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INTERVIEW


BILLY GARRETT


THE SPORTS OPERATIONS MANAGER FOR GLASGOW LIFE TALKS TO KATE CRACKNELL ABOUT DRIVING A CULTURE OF ACTIVITY AND MAKING A DIFFERENCE AT A POPULATION LEVEL


“I


t’s not about increasing our share of the pie, but about making the pie larger,” says Billy Garrett, sports operations manager at


Glasgow Life – the independent chari- table organisation that manages the culture and leisure services on behalf of Glasgow City Council. That’s a claim I’ve heard a number of times from within the sector, not always with much justifi- cation. In this case however, as Garrett elaborates on the broad range of initia- tives being spearheaded by Glasgow Life, it rings true. He says: “Our mission is very much re-


flected in our name: Glasgow Life. We want to enhance the lives of Glasgow citizens, creating a city which allows people to grow, develop themselves, and enjoy life in this fantastic, dynamic environment. “It’s about delivering healthy life-


styles across the board. We operate 32 sports and leisure centres, with 27,000 direct debit members and 6.2 million


attendances in 2012, but it’s not just about sport. We also operate arts and culture venues across the city – 50 sites in total – and research shows that go- ing to a museum or the theatre can also bring about positive outcomes in terms of people’s health and wellbeing. We see ourselves as a health service in the broadest terms, looking to make a pop- ulation-level impact in Glasgow.”


CONSISTENT INVESTMENT But although Glasgow Life’s remit is a broad one, sport and physical activity is a key part of its offering. “Sports and leisure has always been a focus for Glas- gow, with a massive investment over the last 10, 15, 20 years,” says Garrett. “That’s been a consistent strategy for the local authority, rather than simply a reaction to being awarded the Com- monwealth Games in 2014. “I’ve been with the organisation since


the early 1990s, when we were still a department of the local authority, but


since 2006 when Glasgow Life became an independent unit and I moved into the sports team, I can’t remember a time when we weren’t building new fa- cilities,” he says. The latest offering in the Glasgow


Life estate is the £113m Emirates Arena, Europe’s largest dedicated indoor sports arena, which opened in the east end of the city in October 2012. Among its impressive list of facilities are the Sir Chris Hoy velodrome, a 6,500-capacity sports arena, and a 1,000-capacity arena that can turn into a suite of community sports halls when not hosting an event. Indeed, community use is a key


theme for Glasgow Life. Although the Emirates Arena is one of a number of its facilities that will be used as a Commonwealth Games venue, Glas- gow Life’s belief is that public access is equally important. “We don’t see any distinction between facilities for elite versus community use,” explains Gar- rett. “All of our buildings cater for both audiences, and in fact the first people to use all of our Commonwealth Games facilities will be Glasgow citizens. We’re not building facilities, keeping them under wraps until the Games so they’re first used by elite athletes, and only then rolling out to the public. As soon as they’re completed, we’re opening them out to the community – I think we may be unique in doing that.” And the community has responded


The Emirates Arena gym is kitted out by Technogym and Jordan


extremely positively. In its first seven weeks of operation, the 600-member- ship target originally set for the Arena for the end of March 2013 had already been easily surpassed, not to mention all the pay-as-you-go usage. The venue has also already hosted elite events but, as Garrett explains: “The Arena is located in an area of real social deprivation, and 66 per cent of those who have joined up


18 Read Sports Management online sportsmanagement.co.uk/digital Issue 1 2013 © cybertrek 2013


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