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Junior Football and Rugby

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 21st March 2005.

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Photo of Mr Huw Edwards Mr Huw Edwards Labour, Monmouth 2:30 pm, 21st March 2005

What support her Department gives to junior football and rugby.

Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn Minister of State (Sport and Tourism), Department for Culture, Media & Sport

As part of our national strategy for physical exercise, school sport and club links, the Football Association and the Rugby Football Union are receiving a little more than £750,000 each to allow them to build sustainable high-quality links between school sport partnerships and accredited clubs. In addition, on the football side, the Football Foundation has supported projects worth a little less than £300 million, with support from the FA Premier League, the FA and Sport England.

Photo of Mr Huw Edwards Mr Huw Edwards Labour, Monmouth

Does the Minister share my pleasure and admiration when he sees hundreds of young people playing football or rugby in different parts of our constituencies? Those games are supervised by coaches and there are facilities that were just not available when my generation was playing football some time ago. Does he appreciate that those who administer junior rugby and football often incur considerable costs, especially travelling away from home and in respect of logistical problems? Any help that the Minister's Department and the equivalent in Wales could give would be gratefully appreciated. Finally, will he join me in congratulating—

Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn Minister of State (Sport and Tourism), Department for Culture, Media & Sport

Thank you for that protection, Mr. Speaker. My hon. Friend knows that our commitment to two hours of quality physical activity and sport for every child, every week from the age of five to 16 is probably one of the biggest investment programmes in school sport that there has ever been—[Hon. Members: "A grand slam"]—and it has to be added to the £60 million investment going out to various governing bodies to develop club to school links, which is another major investment. [Hon. Members: "Another grand slam."] My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the welcome for the new coach's certificate. It is the first time that all governing bodies have signed up to a national coaching certificate that is providing some of the quality coaches that we need. I do not want to go on too long, Mr. Speaker, but I want to say that when I first took up this job, no national sport was headed by a British coach, which was an indictment of our coaching system. I hope that we can continue to change it in the years to come.

Photo of Bob Russell Bob Russell Liberal Democrat, Colchester

While I welcome the figures that the Minister mentioned about grass-roots football, does he agree that the sums of money in the highest reaches of professional football are so substantial that more should be done to draw it down through the lower leagues and into grass-roots and school football?

Hon. Members:

Grand Slam!

Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn Minister of State (Sport and Tourism), Department for Culture, Media & Sport

I would agree with the hon. Gentleman, but remind him that the distribution of money out of the premier leagues in English football is as good as any in Europe. That does not mean that it is good enough, but the European leagues have not invested £20 million as the Football Foundation, the FA and the Government have done. We are talking about £60 million each year going into grass-roots sports via those three sources of funding. The premier division is playing for success and has developed community programmes. The contribution is therefore considerable. It could do better—that is for sure—but I must commend what has been done to date as probably the best contribution in Europe.

Photo of Mr Tony McWalter Mr Tony McWalter Labour/Co-operative, Hemel Hempstead

But does my right hon. Friend accept that the sum of money he has told the House about is inadequate to deal with the needs, say, of my local rugby union football club, Camelot, which runs women's and girls' teams as well as men's teams? The links to schools are not necessarily strong in some areas, so it is important that people's struggle to provide flourishing facilities is given more support than my right hon. Friend has currently been able to announce.

Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn Minister of State (Sport and Tourism), Department for Culture, Media & Sport

A number of my hon. Friends have asked me from a sedentary position to congratulate the Welsh on the grand slam, which I do. The team played some fantastic rugby not only in the final, but also in the games running up to it—[Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] I hope that satisfies my hon. Friends.

What my hon. Friend Mr. McWalter said is absolutely true, but I suggest that investment in sport, which deals with social inclusion, health and education in our communities, will continue. There is no doubt about that and I hope that some of the issues raised by my hon. Friend will be addressed; but we are changing the whole structure of the sport so that there is more participation and more of a bottom-up approach, as hon. Members on both sides of the House have said. That is what the regional boards are starting to deliver through the county partnerships.

Photo of Hugh Robertson Hugh Robertson Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport)

Many people in both the Football Association and the RFU would say that the greatest support that the Department can give both junior football and junior rugby would be to help the clubs by reducing bureaucracy. The Minister himself clearly agrees. On Friday, he said that Labour had listened to the concerns of front-line staff about too much bureaucracy. If that is to be anything more than just more talk, will the Minister tell the House exactly which organisations he intends to reduce or axe altogether?

Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn Minister of State (Sport and Tourism), Department for Culture, Media & Sport

May I welcome the hon. Gentleman to the Front Bench as the Opposition spokesman for sport and tourism? It must have been quite a shock for his Front-Bench colleagues. The previous spokesman announced their manifesto on a Friday, was criticised on the Sunday and walked away on the Monday. Probably the reason he walked away was centralisation. The hon. Gentleman talked about bureaucracy. All the Opposition want to do is to bring sport back to a Ministry of sport. That is their recommendation. We have been removing bureaucracy from the system, as I have already said. The number of employees at Sport England went down from more than 600 to 200. We have streamlined the whole regional structure and most of the governing bodies accept that.