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Futures - Covid-19 Environmental Scan

Futures - Covid-19 Environmental Scan

20 December 2021

This scan highlights some of the dimensions associated with the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak and considers the intermediate and longer-term implications for the play, active recreation, and sport sector. This follows the May 2020 pandemic scan.

  1. The uncertain pandemic landscape Assesses how the virus may evolve over the coming few years, and the uneven impacts this could have across the globe.
  2. Balancing societal and individual trust Highlights the centrality of individual and societal trust to the success of government policy to date, and how maintaining trust is a critical element in supporting future wellbeing programmes.
  3. Mobility and interconnectedness Explores how vaccine passports may evolve in both the domestic and international context and considers whether the world is heading towards greater global connectedness or a shift to nationalism.
  4. Living to work Examines the influence of the pandemic on the workplace, including whether the changes seen to date will revert back to pre-pandemic norms, or whether a deeper realignment of our relationship with the concept of work will play out over the coming years
  5. Living well Looks at the human responses to the pandemic and their implication for medium term living patterns. Mental health is a core concern here, but there are also positive changes around the connection of individuals to their home environments and reassessment of wellbeing needs, including changing physical activity and participation habits.

Summary implications

Creation of new normal

  • The opportunity to ‘build back differently’ and design a system that gives physical wellbeing a higher status, with benefits to physical and mental health and rebuilding trust and community connection.

Operating in an uncertain world

  • With no return to a pre-Covid-19 society we need to become more adept with operating in an unstable environment that experiences ongoing disruption. This will require a change of mindset, more agile operating models, and new capabilities.
  • A new variant that causes further global lockdowns would be damaging to the motivation of current and aspiring athletes and participants and make it more difficult to attract and retain talented support people.
    Accelerating trends in alternative physical activity away from structured sport • Ongoing disruption to competitions and decreased comfort with being in the presence of others (particularly those we do not know well) may lead to declines in physical contact and organised sport, but increased demand for non-contact, informal and home-based activity.
  • We need to be resilient in our delivery of structured sport, with ongoing pandemic responses and associated behaviour changes calling for more flexible approaches that respond to changing participant behaviours and motivations.

The role of the local club

  • The financial viability of clubs may be threatened by changing activity patterns and Councils redirecting support aligned to this.
  • The flipside to this is the increased importance clubs have in rebuilding the trust and community connections damaged by the polarisation that Covid-19 has caused.
  • Points to the need to not just focus on retaining membership, but also refocusing their mission to be more relevant and to broaden appeal.

Global sport model impacted

  • Event disruption, a decline in current and prospective athlete motivation, and easily accessible and cheap international travel no longer being available will require a rethink of the international model for sport.

The importance of elite sport

  • Elite sport is a welcome distraction to virus-related anxiety and may take on increased importance in re-establishing global allegiances damaged by the pandemic. Or will it increasingly be viewed as less relevant within the context of bigger issues and further impacted by heightened sensitivity about international travel given its association with virus spreading and carbon emissions.

Heightening existing inequalities

  • The speed and comparatively low percentage rates for Māori getting vaccinated will impact their participation in organised sport and recreation. This will exacerbate existing inequalities and set back the country’s bicultural progress.
    Greater time flexibility through hybrid working environments will only be available to some, heightening access inequalities.

Politicisation of sport and recreation

  • The delivery of sport has now become political. The sector will be drawn into taking positions on issues in which the general populace is divided. This will impact the broad cross societal support sport has enjoyed.

Transformed work will reshape leisure

  • The need for sport and recreation to be flexible and adaptable to the changing tempo of people’s lives, and their motivations to being physically active
  • The home and local communities will take on increased importance in the delivery of sport and recreation.

Mobility and proximity behaviour

  • Sport and recreation providers will be required to take on greater policing of fake passports and appropriate pandemic behaviours.
    • While athletes may be comfortable with the increased risks with international travel it is unlikely Directors will be, conscious of their increased health and safety responsibilities.
Read the full report

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