There are currently two ongoing themes in sport that the media are talking about at the moment, the first being doping, the second is participation. The success of a sport and its governing bodies (other than the lack of drug cheats) seems to be less about world rankings and more about the numbers of participants. Increasing participation and legacy is a growing theme. This can be strongly attributed to the London 2012 Olympics but is also apparent in many of the strategies of 2015 Rugby World Cup commercial partners. 

Last month Sports Minister Tracey Crouch in her press release about rethinking sports government funding stated that, "Sport has such a positive impact on people's lives and I want to embed participation into this nation's DNA. I want to make sure that the sports sector gives everybody - no matter who they are and what their ability - the chance to take part.” The benefits of a healthy and successful sporting nation are clear to see; from reducing the obesity and disease to boosting the economy via hosting events.

The Sports Minister was reacting to the release of Sport England's Active People Survey which showed a decline of 250,000 sports participants from last year. One of the sports recording decreased participation is golf. This is of particular interest to us as we have been working with England Golf since May.

England Golf is the governing body for amateur golf in England. It is one of the country’s largest sports governing bodies and looks after the interests of more than 1,900 golf clubs and 675,000 men, women, and junior members. For competitive golfers, England Golf provides championships for all ages and abilities, both in individual and team events, hosted at some of the most prestigious courses across the country. England Golf identifies and develops the country’s most talented golfers through their amateur careers, many of whom go on to become the world’s leading professional golfers such as, Justin Rose, Lee Westwood, Charley Hull and Melissa Reid.

England Golf also offers club membership and official handicaps. However membership and participation numbers were waning. Golf struggled to shake off a few stigmas, the male dominance, the snobbery around the country club clientele and the cost of memberships and equipment to name a few.

To help England Golf overcome this we are working with them to develop their commercial and marketing strategy as part of their vision to become ‘The Leading Golf Nation in the World by 2020’ from grass roots right through to elite level.” This includes significant investments in grass roots, clubs, events, media, broadcast, digital and of course CRM.  With England Golf at the heart of grassroots golf, we want to help inspire people to have a lifelong involvement in the game.  We have been helping England Golf showcase the ‘Get into Golf’ initiative which introduces new golfers, juniors and adults, to start playing the game as well as increase the interest and participation in golf.  Working with our partners we hope to offer business support to clubs to encourage more golfers to enjoy the benefits of club membership and to help promote the game as being accessible, fun and family friendly. Along with this, we hope that commercial partnerships will help build awareness, education, trust and advocacy with the 2.3m active golfers in England and bring them in to the England Golf family. Being part of the Rio 2016 Olympics next year will put golf firmly in the spotlight in terms equality across genders and the next steps for the game, making th e timing of the campiagn even more prevalent.

 Interestingly, England Golf has worked extensively to research and identify issues with the growth of participation in the game and has outlined and is implementing a clear strategy called 'Raising our Game'. 'Raising our Game' is a national campaign that England Golf launched in July 2014 to tackle the decline in participation and has successfully slowed this decline. Please see more details on the 'Raising our Game' strategy in David Joy’s Q&A. With the 'Raising our Game' campaign, “Get into Golf”, and our commercial and marketing strategy, we hope this will place England Golf at the forefront of driving participation back in to the sport, whilst setting a strong example for other governing bodies to follow.

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