Sport and the 2012 Olympics Legacy

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 6:01 pm on 24th June 2015.

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Photo of John Mann John Mann Labour, Bassetlaw 6:01 pm, 24th June 2015

It is good to see that the cross-party consensus that won us the Olympics is still alive this afternoon. I have heard a bit of grumbling, but I am not going to grumble about money going into east London for the Olympics because my constituents and I loved the Olympics. Nor will I be grumbling about money going to Glasgow for the Commonwealth games; we loved them as well. I am sure that the Ministers would agree that it was part of the deal, when we all backed those games so unanimously, that areas such as mine that have not had the honour of hosting such events will have higher priority in the coming years, and I look forward to that happening. As we find that we want various things, I hope that the Ministers will be prompting and pushing to ensure that we get them.

I hope that, when the Government re-examine their strategy, they will acknowledge that the increase in pitch prices is a problem that has to be addressed, because it is turning people away from sport. I also hope that they will admit their error on school sports co-ordinators. It is honourable for new Ministers to admit that errors were made by others in the past, and to make changes. That was a serious error, but something can now be done to improve the situation. There has been a tail-off in participation in schools as a result of it.

Since the banking crisis, a lot of families have had a lower income. That means that the poorest in society—the lowest 20% in terms of income—are spending between £2 and £4 per household per week on sport, and they are suffering disproportionately from the lack of access. StreetGames is a charity that I know the new sports Minister has great affection for, and I hope that it will get more resources. It has produced an equity index on volunteering which shows that the brilliance of volunteering disproportionately benefits those in higher-income areas and works against those in the lowest-income areas. So the poorer you are, the less likely you are to benefit from volunteers and the less likely it is that you will participate in sport. One of the key reasons that the BBC needs to retain the major sports events as free to view is that those on the lowest incomes cannot afford to watch pay-per-view events. They would be still further excluded from major sporting triumphs such as the Olympics if the BBC were to lose those free-to-view events. That is a vital choice for the Department.

UK Sport’s gold event series has 70 events over the next six years, and the Government must give more of a push to that. Its pop-up rugby league sessions, in conjunction with the Chorley Panthers, were a great success, as I am sure its pop-up tennis will be, across the country, coinciding with Wimbledon. The shortly-to-emerge Bassetlaw sports village is not there yet, but it is on its way. It will have an athletics track and an all-weather football stadium, putting the resources back where they are needed. When we did it before, with girls’ football at Manton miners welfare club, we saw the biggest increase in girls’ participation in the football world. Give us the tools and the facilities, and the people will come forward to participate in sport.

Finally, I say to anyone out there who has not participated in sport that the all-party group on mountaineering will take you up to the hills. Anyone can participate—do join us.