Staff Blog: Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022

By Sported |  22nd July 2022

With the Birmingham Commonwealth Games beginning in a matter of days, we caught up with Sophie Tobin, our West Midlands Regional Manager.

Sophie has been working in the sport for development sector for 10 years and supports community sports groups in the Sported network located in the West Midlands. We asked her about how she, and groups in the West Midlands are feeling about the upcoming events. 

On a recent visit to Birmingham City Centre, I really felt the buzz as the Commonwealth Games 2022 approaches. As a family of sports fans – I have tickets to see the weightlifting, table tennis, and my sport netball – to have a prestigious sporting event being hosted on our doorstep is not something we’ll be taking for granted.

However, I am particularly keen to uncover more about the effects of the games and its legacy on the community and grassroots sports groups in the surrounding areas.

In the Sported network, there are 84 groups operating in Birmingham, with a further 171 across the West Midlands. These groups all deliver sport and physical activity to young people aged between 11-25, focusing on changing lives and achieving sport for development outcomes rather than competition. It is these groups and the young people they support that I hope will benefit the from the Games most of all.

I have particularly loved reading about the Hometown Heroes – if you haven’t come across them yet, I would highly recommend that you take a look. Nasseem Akhatar, founder of Saheli Hub, Hassebah Abdullah from Windmill Boxing Gym, Salma Bi from Sporting Pathway and Yasmin Nessa from Saltley Women’s Football Club are all Sported members. It’s always fantastic to see inspirational local people, who work tirelessly to change the lives of others, get the recognition they deserve.

The Celebrating Communities grants from Birmingham City Council has also seen a number of groups in the Sported network receive funding to help celebrate the Games, and Gen 22 is helping hundreds of young people gain employability skills through volunteering. But is this enough to keep the spirit of the Games, and sport and physical activity alive once the event is over?

As a passionate advocate for the incredible work of community groups, and subsequently the young people they support,  I believe there is an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy, with the possibility to make behaviour changes to ensure the sport for development and community sector  work closer together in the future. 

The community sports groups we work with at Sported often need support to  grow and sustain themselves so they are still running in 5 to 10 years’ time to support young people  who do not get the same opportunities as those in more affluent areas of the West Midlands. I would have loved to have seen more discounted tickets for those in lower socio-economic areas and community groups, plus more communication with community groups to find out what they want from the Games and how they can engage them more.  I hope the excitement pulsing from the city centre is felt across the region as a whole.

So, what will be the legacy of the Commonwealth Games 2022? Only time will tell, but with initiatives which I believe could include long-term funding opportunities for community sports groups, there could be a chance for the spirit of the Games to live on, and I look forward to seeing Sported members being a part of it.

Ping Birmingham

One legacy project Sophie has been working on is Ping! Birmingham in partnership with Table Tennis England to help bring table tennis to new community audiences.

The project aims to work with three groups in the Sported network to create table tennis ‘Hubs’, who will then work with four other spokes to develop table tennis opportunities for young people in their community for years to come.