Sport has always been considered as a powerful vehicle for creating change in local communities, especially when elite and well-resourced clubs blaze a trail for others to follow.
In Manchester, it’s the Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City side that’s at the vanguard of this movement.
In fact, recent research conducted by New Economy Manchester discovered that there was an overall return on investment of £1.63 per pound (Dh8.35) earned through the club’s ‘City in the Community’ disability program, which is aimed at raising awareness around the issues faced by those with physical and mental impairments.
Similarly, it was found that the club’s ‘Kicks’ programme (which sought to reduce local crime and anti-social behaviour among youths) delivered cumulative social value of £1.98 per pound, further highlighting the social and economic benefits of sports.
The Impact of Rugby League in Manchester and the Northwest
Of course, it isn’t just football that contributes to local communities in Manchester and the Northwest, with Rugby League providing economic boosts in a number of different ways.
Certainly, Rugby League boasts incredible popularity in the north of England, with this a trend that dates back to the establishment of two different sporting codes in 1895.
This originated due to northern rugby clubs’ desire to remunerate their players, which was at odds with the wider code at the time and created a schism that remains to this day.
In addition to providing economic prosperity through a number of Rugby League clubs and associated initiatives, the code is also credited with improving life satisfaction and raising aspirations in local (and often economically deprived) communities.
This was explored in a recent document named the ‘Rugby League Dividend Report’, which was commissioned by the RFL and produced within Manchester Metropolitan’s Future Economies Research Centre.
Incredibly, this valued the broad social and economic impact of the sport at around £185 million, and once again, this was largely focused on improved inclusion and wellbeing, better health outcomes and overall crime reduction.
Education also improved markedly due to club initiatives, while these factors also contributed to better life satisfaction among youth.
The Growing Influence of Rugby Union
Overall, a four-fold return on social investment was reported by the sport’s grassroots clubs in the north, while Rugby Union is also becoming increasingly popular and influential in the region.
For example, a quick glance at the latest rugby fixtures will reveal the name Sale Sharks, who are Manchester’s leading RU club and recently benefitted from an investment drive that pushed them into the red for the financial year ending June 30th, 2022.
This has enables the club to increase its investment in the local community, with their participation in ‘Project Rugby’ and example of this.
Through this initiative, the sport hopes to engage new fans and audiences while driving long-term societal change, initially by increasing participation in under-represented sections of the community and creating new opportunities for people to improve their current and future lives.
The Last Word
Sport has always been able to engage youth and improve outcomes within local communities, both from an economic and broader societal perspective.
However, this trend is more relevant than ever in 2023, with both grassroots and professional clubs increasingly well-resourced and engaged with their fanbases.
This is also true across football, both rugby codes and cricket, creating multiple opportunities for young and potentially disadvantaged people to improve their lives and benefit from a more prosperous local economy.