Business and Sport Birmingham are working together to make our city healthier and fitter. CEO Mike Chamberlain explains how commerce is helping to cut the calories and cholesterol
Please introduce yourself
I am Mike Chamberlain, chief executive of Sport Birmingham. I was previously director of sport at the University of Wolverhampton. Sport has always been a huge part of my life mainly through judo in which I have a long international career under my belt and still compete in the veterans’ category. I am current British and Commonwealth champion and will represent Britain in the forthcoming World Veteran Championships in Spain. I am also a circuit-training instructor in my home town of Stourbridge and I am married with two girls.
What does your company do?
Sport Birmingham is an independent charity belonging to a network of 45 county sports partnerships across England. We’re tasked with being the gateway to the city’s communities and ensuring that national and regional sport and physical activity resources have local reach. We work in partnership with Birmingham City Council, local schools, national governing bodies of sport, clubs, coaches and volunteers to create and develop accessible sporting opportunities for the communities we serve. Our mission is to harness the power of sport and physical activity to improve lives across the city.
Is Brum a good place to do business?
It’s a vibrant, diverse community which benefits from many areas of our business and vice-versa. The perception of Sport Birmingham is that it is centrally funded by government, but there has been a shift and we are charged with being more self-sufficient and therefore need engage with the business community more than ever. This change means that I’m now regularly meeting business leaders and exploring connections.
What are your biggest gripes with it?
Birmingham is one of the least active parts of England with low level sports club membership and a high childhood obesity problem. The challenge is reaching the people we most need to in order to have greatest impact.
How do you feel your clients see the city?
As having huge potential, and that in a sporting sense we need to catch up with other cities that have invested significantly in sport in recent years. The national governing bodies of sport (around 40 of them) view Birmingham as a priority.
Does Birmingham offer any particular advantages as a destination for business?
The central location is an obvious advantage and Birmingham is well known internationally and has a strong identity which many other sports partnerships do not have.
What should our priorities be as a city?
Naturally, I’d say getting people to be more active. Sport and fitness can play a big part in this as well as transport and planning, so there is a lot of work to do to join up all of the contributing agendas to improve the health of individuals and communities.
If you had £1bn to spend on improving Brum what would you do with it?
I would put a sizeable percentage into people who can help inspire others to lead more active and healthy lifestyles through sport – I would say that, wouldn’t I? There would need to be facility investment across a wide range of sports to truly make Brum a ‘sporting capital’. And let’s not forget coaches, activators, leaders and volunteers – this is where the fundamental gap always is and the thing that makes the biggest impact.