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Supporting #OpenGoal: Sheffield united in tackling inequalities through sport

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Posted 22nd May 2023

Local organisations in Sheffield have come together to address inequalities in culture, sport and physical activity, and show how “a city is championing” the Sport for Development Coalition’s #OpenGoal framework.

The Sheffield Children, Youth and Families Consortium, which features 26 partners including Coalition members Sported and StreetGames, aims to help children, young people and families from under-served communities participate in enriching cultural, sporting and physical activities. Membership comprises city anchor and front-line delivery organisations, both Universities (Sheffield Hallam and University of Sheffield), and the charitable arms of the city’s professional sports clubs.

Sheffield City Council and South Yorkshire Police’s Violence Reduction Unit are also part of the consortium, which is seeking to support a number of long-term outcomes – many of which are aligned to the Sport for Development Coalition’s #OpenGoal framework, such as ‘Improved health and wellbeing’, ‘Closing the gap in education and development’, ‘Reduced crime and anti-social behaviour’ and ‘Stronger communities and social cohesion’. The #OpenGoal framework has been co-designed by members of the UK-wide Coalition over the last 18 months.

Dave Hembrough, Consortium chair and co-founder of the Sheffield-based weightlifting and strength and conditioning club Mettle, explained: “We are an applied version at a local level of how a city is championing the #OpenGoal framework.

“The framework is excellent on the basis that it’s redefining the role that sport and physical activity can play in society. It goes hand in hand with the ambitions of the Sheffield consortium.”

“It’s a mirror image of what we’re trying to achieve,” added Katie Glossop, Senior Manager for Communities & Wellbeing at Sheffield United Community Foundation. “It aligns exactly. If we can support the Coalition with the #OpenGoal outcomes by generating our own local outcomes which are exactly the same, then we can help a lot of people.”


Katie says being an active partner and remaining committed to collaboration has been secret of the consortium’s success so far. “The consortium is only going to be successful with people that are actively involved in making things happen. That’s the greatest challenge with it; we’re only going be able to progress if people and organisations are willing to support and give us time.”

The Sheffield consortium, which was established in January 2021, appeals to Katie as it emphasises how much of an impact can be made through co-operation and strength in numbers. Its origins reinforce the need for collaboration in order to tackle inequalities and make significant changes to the ways people are living in under-served communities.

Chris Cutforth, from Sheffield Hallam University, has been helping to lead the consortium since it began. The University has played a significant leadership role in the consortium as part of its civic engagement role in the city and region.

“The origins go back about seven years to the excellent progress we achieved in the city in partnership with StreetGames,” he said. “Gradually we are building up a collaborative spirit across the city, where organisations are working together, learning about each other and sharing their practice.”

“Coinciding with Covid lockdown, we took the opportunity to take stock, review our progress and achievements as well as identifying the barriers preventing us from taking the work to the next level, by making it higher quality and more sustainable. We recognised that to achieve this required some new structures and working practice which ultimately led to the creation of the consortium.”

One of the roles of the consortium is to provide a collective voice for the frontline delivery organisations in the city, many of which are doing excellent work in local areas, often with limited resources and recognition.


The consortium has identified eight outcomes which it is now working together to achieve. Chris added: “Most of the outcomes are interconnected – for example, we aim to reduce isolation and loneliness whilst improving health and wellbeing; clearly these are connected.”

It is these similarities with the objectives of the Sport for Development Coalition, but at a local level, which led the consortium to engage with the #OpenGoal framework at a national level, and contribute to advocacy efforts aimed at demonstrating the value of sport for development to national and local policy priorities.

Consortium leaders have established solid foundations over the past two years, including a shared vision, purpose and outcomes framework (as described in the consortium’s mission statement) establishing credibility and profile, developing trusting relationships between members and wider stakeholders.

Examples of local organisations benefitting from the support of the consortium include:

  • Unity Gym (pictured above) is a charity based in Sheffield which uses its gym to improve the health and wellbeing of people in the local community of Broomhall. Whilst the gym is the main focal point of the charity, it also works on the other aspects of the #OpenGoal framework as they offer community-based mentoring to develop young people’s education. The gym also helps to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour due to its role in bringing cohesion to the local community. Read more at unitygym.org.uk
  • Darnall Education and Sports Academy (DESA) uses sport to bring together young people in its local community and help them lead a healthier and more active lifestyle. DESA uses sports such as football, basketball and cricket to aid in the development of young people and it brings people from different backgrounds together. Its academy also covers other aspects of the #OpenGoal framework such as improving education which is achieved through its successful ‘Bright Minds’ tutoring sessions which help to improve the futures of children in the local community. Read more at desa.org.uk

Over the next 12 months the consortium will be building on the foundations described in this article through a practical programme of activities designed to impact positively on the lives of children, youth and families living in Sheffield’s most disadvantaged and under-served communities. Priorities include the launch of a new interactive website and a strategic funding bid aligned to consortium priorities and the #OpenGoal framework.

Dave commented:  “Achieving this will represent a significant step forward for the consortium in that we will be demonstrating genuine added value to the city and the power of collaboration, both of which were recognised as being important from the outset.”


To find out more about the consortium please contact Chris at c.cutforth@shu.ac.uk or Dave at dave@mettle.zone

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