We spent time with Eluned Morgan recently. We hope to meet Jeremy Miles very soon. But we need to cross cut much better into health and education. So, my shopping list is three Ps: facilities, programmes and people.

And they alliterated as well. That's really great. Thank you, Noel. Diolch. Geraint, I think the final word of the session is likely to go to you on this.

I was going to say, 'Thanks, Alun, for the shopping list', so I'm really pleased that he's asked us. But everybody's said the same thing, I think. It's interesting what Noel said there. The Ps—it's part of your strategy. Places is a part of our strategy—it's so important. We can do all the programmes and we can get people involved, but, if we don't have the places, then—. But I think we need to do that collaboratively with yourselves, Sport Wales, through health and education. We need to make sure that we do that. But it's a long-term investment. It's not about these conversations and then we have another conversation, but what is the long-term project, what is the long-term strategy to actually help and support for all of us. Because we do have an opportunity to actually get people active right across all our sports, but we need to make sure they have (1) the resources, the facilities and the place to do it. Carolyn, you mentioned Rhyl. We talk about Rhyl being a flagship, but Rhyl should be in every single—. That facility should be right across Wales for all our communities, for all our people, and it shouldn't just be the flagship. Our goal is to make sure that every child, no matter where, has an opportunity, and every person can be linked to a local community sports hub.

Thank you so much. Alun has indicated he wants to ask something briefly.

Yes. Could I ask the three governing bodies to write to us on the funding issue, outlining—I think Noel mentioned a figure of £150 million, wasn't it, that you mentioned, Noel—what impact that's going to have on your sports in the coming period, and where you believe investment, public investment, should be for the three sports to achieve what your reasonable ambitions would be, both in terms of the ability of the professional sport to function, but also then the impact and the playing triangle, if you like, within the different communities?

Fantastic—everyone's indicating that you'd be happy to do that. That's brilliant. 

Diolch yn fawr iawn ichi i gyd am y dystiolaeth y bore yma. Mae'n flin gen i fod amser wedi'n trechu ni. Bydd nifer o bethau, dwi'n meddwl, y byddwn ni eisiau ysgrifennu atoch chi yn eu cylch nhw, ynghyd â beth mae Alun wedi gosod mas. Bydd transgript o'r hyn sydd wedi cael ei ddweud yn cael ei anfon atoch ichi wirio ei fod o'n gofnod cywir o'r hyn sydd wedi cael ei ddweud y bore yma. Ond dŷn ni'n edrych ymlaen at weithio gyda chi ar yr ymchwiliad hwn a dros y blynyddoedd nesaf hefyd. Ond diolch yn fawr iawn ichi am y dystiolaeth y bore yma.

Thank you very much for your evidence this morning. I am sorry that time has taken over. There are a number of things that I think we'll want to write to you about, with regard to what we've set out. There will be a transcript made available to you so that you can check that it's factually accurate. But we do look forward to working with you on this inquiry and over the next few years also. But thank you very much for the evidence this morning.

Thank you very much.

Diolch.

Aelodau, byddwn ni'n cymryd egwyl fer er mwyn dod â'r tystion nesaf i mewn. Os gall Aelodau fod yn ôl erbyn jest cyn 10:30, plîs.

Thank you.

Members, we will take a short break in order to bring in the next witnesses. If Members could come back just before 10:30, please. Thank you.

10:20

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:20 a 10:33.

The meeting adjourned between 10:20 and 10:33.

10:30
3. Ymchwiliad i gymryd rhan mewn chwaraeon mewn ardaloedd difreintiedig: Sesiwn dystiolaeth gydag undebau chwaraeon (2)
3. Inquiry into participation in sport in disadvantaged areas: Evidence session with sporting unions (2)

Croeso nôl i'r Pwyllgor Diwylliant, Cyfathrebu, y Gymraeg, Chwaraeon, a Chysylltiadau Rhyngwladol.

Welcome back everyone to this meeting of the Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport, and International Relations Committee.

This morning we are holding evidence sessions into our inquiry into access to sport in disadvantaged areas. We are going to be having our second session this morning. I'll ask our witnesses to introduce themselves for the record. We've got two witnesses in the room and one who's joining us virtually. I'll go to our virtual witness first—Phil, do you want to introduce yourself for the record, please?

Yes, Phil John. My name is Phil John, I'm the vice-chairman of Basketball Wales.

Chair, thank you. Fergus Feeney, chief executive of Swim Wales.

Good morning, Chair. Hanna Guise, national learning to swim manager for Swim Wales, also with the responsibility for school swimming.

Lovely to have you all with us. 

Gwnawn ni fynd—.

We'll go—.

We'll go straight to the questions if that's okay. I'll go to Heledd Fychan.

Fyddech chi'n gallu amlinellu—?

Could you outline—?

Oh, sorry—English. You've just asked me to speak in English and I forgot, sorry. 

What are the main barriers to participation in sport in disadvantaged areas? So, how do these intersect with other factors, including age, sex and gender, socioeconomic status, geography, disability and ethnicity?

10:35

Thank you, Heledd. Can I start? I think there's a whole load of barriers there that you've listed, Heledd. And from our perspective, from Swim Wales's perspective, as the national governing body of aquatic sport and aquatic activity in Wales, we face all of those on a regular basis. We break it down to two component parts: one is accessibility and the other is affordability, just in its simplest terms. You'll have heard me say in this committee not so long ago that our vision is aquatics for everyone for life at Swim Wales, and that's something that, again, we're very, very proud of. It's fully inclusive. So, in a relatively small population of whatever it is now, 3.1 million or 3.2 million, we want to get our arms around everybody and provide an environment for everyone to access swimming or aquatic activity. 

We're really proud of the fact that we had, pre COVID, in 2019, 100,000 children every week in swimming lessons or aquatically active in school swimming, and we also had 400,000 adults aquatically active at that time—so, nigh on 15 per cent of the Welsh population aquatically active every week, which—. And to protect that and to keep that going, we have to constantly work on those barriers. We have challenges. We have 500 pools across Wales—the majority, if not all, of those were closed for 43 weeks of 52 weeks. That's a—. We're kind of labouring that point now, we're all getting over it, but it did have a big impact and we're still seeing the residual effects of that impact across the piece: so, where the plus-60s, for example, the older generation, people have got a little bit more reluctant, a little bit more lacking in confidence, maybe, to go outside, where before that wasn't an issue. So, we're trying to persuade that age group, 60 plus, to be physically active. One of the benefits of aquatics and swimming is that there is less stress on the joints; it's not an impact sport. And the plus-60s—. We internally talk about the pathway being nought to 100. That's one aspect.

The other aspect would be rurality and, within the regions, affordability is a big concern—we'll talk about that in a bit more detail; hopefully we'll get a chance to talk about that later on—with transportation to pools in west Wales, for example, or north Wales, or Ceredigion, Powys, where they'd be a lot further afield, they wouldn't be on your doorstep, for want of a better word, like they would be around Swansea, south Wales, Cardiff, Newport, et cetera. So, of those 500 pools, when we map them, there is a large population, as you'd expect, around south Wales. So, west Wales, north Wales, getting to those pools, and not only transportation but access to transportation and the routes, but also now the cost of transportation, is another prohibiting factor. I know I've gone on a bit there, but there are a few aspects to it, so hopefully we can develop that further later on. 

Phil, I'm going to bring in Hanna and then we'll come to you, okay. So, I'm just going to bring in Hanna first and then we'll come back to Phil.

Just to build on what Fergus has shared there, across our network of learn to swim providers across Wales, the average cost of a swimming lesson is around £6.50, and, when you look at the recent StreetGames research that shows that a lower income family will have around £3.75 to spend on active sport per week, you can see straight away that the numbers make it very, very challenging for a lot of our communities to access this potentially life-saving opportunity. Because that's obviously the difference with swimming, the ability to swim and be competent in and around water, that potentially our activity can save your life.

Thank you, Hanna. Phil, before I bring you in, I think Alun Davies wants to ask a supplementary on that point. So, I'm just going to go to Alun and then I'll come to you, Phil. Alun. 

Yes, thank you. Just to follow up on a couple of the points that you've made in those answers, 500 pools is more than I anticipated hearing, actually. I assumed it was far fewer than that. In terms of access to those pools, are they working full-time public access and the rest of it at the moment? Have you seen a reduction in recent years? Is that a fairly stable number, or is it a reduction from previous numbers, and do you expect it to increase or decrease in the future?

Secondly, do you see—in terms of swimming lessons, do you see a reduction in age profile? I'm particularly thinking of under-18s, children in school. Do you see a change in participation rates as a child would go from primary through secondary? Do you see that difference in age structure?

And thirdly, in terms of transportation, we've all in different parts of our representative lives heard about issues with public transport. Are you seeing a change in the accessibility of swimming pools to people who rely on public transport over recent years? So, three questions.

10:40

If I could take No. 1 and No. 3, maybe the—. That's more in your area, Hanna, maybe, the learn to swim and the age groups.

So, regarding learn to swim, what we're actually finding with the participation numbers is that the demand is overwhelming. Obviously, returning from the pandemic, facilities reopening, clearly, a lot of responsible adults are prioritising getting their children into learn to swim lessons because they've missed out on that opportunity. What we tend to find is that there's a big influx in that primary school age group, and I suppose under-11s, under-10s, with the younger age group probably being more significant. And then, obviously, there are lots of other activities that take children's interest. A lot of responsible adults—. We try and get the message across that being water competent and being safe in and around water is more than being just able to swim from one end of the pool to another; there's obviously a lot of other key skills that we need to make sure that our population have got the ability to do, if they're ever in a situation where they might need to draw on those skills.

There is a trend of participation, I suppose, waning as people get older, but I suppose that's down to a lot of different factors. Obviously, compared to when I was growing up, there's a lot more different things available now that can take people's interest. When you look at the school sport survey, when you look at the active adult survey, the insight, things like that, swimming and aquatic activity is always potentially No. 2 after walking, so we know that there is the demand and the desire for our young people to access water.

The first question, Alun, was around pool closure, and we did see, obviously, 100 per cent of pools closed for that period of time, extended period of time, and there was a protracted reopening of pools. At the moment, we stand at just over 90 per cent of those pools are back open, and that 8 per cent or 10 per cent we work with across 22 local authorities, 37 operators of leisure facilities. The key driver for the ones that haven't opened up is purely business case. There was a massive loss of revenue and, obviously, to keep one of these pools, for want of a better word, afloat or open, it's quite costly. So, a massive hit.

So, if you look at some of those revenue lines—and we go across all of that; it's not our direct business, but we work closely with partners to make it our business, to help them problem solve—we're concerned that that 10 per cent won't open again and provide. And, of course, unfortunately, the vicious circle is they are typically in those rural areas, because footfall is absolutely key. It doesn't take much for that—. It's a sensitive place; it doesn't take much for that to be affected negatively. So, how are they going to reopen? Will they reopen again? The question mark is around probably 10 per cent of those; we're working constantly with them.

As far as transportation is concerned, that's obviously a hugely important issue. Public transportation, as well as the cost of fuel, just getting children from A to B, if you look at the average age— the average distance rather—from home to a club in north Wales, it could average 15 or 20 miles quite easily to get to club swimming or to a lesson—very, very easily. And then we look at our domestic challenges with bills, fuel and utility bills et cetera. You just throw that into the mix, and we can work out that there are going to be decisions for households around transportation.

What I will say is that there are really positive and innovative projects, like in Rhondda Cynon Taf, where the local authority have got together with their transport colleagues—sport and leisure and transport—and they've actually plotted out the routes to make sure that, if there was a redesign of routes or bus services in that area, they are dropping off and picking up from leisure facilities. That's something that we would really embrace and love to see across the 22 local authorities. So, there are some great pieces of work—huge challenges, but I think one thing the pandemic has given us is that sense of collaboration, where teams and departments have come together in a better way. I hope that answers your question.

10:45

Yes, thank you. I know that Carolyn wants to ask a supplementary. I'm very aware that Phil hasn't come in yet, so if it could be as brief as possible—forgive me, I know that there's a lot we want to get in—and then we'll come back to Heledd. Carolyn.

I was interested what you think, because we're looking at transport going forward, so bringing in leisure centres as part of the hubs, as well as stations, is not something I've thought about, so that's really interesting. Accessibility, for many, is through school, especially in rural areas as well. That's where they start. But wasn't the funding cut for provision through school? And then transport is a main issue, isn't it, do you think, a barrier for schools as well—affordability of coaches to take children to swimming lessons.

Yes, Carolyn. Again, I'll refer to my colleague, Hanna, who has done an awful lot of work in that space.

So, regarding the transport, that is obviously the biggest cost when it comes to schools accessing school swimming. Quite often, the actual price per head to access the pool, they've got the budget for that, but, like Fergus said regarding the distances travelled, that is quite often a barrier and why some headteachers might make the decision to only have a small exposure to water for their pupils. And you are right: the majority of children in Wales, their only experience of water is through the school swimming experience. Obviously, with the current curriculum, it's categorically written: being able to swim is in the current curriculum. Obviously, with the changes being more holistic with the Curriculum for Wales coming in later this year, obviously that's going to be moving more to an experience in and around water, so we just need to obviously make sure that swimming and water competence—. Because, like I said, it's being safe. The safety element is obviously the priority. We need to make sure that for headteachers that's still on their radar and they're thinking about the safety of their pupils going forward.

I have gone through the Chair. Just one really—. Ten seconds. Our calculations, our numbers, our data and insight tell us that 52 per cent of Welsh schoolchildren will leave key stage 2 without the ability to be able to swim, which is really shocking.

Fifty-two per cent. That's our latest—

That's on the latest statistics.

Yes. Hanna's done that piece of work with the rest of the team. So, 52 per cent will leave without the ability to be able to swim, and if—. Again, very quickly. I count myself as being on one side of the line. I have four daughters; one is tiny, and three are learning to swim—12 and 10. I'm in a privileged position where we can afford swimming lessons for my daughters, for those kids. There are a lot of people on the other side of the line, who, with the fuel, with utility bills, with the numbers that Hanna talked about earlier on—this is moving further out of sight. So, the only safety net or catch-all for those children will be school swimming, and if it's only 52 per cent at the moment—and that's before the new curriculum has hit—one of the biggest concerns we have as an organisation, and we are working very closely with education and our colleagues, is to maintain that in-school swimming, because, if we lose that, we've lost the fight.

Thank you very much for that. Thank you. Heledd, could you ask your question again to Phil?

Yes, of course. So, Phil, just asking if you could please outline what the main barriers to participation in sport, you believe, are in disadvantaged areas, and how this intersects with other factors, such as age, sex and gender, socioeconomic status, geography, disability and ethnicity.

Thanks for that, and firstly can I thank everyone and particularly Welsh Government for allowing Basketball Wales to come to the fore? I'd like to start off, basically, by saying that I'm sitting in the car, I've got my notes in front of me, and I'm just going to go through them. I think the colleagues that have just spoken have spoken basically about some of the same issues that we've got, but, if I just go through my brief, are you okay with that?

I think, that way, we'll probably pick up everything that I want to say. As a board, we have—. And can I just say, as a board, we are all volunteers? There is no paid member of staff, except just a little bit of money for an administrator. The rest is entirely volunteers. 

As a board, we have continued to address the opportunities for our sport to grow, to which travel and transport have been identified as barriers, which has just been mentioned by other colleagues, to progress in basketball, including facilities in deprived areas, with some of the patches of our capital city in the south, and Caernarfonshire and Holyhead in the north, although this does not exclude such places as the Valleys and in mid Wales.

We have our sport and we want our sport to grow. We are regarded, I believe, and it was stated number of years ago, as the fourth most utilised sport in Wales for children and young people, and I believe that's still the fact, because we've still got waiting lists for our young people to participate in our clubs and in schools as well.

The board are all volunteers, like I just mentioned, and mainly the sport is driven by the volunteers. Our first endeavour for a national league—and I know Carolyn was there—finished with a great day at Wrexham university. The four nations competition, which was held in Cardiff recently, was deemed as one of the best four nations under-18s championships ever run within Britain, which was fantastic news to us. And looking forward, we are looking forward to something that maybe the Welsh Government don't know too much about—I think that Carolyn does—that is, on 13 June of this year, we've got the junior National Basketball Association taking place in Aberystwyth.

But this doesn't take away the facts about the accessibility and facilities. BW have worked during the pandemic to utilise as much opportunity as we could and we introduced the 3x3 competition, which was coming forward for the Olympics, and, again, it's going into the Commonwealth Games but, unfortunately, Wales this year won't be taking part in that, because they lost up in Scotland.

Anyway, BW are working to address the accessibility and facilities with outdoor courts and indoor facilities, but, as has been mentioned earlier on, we are very, very low on funding. We try to get external funding and we work with an individual, Kate Gordos, who is a commercial person—again, totally voluntary.

We have secured for some funding to drive some facilities for outdoor courts in four strategically selected locations across Wales and this is at the moment in the early stages. The demand, if I just say to you, demand—and it's been mentioned by other speakers—the demand for basketball, particularly, even in under-10s and under-eights, has been enormous. I was speaking to Jon Bunyan yesterday from Pontypridd Panthers, and he was mentioning that he's got something like about 60 children waiting to come and take part in his basketball sessions. And this is what's happening, but, without the support of internal and external funding, it's going to be very, very difficult.

And that's basically my bit. If there are any questions, if I can answer them, I will. If not, I'm pretty sure that—. But there is one thing: we have done a complete breakdown of transport and accessibility, and that was done by a student on a voluntary basis for us, and, if that is needed, I can get Kate to send that on to you as well.

10:50

That would be fantastic, please, Phil. That would be great. Thank you very much.

Wnawn ni symud—. Ti'n hapus i—?

We'll move—. Are you happy to—?

Yes. I'm grateful to witnesses for their time this morning. I'm looking at the future, and what are the interventions that you would like to see from Welsh Government that would help support and sustain the sports that you're representing this morning?

I'll take that one. I think the first one—it might be on people's lips or on people's lists today, but—the free swimming initiative, the FSI initiative, I'd just like to say a quick rundown on that. We are extremely grateful to Welsh Government and successive administrations over—. I don't know of another national programme that has lasted 16, 17 years—it's in it's seventeenth year now. It's had a couple of iterations, but it's lasted a long, long time, and it's the only one. I sit on the British Swimming Board and I look at Scotland, England and my counterparts, I talk internationally, and no other nation has a programme like it. And the FSI programme has supported—. It used to be £3 million; it's down to £1.5 million. We can talk about its different priorities and what it's trying to achieve later or another time, but that's a huge investment, keeping going accessibility, free swimming for targeted groups. I'm not the only one; 22 local authorities will tell you that it's a godsend. So, maintaining that. Yes, all programmes and all projects will need initiatives that need a tweak, and there's talk about that in front of Ministers, and I'm sure the Minister, Dawn, will talk about that herself. So, there's free swimming and maintaining free swimming and that investment into aquatic activity for all—our targeted groups.

There's also helping organisations like ours and local authorities to join up the dots. So, I think—and you guys will know this—there's a huge amount of efficiency and opportunities for efficiency across Government, across departments. We as an organisation, and I know Sport Wales are very much on the same tack, will be reaching out and working a lot closer with education, with transportation, to try and join up those dots. We are in a unique position where we talk to all of those partners. We sit in the middle of the national governing body and we take pride in the fact that we've got those multiple relationships so that we can bring people together, so we can facilitate those conversations. But I think support from central Government, if you like, in nudging departments closer together, so, education to sport, and where are the areas where we could work together—sport and transportation, sport and social care. So, I think bringing those together.

It's not necessarily bags of money and financial investment—of course, that's nice—it's maintaining free swimming, but also—. I suppose, the other side is the school swimming aspect that Carolyn touched on earlier on. That really is going to be the last bastion, because if this continues in the short term—we've had the pandemic, now we've got increased prices and accessibility—if we leave it to just parents and just the affordability metric, and we don't catch all, from a school swimming perspective—. So, supporting headteachers, supporting schools, supporting the education system, and helping them, I suppose, with the decision, not necessarily, 'What do I spend £1,000 on? Is it the IT suite, is it four iPads, or is it 60 kids at the end of term going swimming at key stage 2?' And that's the decision they have to make. Wouldn't it be fantastic if we had a ring-fenced provision for swimming and, as a country, we could look ourselves and each other in the eye and say, 'Key stage 2, every child leaves school at key stage 2 a swimmer'?

10:55

Just adding further to Fergus's point there, Swim Wales are one of the key organisations as part of Water Safety Wales. And when you look at the Wales drowning prevention strategy and also the UK drowning prevention strategy, that opportunity of learning to swim is a key objective as part of both strategies. And, like we've said, schools are the places where we are going to have that contact point with the majority of our children. We've got some fantastic initiatives where home-schooled children are getting that learn-to-swim opportunity, but that is our catch all, like Fergus says. It's part of just bringing people together and just making sure that our population is safe in and around water.

I think that Carolyn wants to come in at this point, and then I'll come to Phil.

The free swimming initiative, do you believe that that is actually keeping swimming pools viable and open as well? That's what I heard from one that was taken over by a local community. So, that's important for the viability going forward. And also, regarding transport, I know when transport providers bid for school contracts—in Flintshire, there were 450 different contracts for taxi and school—there's a social value element for that as well that can be built into it. And so, if that's something, going forward, you could perhaps speak to local authorities and schools if some of that social value could be given to taking children to swimming lessons. That could be something you could look at, maybe. 

Yes, I think it's an excellent idea. The more ideas like that, the better, Carolyn. Thank you.

11:00

It's used sometimes for community transport, but if it could be used for access to swimming, that might help sustain it, going forward.

Yes. And just quickly on the first one, yes, the FSI, it's not a subsidy, but it does enable local authorities—again, it's a ring-fenced fund to dedicate resources and investment into aquatics and aquatic facilities. They're all different sizes, different programmes, different sized pools, et cetera, et cetera, but every one of them will say that it's a godsend and it just opens the door.

Just, again, adding to Fergus's point, since November 2020, we've trained over 500 swimming teachers, and one of the additional benefits of the free swimming initiative is that for the operators who receive that funding, obviously, there are other things that they can do with their programme. So, it's obviously the free splash, so getting people in through the door, but also, it's those more targeted activities and then getting the workforce that can not only be utilised for free swimming-linked activities, but also wider programmes, such as school swimming and learn to swim. So, without free swimming—. It really is a fantastic investment.

Thank you. Phil, did you want to add anything to what's been said?

Yes. There are a couple of things. I'm not going to add anything; my colleagues have said most of the things that I relate to, as well, and basketball in general in Wales. Alun's question was about what we need support with. I think the idea about how we're linking with the four areas at the moment, with outdoor court initiatives, if that could be taken out into all the county boroughs throughout Wales, I think that would be an initiative, but obviously we'd need financial support and engagement with that, and I think that's a way forward.

The Small Ballers project, which is linked to primary schools, again, that would be a fantastic opportunity. And one of the things that we have talked about and we have to address funding for is for the development of four geographical development workers. So, rather than taking four, six or eight volunteers to run a programme, we're utilising the opportunity of getting some highly progressive people as development workers as well.

I think schools are extremely important. Basketball was strong in schools—I've mentioned this to Carolyn before, when I met her—I remember when I first started playing basketball in school, I'm talking about 60-plus years ago, but you had fantastic support from the teaching staff. If we can kind of try and drive that forward once again within schools, I think that that would be an important provision to move our sport forward. I look forward in earnest to working with Welsh Government and anybody else who wants to work with us to enhance the opportunities for children and young people and our senior players. I was in a cup final event this week—there were three games—and it was fantastic to see the support of the parents as well and the volunteers who are in the clubs. So, I look forward to working with everyone.

Yes. Just to declare that Phil and I met when the final was played in Wrexham, so that was the first time we met, which was great. I learnt so much, and my son plays basketball, so that's how I got involved as well. So, I am concerned about the waiting lists. I know that there are waiting lists for young people. It's one of the fastest growing sports, and it can be played in the community. We've got the MUGAs, haven't we, the multi-use games areas, in lots of communities. But, it's one of the fastest growing games and the fact that there's a waiting list is a concern and also, basketball coaches. Like you say, we've got volunteers, but we need coaches to come through as well, so how do you think we can address that, Phil?

With regard to the coaches, we obviously publicise as much as we can through the clubs. I think it may be a development where that can be linked through to schools as well, particularly at primary school and at comprehensive school and secondary education. I think that's a move forward that we could re-address. But again, that comes down to having someone there to drive that forward. I know that we've got a schools development worker who is employed not by Basketball Wales, but employed by an authority to drive sport forward. But his love is basketball, so he moves that forward as well. Can I ask Carolyn what the first question was?

11:05

It was about increasing provision. I know you said there are waiting lists; I'm aware there are waiting lists as well, so it's a concern, really. So, increasing provision, how can we do that?

On that one, really, it's facilities then, as well. If I use Pontypridd Panthers as an example, if we had two, maybe three courts, rather than just having one court, or one sports hall that we could utilise, like you just mentioned about coaches as well, we could utilise those coaches externally and drive that forward. And the facilities might be the best way forward as well. And I presume it's working together, you know. And if we can do that in some mode, then I think we'll get there.

Great. Diolch yn fawr iawn. We've got less than four minutes left, I'm afraid. Time has been against us, and so we will be writing to you with some further questions. Could you just outline briefly—and, again, in this time, I'm sure you won't be able to do justice to this—whether there are particular ways in which you use data to map out how you can challenge or combat deprivation with sport, and is there more that you'd like to be telling us in terms of how you use data? If I can go to Fergus and Hanna first, and forgive me, I know that there's not much time.

Yes, there is, and yes, we do it, and we're very grateful to our local authority partners, and again, the 37 leisure operator partners that we have. They're not compelled to share data with us and, obviously, you've got the whole minefield of general data protection regulation, personal data, extraction and sharing of data. So, what we do is to remove names and use geography, and what we can tell is, of those 100,000 children who are in learn to swim lessons, where they're coming from, more importantly where they're not coming from, and we can do the same for adults, et cetera, accessing free swimming, et cetera. So, we do have that data and we can pinpoint on the map where we need to affect and the areas that we need to affect.

The customers, like I talked about getting our arms around everyone—aquatics for everyone for life—so, the people who aren't coming to our family, to the aquatic family, we can target those through data. So, we're lucky that we've got that, and we've got a great team back at base that work on that stuff. Of course, we need to do more on it, and we need to link with Data Cymru and other organisations. I will say at this point that Sport Wales have been extremely helpful with their surveys and their data over the past several years. So, their insight and data team are crucial to this.

Thank you. Phil, is there anything you wanted to add about how you use data?

Really, our situation with data is that we've had to utilise the services of a student. I know that within the school's directorship, which is under Gav Lewis, he's utilised—similarly to what our colleagues have said in swimming, you don't utilise the name, you utilise the geographical areas. And I think if we can work along that pattern, I think we can get to the crux of the matter with regard to what Carolyn's question was about and, you know, cut down on the amount on the waiting list as well. So, I think that's an important role, and I'm pretty certain that Basketball Wales, as a board, would be quite happy to work with the Welsh Government as well to support this initiative.

Thank you, Phil. I'm very sorry that time has been so against us this morning. We will definitely be writing to you, if that's all right, with your permission, to ask you more questions. Phil as well, we'll be writing to you with a few more questions. A transcript is going to be sent to all of you to check that it's a fair record of what's been said today, and as a committee, we're really looking forward to working with your organisations throughout this inquiry, but also over the next few years. So, thank you very much for that, that was really useful for us. Thank you very much indeed. Diolch yn fawr iawn. Thank you, Phil.

Diolch yn fawr. Thank you. Bye bye. Diolch.

Thank you.

Byddwn ni nawr yn cymryd egwyl fer.

We'll now take a short break.

We'll now take a short break in order to bring in the new witnesses.

11:10

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 11:10 ac 11:20.

The meeting adjourned between 11:10 and 11:20.

11:20
4. Ymchwiliad i gymryd rhan mewn chwaraeon mewn ardaloedd difreintiedig: Sesiwn dystiolaeth gyda Chymdeithas Chwaraeon Cymru
4. Inquiry into sport in disadvantaged areas: Evidence session with Welsh Sport Association

Croeso nôl—bore da eto—i'r sesiwn yma o'r Pwyllgor Diwylliant, Cyfathrebu, y Gymraeg, Chwaraeon a Chysylltiadau Rhyngwladol. Mae ein sesiwn tystiolaeth olaf y bore yma ar yr un eitem. Gwnaf i ofyn i'r tystion i gyflwyno eu hunain ar gyfer y record. Gwnaf i fynd at Victoria yn gyntaf.

Welcome back. Good afternoon, everyone, once again. We continue with our meeting of the Culture Communications, Welsh Language, Sport and International Relations Committee. Our final evidence session is on the same topic. I'll ask the witnesses to introduce themselves for the record. I'll go to Victoria first.

If you could just introduce yourself. 

Hi, I'm Victoria Ward, and I'm the chief executive of the Welsh Sports Association.

Bore da, fy enw i yw Matt Williams. Dwi'n bennaeth polisi dros Gymdeithas Chwaraeon Cymru. Diolch.

Good morning, I'm Matt Williams. I'm the head of policy for the Welsh Sports Association.

Fantastic. It's lovely to have you both with us. We'll go straight into questions if that's all right. Could you set out for us, please, what main barriers you think there are in terms of getting access to sport, looking at the intersecting of different possible ways in which people could be disadvantaged, whether that's their age, where they live, their ethnicity, their race, their gender, all the different possible ways in which disadvantage could be layered?

To begin, there was a really good paper written during the development of the vision for sport in Wales in 2018 on barriers to participation in Wales and intersecting characteristics that sets out what we know about the situation as it stands in Wales. We know that poverty is a really strong barrier to participation in sport in Wales, and that layers across lots of the other intersecting characteristics. You're much more likely to be living in poverty if you are from an ethnic minority background, you're much more likely to be living in poverty if you're a single mother with children, and those kinds of things.

We also have the second layer in Wales of geography, where many of our sporting facilities are in the northern and southern arcs of population centres, with a large gap in the middle of Wales where the population is much more dispersed and it's harder to build sporting facilities to serve that dispersed population. That's probably a tougher nut to crack in terms of policy, simply because you need that concentration of people to make the facilities stand on their own two feet and be able to run sustainable businesses.

Thank you. The ways in which poverty compounds all of these different possible disadvantages in terms of access, that's something that's come up a lot in our evidence already. In terms of the way in which you're aware that your organisation uses data to—what would be the word—try to map out exactly how bad the access is because of these different, layered disadvantages, is there anything you'd like us to be aware of in terms of how data can—what's amlygu in English—highlight the issue, or also where there are gaps in terms of the data that we have nationally on this? 

We've got relatively good data for young people as a result the school sports survey. Obviously, there's another edition of that currently ongoing, so we will get further data later this year. That data works relatively well at a national and regional level for Wales. It begins to break down at a local level because the sample sizes become too small, in particular for those smaller sports that have lower participation or awareness levels anyway. The local-level data that we glean from the school sports survey doesn't necessarily work so well.

We know that in the 2018 school sport survey 20 of our national governing body members received individualised insight for their sports off the back of the 2018 survey. Those tended to be the larger sports—they were athletics, swimming, rugby, football. Some of the smaller sports who might have the most potential to grow and might benefit most from having that kind of insight might have missed out, simply because the sample sizes at local levels just weren't big enough. And you can work through how that might work if you start thinking about things like disability sport, where there are relatively few numbers of people in local areas with specific disabilities or doing specific disability sport. You won't pick that up in the way that the school sport survey is conducted. That's just the way it happens. 

The other place where we are missing a big chunk of data that we just don't have is adult participation. We do not have data on adult participation related to most of the intersecting and protected characteristics in Wales, simply because the questions that we ask in the national survey again don't allow us to break down to that level. We only ask around 15,000 people the national survey questions every year, so we don't get information on specific sports in specific areas from that data. We get a fairly crude measure of physical activity across Wales. Where some of that information is available, we can try to match across to England, where they do the active lives survey. Wales seems to track fairly closely to the active lives survey, but we aren't able then to get the understanding of where participation in golf might look different to participation in golf in England, for example. We just don't have access to that kind of data. 

11:25

Thank you for that. Victoria, if there's anything you want to add, let me know, otherwise we can—

Sure. When you're looking at poverty, one of my concerns about the school sport survey is that, often, the children who probably will never have any opportunity to experience these sports won't tick to say they'd like to do it, they probably don't even know what it is or think, 'What's the point?' That is a real concern for me. I think the Summer of Fun and the Winter of Well-being were wonderful programmes, and I know they're looking to continue them, but is there any longevity in that? We've already got a very established structure of sports clubs and facilities throughout Wales, all we need to do to ensure that all of these children, the 200,000 children who are living in poverty in Wales right now, can access it is to have a system in place where cost is not a barrier. I appreciate that's not a solution to everything, but that is a major solution, as I see it, speaking to colleagues in sport, in social services, in housing. I've been working a lot in the last month or so with the Ely family centre, and access to the swimming pool is difficult because they can't afford it and they can't afford the bus fare to come down to use the pools in Cardiff or the facilities in Cardiff. So, it is a huge issue, and if we're going to tackle that, then it's not just about pumping millions and millions of pounds into it, it's about having an infrastructure that works to just lift those barriers, in the same way as we do with free school meals.

It sounds like what's been said previously there, in that transport and accessibility is something, isn't it—you're repeating that as an issue. 

And I don't think they need to be issues. The Welsh Government controls transport—free bus passes. I don't suppose that should be too difficult. Absolutely it comes with a cost, but if that removes the barrier, that's entirely within the gift of Welsh Government to achieve. 

Yes. It's something that's being debated. It's amazing; one bus, believe it or not, costs £350,000 to run. I know that from my previous life in the local authority. So, it's always the budget, isn't it, money, and then how it feeds back into later life. We were talking about it in health as well. My question, which was Alun's, has changed, hasn't it, because he was asking everybody what their three priorities would be for Welsh Government. So, I'm going to ask you the same as well. And it was interesting what the responses were from different people. Noel said, with the football, that it was places, programmes and people to deliver. And what's coming through again is the importance of collaborating as well with education, transport, social and healthcare as well. So, you're saying funding for buses is one of them, and transport.

Well, infrastructure, so whether that is buses or that's facilities. We've got an ageing stock of facilities. The commitment in 2016, when we decided not to bid to host the Commonwealth Games, was a commitment from Welsh Government to invest heavily in facilities for our future generations. So, that infrastructure, whether that's buildings or whether that's football pitches or whether that's transport. Those are real challenges. Connectivity, absolutely; ensuring that we're all working together better. Certainly, that's been a benefit from COVID. I think we've all worked far more collaboratively, and I think we need to do that across Government—continue to do that across Government, because we have done that—as well as other agencies as well, so that we've got the intelligence we need, so it's not based on one survey every couple of years, so that we can have referral agents feeding us intelligence and information every day of the year. And then the technology is what would underpin that. 

11:30

Forgive me, Carolyn, I think Matt just wanted to come in on that.

On the facilities side, it's worth noting that, for some sports in Wales, the average age of the buildings and pitches they're working with is up to 50 years old, and those buildings and pitches were built at a time when we probably were not thinking about the needs of women and girls to participate in sport in the same way as we are now, just as an example. So, that's the reality of what we're working with in some sports.

It's the same with schools. That's why we had a twenty-first century school building programme, wasn't it? We talked earlier about the community facilities activities grant as well, which helped the rugby club move. So, what collaboration do you have with schools regarding use of school facilities, and with local authorities regarding leisure facilities as well, and introducing programmes?

We work closely with the leisure providers in each of the local authorities, whether that's in-house or with the leisure trust model or arm's-length company model. Those organisations all sit within our membership and we work closely with them to try and connect them to the sports to make sure that the conversations around access are going well. We also know that it was a Welsh Labour manifesto commitment in 2016 to open up school facilities beyond the school day for sports to gain access. Progress on that has been slow, I think it's fair to say, notwithstanding the fact that there's been two years of significant disruption, which will have slowed that down. I know that there are, I think, 12 trials that Sport Wales are leading at the moment. We're looking forward to seeing the results of those just to try and understand what the barriers are and what we might need to do to help our members overcome some of those barriers in terms of providing assurance to the school that the buildings will be looked after properly, that kind of thing. There's a role for us to play there, but we do really need headteachers and governors to be strongly encouraged by Welsh Government and others to make sure that, quite often, the really good facilities that they've got access to and control the keys to are open to the wider community.

So, the 12 trials were regarding extending the curriculum, weren't they?

Yes, and as far as I'm aware, there are other trials going on around access to school buildings outside of the normal school day.

Great. Victoria, was there anything you wanted to add to any of that? No. In terms of the impact of the pandemic that you've just been referring to, do you think that that has widened the gap in terms of people's access when they already face disadvantages? Again, we were talking about the layers of disadvantage; has the pandemic made that worse? Do you think that the situation has been different for different disadvantages? Has it been different for different communities?

It has been different for different communities. People with disabilities have been shielding quite a lot, so that has really limited their access to facilities, and there's the economic crisis that we're currently facing. What COVID did was put a spotlight on the inequalities that already existed, and they've probably been exacerbated by COVID. The research that was done before COVID said that families living in financial hardship had a maximum of £3.11 a week to spend on sport and physical activity, compared to £12.11 for the rest of the population.  Whilst I don't have the figures to evidence what that figure is now, anecdotally, we can see that that gap is widening. The Bevan Foundation have done recent research to show that 10 per cent of families that are living in hardship and have more than one child have admitted to feeding their children less, potentially one less meal a day. So, in that situation, sport, new trainers, a bike, is not going to be top of the list of priorities.

11:35

Yes. Oh god, that's awful. Absolutely. Do you think that there are—? Quite apart from or set alongside the stark reality of how different disadvantages have been highlighted or made worse because of the pandemic, do you think that the experience of the pandemic has taught Government and society any lessons that you would like to see being taken forward in terms of challenging access to sport for people who face different disadvantages?

The use of technology for me is one of the biggest ones, and is probably the most cost-effective as well. We have just started work with a technologies charity on developing a system that can provide digital vouchers, which we'll be looking at through the Welsh sports foundation. We have put a proposal to the Minister to look to invest in that, and they certainly wouldn't be their only investment. But sport needs to be considered more as a good cause in that way as well, which, culturally, we don't seem to do in Wales, certainly in the UK, whereas the arts for instance are excellent at this because it's been part of their culture and their heritage for so long. So, culture change and embracing technology, I think, are two of the big areas that we could learn a lot from, which are actually quite cost-effective, because I do appreciate that every time someone comes to talk to you, they're talking about money, but there are other ways that solutions can be found.

I think it was very clear at the start of the pandemic that Welsh Government placed a really heavy emphasis on making sure that people had time to get outside. We had the protected time outside right at the height of the pandemic to stay active. And, generally, the messaging out of Government has been fairly positive in terms of that it's very important to get out and about, to stay active, to take part in physical activity. That emphasis was really clear all the way through. It's just, now we are emerging from the pandemic, it's important that that emphasis and that messaging is translated into real action in terms of making sure that our partners in education and health invest into sport and physical activity more than they perhaps have done in the past.

Yes, absolutely. Thank you very much. Carolyn, did you want to ask the final question that you wanted to ask?

It was just about international best practice; we've not got to this one, have we? So, are there any international examples of success in the area regarding encouraging people into sports in areas of deprivation, and how can Wales learn from these?

I think the point I would make on quite a lot of international best practice is that we are quite often compared to Norway and New Zealand; they are two comparator nations that are brought to bear on Wales quite often. There are also other examples, I think in, it's either Slovenia or Slovakia; I forget which one has the highest level of youth participation in the world, I think. But, particularly with the New Zealand and Norway examples, it's really important to emphasise that they spend between five and 10 times the amount that we do on sport. Wales does very, very, very well on participation and on elite performance off a relatively small slice of investment. And our comparator nations often outspend us significantly to achieve similar results.

Yes, that was something—. We had an informal evidence session with Sport New Zealand this morning, and that was something that—. There was lots that we'd like to be able to follow up on in terms of that. Was there anything further you wanted to ask on that, Carolyn?

No, thanks. One of the things we did pick up from that though was the importance of learning through play, through play facilities, having doorstep play that's easy to access, and then keeping healthy and active through that, and making sure there's loads of facilities in the community and then that leading to just keeping healthy and moving, and then maybe leading to sport through that. We have play schemes, don't we, in some areas as well, and we had the Summer of Fun this year, which was really good. So, yes, it's about making sure there's access for all in local communities.

11:40

One of the things that I think would make a dramatic difference, which is within the gift of Government to do, is, you talk about play schemes, sport is exempt—I think I've mentioned before—from registering with Care Inspectorate Wales, who, obviously, govern the likes of play schemes, childcare provision, because it's seen as education. And, actually, that works against us in some ways. Because we are exempt, we are not allowed to register, and because we cannot register, then those who are on low incomes from tax credits and universal credits cannot get a contribution from UK Government to pay towards those costs. So, if you are on universal credit and you are putting your child with a registered child minder—so, governed by Care Inspectorate Wales—then you can get 85 per cent of those childcare costs back, but if you put them into a sports sector, you can't.

So, that's what we talk about: this doesn't always need money throwing at it; it's about some change in policy, and actually that is one of the biggest differences that you could make, because that generates income from the sport, to be able to continue and enhance the programmes that it delivers, certainly in school holidays, potentially after-school provision as well, and it provides considerably more opportunities. As I say, we've got the infrastructure, but policy in that context is what's limiting the opportunities for those who are living in poverty, particularly working families.

That's quite important to note. I remember when, in my own local authority, we introduced the play scheme and, in a way, those two hours did help with childcare. Because if you're asking a grandparent or somebody else to look after those children, if they've got those two hours respite, where the children have been outside doing either a fixed play or we also had Dragon Sport—two hours, outdoor, running round—they were ready to settle down inside, quite calmly with the grandparents. And it just helps with that childcare, doesn't it, over the summer holidays? And for many, that was their summer holiday as well, because they couldn't afford to spend money on a summer holiday away—that was that experience. But, I didn't know that about universal credits; that's quite an important point.

And I think that could be a really quick win and something that could make a tremendous difference. The sports, the governing bodies of sports, are ready and waiting to be able to do this. I know cricket, in particular, are looking at this. But, at the moment, we're hamstrung by policy, which I hope can be a recommendation of this report to lift, to ensure that we can access the same opportunities.

Yes, that's something that has come out strongly. Thank you for that. Matt, were you indicating you wanted to come in?

We have a few minutes remaining. Was there anything that you had wanted to bring up in the evidence today that we haven't covered?

I think, from my perspective, this inquiry is quite timely, as we emerge from pandemic into cost-of-living crisis. And we know from speaking to our members, particularly those members who run sporting facilities, that there are currently some really acute pressures on them, relating to energy costs. I know Fergus was here earlier, from swimming, talking about the energy cost crisis facing swimming. There are other crises attached to that. There are shortages of pool cleaning chemicals, there are shortages of other resources that facilities need—they're getting more and more expensive quite quickly. There are also attached costs to the facilities that are becoming more difficult for them to manage in terms of employment. Employment has become more expensive, it's becoming harder to employ people, it would appear; it's disrupted the supply of people coming into the jobs to run these facilities. And the customer base is just returning very, very slowly across their entire estate. Lots of these facilities are looking at a fairly difficult situation over the year ahead to manage, and that is going to result, probably, in costs increasing, or fewer people being able to go and do sports in these buildings, unless interventions ease some of these ongoing issues.

And it will be interesting—. I know the Sport and Recreation Alliance—our partner organisation in England—are looking at what the inflationary pressures on people's wallets will do to their participation in sport, and whether they will start choosing to do other things or choose to do cheaper things, or simply be forced to choose between heating, eating and sport, and more and more people will be put in that situation. There's quite a lot to think about at the moment, but it is really important, I think, that we are aware of what the inflationary pressures on facilities will mean for people participating in sport over the next year or so. We're probably likely to see that the pandemic impact is only now really emerging probably.

11:45

Yes, absolutely. Thank you very much. Victoria, was there anything you wanted to add?

Yes. Welsh Government have done a great job of ensuring that we could protect the sector during COVID, and I think we just need to make sure that we don't leave it behind now because lifting the restrictions is only one part of the recovery process. So, the work we've been doing in the past few weeks to look at where are we now in comparison to where we were in 2019 before the pandemic shows that footfall is down by about 30 per cent still across the board, and of course, when you're running on a very limited budget anyway, that is a challenge. Obviously, the hardship fund helped hugely during the pandemic and I know that that has now gone, but has been replaced with an uplift to local authorities. But, of course, there are competing priorities for that money, so sport and physical activity aren't probably at the top of the list of priorities and so that is becoming more and more difficult.

I was at a meeting with some of your officials this morning for events and the new events strategy for Wales and exactly the same is coming through there: yes, we can run events now, but numbers are still down. It's becoming much harder to break even. And again, they were all really complimentary about the support they had in the pandemic, but it's ensuring that there's a transition period to bring us out of the pandemic over the next 12 months, to ensure that we can continue to prosper and thrive. There is certainly fear among colleagues that that's not going to be able to happen, particularly in supply chains, et cetera, and that if we don't provide more support over the next 12 months, then we won't see such a bright future.

No. Thank you very much for setting that out. We're really aware of the—as you both have been saying—context of this work. We think that it is a timely—. We hope it'll be a timely inquiry and that any intervention suggested will be a tremendous help, but we really are very grateful to you for your evidence this morning—yes, it is still morning.

So, a transcript of what's been said will be sent to you to check that it's a fair record of what's been said. There may be some extra issues that we may want to check with you in writing, if that's all right. But for now, thank you very much.

Diolch yn fawr iawn i'r ddau ohonoch chi.

Thank you very much, both.

And we look forward to working with you for this inquiry and over the next few years as well, so thank you very much; diolch yn fawr iawn.

Thank you. We'll move on. Forgive me for doing this while you're still in the room. We have to move on, but thank you so much.

5. Papurau i'w nodi
5. Papers to note

Aelodau, fe wnawn ni symud at eitem 5, sef papurau i'w nodi. Mae gennym ni restr hirfaith o eitemau ysgrifenedig i'w nodi, o eitem 5.1 yn y pac i eitem 5.16. Ydy'r Aelodau yn fodlon inni nodi'r papurau ar y cyd, neu—oni bai bod unrhyw un eisiau codi unrhyw beth?

Members, we will move to item 5, which is papers to note. We do have a long list of papers to note, from item 5.1 in the pack to 5.16. Are Members happy to note the papers all together, or is there anything that anybody wants to raise?

No, I don't see that anyone wants to. Tom, are you happy? Yes. Okay, in that case, we will note those papers.

6. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod hwn.
6. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of this meeting

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).

Motion:

that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

Felly, rwy'n cynnig o dan eitem 6 ac o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 ein bod ni'n penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod. Ydy'r Aelodau'n fodlon ein bod ni'n gwneud hynny os gwelwch yn dda? Ydych, dwi'n gweld eich bod chi'n hapus, felly fe wnawn ni barhau yn breifat a gwnaf aros i glywed ein bod ni'n breifat.

So, I propose under item 6 and under Standing Order 17.42 that we resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting. Are Members content that we do so? Yes, I see that you're happy, so we will continue now in private and I will wait until I hear we're in private.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:49.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 11:49.