Sport participation: From policy, through facilities, to users’ health, well-being, and social capital

Sport delivery systems, aimed at facilitating sports participation, represent an inter-institutional, cross-sector collaboration. Researchers focusing on the impact of different levels of sport provision from policy, through facilities, to end users remains limited. The authors address this gap in knowledge through a mixed-methods approach to examine sport participation from the perspective of the whole delivery system. Specifically, focusing on a County Sport Partnership region in the UK, the authors examine sport participation from the policy (macro), facility (meso), and end user (micro) levels. Regional heads responsible for sport development and delivery participated in semi-structured interviews, facility-level managers completed a survey, and end-users across public, private, and outsourced facilities participated in focus groups. Results show a clear divergence between the sport policy goals across the private and public sectors, with significant differences observed between facility types on their social and commercial objectives and their prioritized stakeholder groups. The divergence has little impact on user participation or expression of health, wellbeing, and social capital, offering new evidence on the role of neoliberalism in sport delivery systems.