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Loughborough University joins forces with Spirit of 2012 and Counsel to explore a UK Capital of Sport

Leading researchers from Loughborough University have joined forces with Spirit of 2012 and Counsel to deliver a new project to explore the potential for a UK Capital of Sport.

The collaboration will focus on health and wellbeing and will work through multiple stages to gather evidence and test stakeholder and public appetite for different models for the Capital of Sport.

Once the findings have been collated, colleagues from the University will present its recommendations.

The project will focus on:

  • The readiness factors for places in the UK to host and the prominence of the placemaking agenda to include all types of ‘places’ in funding and policy decisions
  • Cost of living and economic factors creating challenges and opportunities around models for an effective Capital of Sport
  • Health and wellbeing drivers and innovation around building this into a Capital of Sport model
  • Opportunities and challenges to develop the Capital of Sport model based on the learnings from the City of Culture model and other iterations of this event, such as those across Europe.

The project will be led by Counsel and supported by an interdisciplinary team of expert advisers to develop in-depth recommendations on alternative models, strategic fit, funding and risks.

Dr Verity Postlethwaite, project lead for Loughborough University said: “The project team from across the University is excited to work collaboratively with Spirit of 2012, experts from the sector and Counsel on this feasibility study around a UK Capital of Sport.

“The strong focus on health and wellbeing offers a fantastic starting point for the study and we will work hard to gather views and ideas from across the UK and a variety of communities.”

Ruth Hollis, Chief Executive, Spirit of 2012 said: “We are looking forward to working with Counsel and Loughborough University on the feasibility study for Capital of Sport. It marks the beginning of an exciting opportunity to bring to life one of the key proposals offered in our Inquiry into the Power of Events. In the last decade, we have seen increases in wellbeing, cultural participation and local civic pride within Cities of Culture.

“We have good reason to believe these successes can be replicated with regard to increasing levels of physical activity and participation in sport and this study will be an important first step to their actualisation.”

James Allen, Director, Counsel added: “We’re very proud to be working with Spirit, experts from the sector and colleagues at Loughborough to explore how a capital of sport could work, what models would be most politically and financially viable and how this project could contribute to delivering a strong health and wellbeing legacy.

“We’re approaching this project with completely open minds and I’m excited to see where the evidence leads us before making our recommendations next year.”

The full team consists of:

Project leads: James Allen (Counsel Ltd.) and Dr Verity Postlethwaite

External collaborators: Emma Boggis, Hitesh Patel

Further Loughborough University collaborators:

Professor Alan Bairner

Dr Borja García García

Dr Caron Walpole

Professor Daniel Rhind

Professor Dominic Malcolm

Dr Doyoung Pyun

Professor Fehmidah Munir

Paul Lester

Dr Jamie Kenyon

Dr Lee Taylor

Professor Paul Downward

Professor Richard Giulianotti

Jennie Wong (Loughborough University London)

Professor Sarah Mills

Loughborough’s work on the project will begin imminently with the first findings due in early 2024.

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 23/138

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2023 QS World University Rankings – the seventh year running – and University of the Year for Sport by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is ranked 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2023, 10th in the Guardian University League Table 2024 and 11th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’, and in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 over 90% of its research was rated as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally-excellent’. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.