“An exciting sporting programme the city has ever seen” – Conservative Cllr Abi Brown

A city-wide sporting event, a mass-participation 5km road race and a triathlon are just some of the events which could be coming to Stoke-on-Trent next year.

Plans are being drawn up to make sure Stoke-on-Trent’s year as a European City of Sport in 2016 is one which increases participation in sport throughout the city, boosts civic pride and raises the profile of the area to a national and international audience, among many other benefits.

Stoke-on-Trent was awarded the prestigious title by ACES Europe in July, a not-for-profit organisation based in Brussels which is responsible for awarding the titles of European Capital, City, Town and Community of sport.

Judges who visited the city said they were unanimous in their decision to award the title to Stoke-on-Trent after being impressed by the passion and commitment shown to regenerate the city over the coming years, with sport and health placed firmly at the heart of the plans. They also praised the successful staging of the UK Corporate Games, which saw thousands of competitors from companies across the country compete in a range of sports at venues across the city in June.

In a report going before the city council’s cabinet on Tuesday, October 6, the key benefits of Stoke-on-Trent being a European City of Sport are highlighted as:

• Helping to raise the profile of the city and wider county/surrounding areas on a national and international stage.

• Improving the aspirations of residents.

• Encouraging participation in physical activity and sport, which will improve the health and wellbeing of the population.

• Contributing to the local economy, supporting businesses and jobs, and using the status as a means to attract inward investment.

• Sustaining the benefits associated with being a European City of Sport, by creating a strong legacy post-2016, in terms of engagement and participation.

Taster days and discounted or free use of facilities at the city’s sport and leisure venues will be offered to showcase the huge range of sessions available and make them accessible to local people wanting to try something different. New and expanded health, wellbeing and sports sessions will be delivered in community settings such as parks, on top of existing initiatives such as the StreetGames programme. And discussions are already taking place to see which major sport events and conferences could be held in the city next year.

Research into previous European Cities of Sport (both in the UK and internationally) has shown the type of benefits the award can bring. When Logorono, in Spain, was European City of Sport in 2014, the economic impact was estimated at €44.5million, while the city also attracted major sporting events and benefited from increased tourism. The city council is looking to invest up to £3.5 million to deliver the project and make it a real long-term success.

Conservative Councillor Abi Brown, deputy leader of the city council, said: “Being a European City of Sport for 2016 will provide so many opportunities for the whole of Stoke-on-Trent. We want to give everyone the chance to benefit and be involved in what will be the most exciting sporting programme the city has ever seen.

“We have a brilliant track record of delivering top class events and a lot of work is taking place behind the scenes, working closely with national governing bodies of sport, to see what we can bring to the city in 2016.

“As well as increasing participation in physical activity and improving the health and wellbeing of the local population, this is a chance to really raise the profile of the city on an international stage, attract investment and enhance our status as a key destination for sport.

“This award means a huge amount to us but it’s not just about 2016 – it’s about creating a legacy which is going to last for years to come.”

Stoke-on-Trent City Council led the bid to become a European City of Sport and was supported by 12 of its partner organisations, including Stoke City and Port Vale football clubs, Staffordshire Football Association, the City of Stoke-on-Trent Swimming Club (COSACSS), Staffordshire University, YMCA North Staffordshire and the countywide partnership Sport Across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent.

Gian Lupattelli, president and founder of ACES Europe, said: “We have been extremely impressed to date with Stoke-on-Trent’s passion and commitment to physical activity, sport and health, and the city’s aspirations for their year as European City of Sport.

“It’s delightful to see that the city council is looking to invest in the celebrations for 2016, and is giving due consideration to the lasting legacy that the programme will create for the city and its residents.

“We at ACES Europe are excited to be working with the council and its partners in what will be a unique and momentous year for the city, and into the future.”