MCRactive 2021 Annual Review

As 2021 draws to a close, it’s a great opportunity for us all to reflect on the year to highlight and recognise the hard-work and dedication of all those that have contributed to the sport and leisure sector in Manchester. This includes Officers, Ward Councillors, residents, partners and clubs who through collaboration and teamwork have made significant strides to keep our city active despite the unique challenges faced.Just last month, we were announced as the leading city in the UK for cycling, ahead of Bristol, London, Newcastle and Cardiff! On top of this, there have been some stand-out success stories we’re keen to share. 2021 has underlined why Manchester is worthy of our reputation as a City that prioritises sport and physical activity and continues to lay claim as one of the great sporting cities in the world.sport 1
Keeping Manchester active and healthy has never been more important to all of us. Back in January, we launched our New Year campaign ‘We’re Here’. Initially supporting residents’ well-being online by pushing activity inspiration and reassurance into local front rooms, gardens, and balconies. As lockdown changed, our focus moved to leisure centres reopening and reflecting residents needs as the vaccination programme expanded and infection rates reduced significantly. We worked with key stakeholders and sector leaders to communicate government changes to help as many local people take part in a COVID-safe manner, supporting our operators and helping the many clubs and voluntary groups across the city. In addition, through alternative approaches whilst developing new and existing relationships, we have continued to establish many local connections with organisations aligned with our vision and purpose. WE'RE HERE
In line with Manchester’s Sport and Physical Activity Digital Road Map, the previous year saw the launch of the new MCRactive.com website. Throughout this year, the platform has undergone notable change and enhancement, with the number of local providers signing up to our Providers Portal more than doubling, and a new streamlined ‘Activity Finder’ that sits at the heart of our search platform has been introduced. With further developments planned, and more activity providers joining daily, we could not be prouder and more excited of how far we have come on our digital journey. We’re excited to continue this work next year and beyond soon to deliver the one-stop digital shop for support and activity inspiration in our City.website
The Rest & Relaxation Centre at Manchester Regional Arena, which opened last year in emergency response to COVID-19, recently received the Gold Award for ‘Best COVID-19 Response by a Club’ as part of this year’s Sports Business Awards; with partners GLL, OCS, F3, MCFC and MCC with a steer from MHCC. Other leisure assets continue to be utilised as COVID Testing Centres. And The Tennis and Football Centre, opened in January a Mass Vaccination Centre for GM, which continue to play a critical role in the regions fight against the virus. A drive-through COVID testing facility also on the Etihad Campus, utilising MCFC carparks, continues to make available 1000+ tests per day for thousands of NHS, key workers and the wider public.covid
Ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games, we were honoured to successfully welcome several international events (without spectators) earlier in the year, highlights included the Manchester Open International Swim Meet in February, followed by the British International Swim Meet and for the second year running, the Para Powerlifting World Cup in March. In addition, Manchester Thunder led the return of competitive Netball with the ‘Netball Rises’ tournament at Belle Vue Sports Village and British Cycling held competitive racing within the Velodrome. For every event, the planning and preparation involved was extensive, yet the rewards were plentiful, as witnessed at the Tokyo Games! Team GB once again defied the odds with their fantastic gold medal return, with the Northwest claiming half of those. It was amazing to watch Manchester’s wonderful array of athletes reach the podium. The Olympics Games also brought Tokyo medalists back to our communities – Katie Archibald (GB Cyclist), Ryan Owens (GB Cyclist), and Bianca Walkden (GB Taekwondo) took part in athletics, basketball, squash, balance bikes, taekwondo and Watt bikes, attracting 335 people with Manchester residents making up a third; hopefully, inspiring future generations to take up sport.Once sport and physical activity was given the green light to restart in spring, our parks tennis programme grew at its fastest rate, with 80,000+ players returning to our park tennis courts. The Great Manchester Run returned, welcoming back 17,000+ runners to our streets in September, instrumental in the roll out of the 2.6 challenge alongside the London Marathon, raising over £11m for charities across the country. Around the same time, our new interactiveSQUASH system, jointly funded with England Squash, went live at the National Squash Centre. We were also delighted to introduce the Manchester and Trafford Legacy programme around the UEFA Women’s Euros, which saw Manchester and Trafford Legacy group secure investment of £100k+ to drive the women and girls’ game next year.elite
With millions of visitors returning to leisure centres across the country in Manchester, the connection and importance of our leisure facilities as bastions of our communities continue; they deliver significant social return, positively impact on residents’ mental well-being, social and community development and improve their physical well-being. Over 2021, we’re thrilled that membership at East Manchester and Whalley Range fully recovered to above pre-COVID levels with nearly all other centres hitting the 90%-mark (vs. 2019). Swimming lessons returned after their hiatus, and with the influx of new eligible children, we’re pleased that demand for lessons is at an all-time high. We welcomed back 148 schools to educational swimming, running 237 sessions a week. And our city-wide Free-Swimming offer brought to our pools 19,332 Under 17’s over the school holiday and weekend sessions.Significant progress has been made working with the local health system, forging partnerships with the likes of MHCC, MLCO, GMMH and Buzz, to recognise the role of physical activity in tackling health challenges. We have explored opportunities to create a pathway for Mancunians moving between any health system – be that advice, signposting or referral – into physical activity. With a key focus on people living with health conditions, the ambition is to create an easy, simple patient journey, personalised and supported to increase their likelihood of being active and improve their health. Community engagement programmes were delivered, including ‘Heart & Soul Get Together’ Community Led Research Programme in Woodhouse Park, Game Changers programme with Active Communities Network (in Ancoats & Beswick, Clayton & Openshaw, Miles Platting & Newton Heath), Greening & Growing, Miles, and Manchester and Trafford Health Collaboration to create healthier neighbourhoods.  Our work with holiday activity went from strength to strength, with a focus on providing support for children and families eligible for free school meals, with funding secured from the Department for Education; allowing us to deliver enriching and inclusive activities alongside a healthy meal. This year, Manchester commissioned over 80 partners to deliver the scheme and provide activities to over 11,500 residents. Additionally, we engaged residents via the Active Parks initiative which took place at Alexandra Park, Crowcroft Park, Crumpsall Park and Hollyhedge Park. Feedback from families taking part was incredibly positive; “My children live in a flat, so coming to a park is their only opportunity to get outside. I have seen a reduction in their social skills since the beginning of lockdown and now they have been able to interact with others”active parks
We’re proud that we were able to support our clubs and community groups with access to over £550k in grants to help them rebuild and recover following the impact of the pandemic. We also set up a coordinated city-wide Training Hub to provide support and development resources to help upskill the sector workforce, offering free advertising for volunteering opportunities via MCRVIP.Significant investment continued into our community and elite facilities to ensure they represent and reach the places and people where they will have the biggest impact. In the last 12-month period, along with the help of partners, the Council have committed over £66m capital investment into the renewal of public sport and leisure assets and the development of new active places in our parks and green spaces. In addition, approval for the development and modernisation of iconic sport facilities in East Manchester and other indoor leisure facilities was signed-off, to provide sustainable assets for the next 20 years. We continued to deliver against several City priority investment projects including; Citywide Non-Turf Cricket Wicket Programme, Rushford Park New Small Sided Football Facilities, Abraham Moss Leisure Centre New Build, National Cycling Centre Refurbishment, and Manchester Aquatics Centre Refurbishment. We also re-opened Ghyll Head Outdoor Education & Activity Centre following £1.6million refurbishment in July, where over 1,000 children/young people have already accessed the residential centre.Projects were brought forward in response to community consultations with local stakeholders to ensure our sport and leisure facilities meet the needs of the city and our partners and represent the communities in which they sit. Through lessons learned on community engagement and co-designing facilities, we’ll continue to seek input from communities on improvements and facilities to ensure local voices are heard.parks
More recently, in November, the MCR Sports Awards 2021 made a long-awaited return in recognition of the continued challenging work Manchester based clubs, coaches, leaders, organisations, volunteers, and officials supporting the ongoing provision and development of sport and physical activity in our City. Congratulations to all the finalists, the nominees and the category winners.sports awards
We think it’s an exciting time to be in Manchester. The city is currently home to several National Governing Bodies and Sport Federations, hosting national and regional performance centres that have strategic importance for the development of sport in the city. Athletes made and trained in Manchester are now dominating in national and international sport, including Athletics, Basketball, Cycling, Squash and Taekwondo.Overall, this has been an immensely challenging period for Manchester. Yet, in many ways, the partnerships forged with organisations across the city and region in the past 12 months will provide a legacy to further strengthen the MCRactive movement and help us deliver many more world-class events, great initiatives and activity programmes over the coming years. We’re positively looking forward to 2022 and beyond.