YSL training in Muscat, Oman
YSL training in Muscat, Oman ©

British Council

Our Gulf Culture and Sport programme helps governments in the Gulf to invest in the creative, cultural and sport sectors.

The programme began in 2016 and is funded by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and supported by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. 

We develop and manage the three-year Sport Programme and deliver it in partnership with Youth Sport Trust International (YSTI), to the six participating countries. Our main partners are Ministries of Education and Ministries of Youth and Sport.

The main objectives for the sports programme are to:

  • promote a deeper understanding of positive core values underpinning UK sport – leadership, inclusion, equality, fair play and diversity
  • support women and girls to achieve their ambitions and to play a more positive and active role in society
  • increase opportunities for UK sport organisations to collaborate with counterparts in the Gulf.

There are three key programme strands to achieve these objectives:

  • a Youth Sport Leadership programme that develops inclusive leadership skills in young people through sport. We train local trainers and master trainers to support a further skills rollout in schools
  • a Youth Sport Awards scheme that supports the sustainability of the above by incentivising the Young Sports Leaders trained to continue their leadership role and sports participation, post-training
  • bespoke country activity, including the partnership with the Special Olympics in UAE on their Play Unified programme with a focus on intellectual disability. Other activity includes the YSTi training on inclusive pedagogy to state school teachers in Qatar, inclusive physical education training in Qatar, two major sport conferences in Qatar and Bahrain and a UK study visit hosted for PE policy makers from Saudi Arabia.

I would like to thank the British council for the support and partnership with this program. I think the Unified Champions Schools is one of the important programs in special Olympics. It does not only use sports as an inclusive mechanism between students of intellectual disabilities and those without, but it also activates different inclusive activities in a school. So, plays on so many different values that we need to nurture and cultivate in people. 

Her Excellency, Shamma Bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth Affairs in the United Arab Emirates


Youth Sport Leadership

In the first two years of the programme:

  • 120 National Trainers, 620 Local Tutors and over 200 Young Sports Leaders have been trained across the six participating countries
  • The work of the Young Leaders has cascaded down to students and youth leaders in their schools who have developed their own peer-led sports festivals for younger peers reaching 7,469 participants, including 103 with disabilities
  • The programme has since upskilled 48 per cent of Local Trainers to National Trainer level (except in UAE), who are cascading the training to other PE teachers and Young People
  • In Saudi Arabia, the Sport Programme has had significant impact as it has aligned with a government policy shift towards improving health and gender balance.

Women and Girls

  • The programme has led to mixed-gender national trainer training being requested by Bahrain’s Ministry of Education, acknowledging that both genders would learn from each other and have complementary skills and approaches.
  • In Kuwait, female participation has outnumbered male participation, with 50 per cent of women in the first phase, 58 per cent in the second phase and 65 per cent in the third phase.
  • The gender-balanced implementation of the programme has strongly encouraged the participation of young women, resulting in higher interest, confidence and empowerment to play a greater role in society, as well as changing male attitudes.

Partnerships and collaborations

  • The Qatar National Youth Sport Award has been launched in five schools so far in Qatar as part of the Youth Sports Leadership programme. Qatar is one of the very first countries outside of the UK to launch these awards – accredited by Loughborough University - in schools.
  • Following the delivery of the YSL programme, Youth Sport Trust International was commissioned to organise a visit to the UK in early 2019 for a Saudi delegation of 21 people including Ministry of Education officials and PE teachers. The group learnt about the UK’s approach to engaging girls in physical activity, saw examples of best practice in five educational facilities and explored sport career opportunities and promotion.
  • In the build-up to Abu Dhabi’s 2019 Special Olympics World Games, we successfully organised a pilot training programme to promote and develop inclusion in sport for students with intellectual disabilities in schools, which was attended by over 100 teachers and over 300 students from 26 educational facilities.
  • The success of this led to a two-year agreement with Special Olympics UAE to extend the programme to all schools in the UAE, aiming to reach 2000 teachers, 4000 students in 639 schools by 2022.
  • Partnerships created in Qatar between sporting bodies and government has contributing to the establishment of a new Sport Museum.
  • Our collaboration with governments across the region enabled some breakthrough initiatives alongside the Sport programme, such as: non-gender-segregated training sessions and school safety improvements in Bahrain; the visit of a high-profile Saudi delegation to UK; the provision of healthy meals to complement education in Kuwait; inclusive PE trainings in Qatar; and embedding inclusion and diversity within the entire education system in the UAE.

The programme was very influential for me in terms of my professional and personal life. It got me to question how I use resources in school, how I organise classroom space, how I address the students. It gave me a new perspective on how to set up learning activities.

Bidour Al Fadhli, PE Teacher, Kuwait (Youth Sport Leadership)