Sport in the UK

Part of Social Security – in the House of Commons at 8:17 pm on 4th February 2019.

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Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Sport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales) 8:17 pm, 4th February 2019

For those of us who stayed up into the wee small hours last night to watch the Superbowl, it has already been a long day. The game itself could have got sport stopped, to be honest, but it would be remiss of me not to thank the Renfrewshire Raptors, the Flag American Football team, for hosting the Superbowl party last night.

I should also say at the outset that Scotland currently head the Six Nations table, a position that I fully expect them to stay in until the end of the competition. I will also use this opportunity to praise my own club, Paisley rugby club, which after a slow start is now unbeaten since October, probably because I retired a number of years ago.

It is good to see Douglas Ross in his place, given that he was running the line at the St Johnstone-Celtic game yesterday. As a St Johnstone fan, I am hugely disappointed that he did not find a way to disallow the two Celtic goals in their 2-0 victory. In recent years, with European qualification and a Scottish cup win, it has been easier to be a Saints fan than a Scotland fan. However, recently we have had cause for optimism, with Shelley Kerr’s women’s team backing up qualification for the Euros by qualifying for this summer’s World cup in France, for the very first time.

In my first shameless plug for the all-party parliamentary group on Scottish sport, which I chair, I draw attention to the fact that on 13 March both Shelley Kerr and Ian Maxwell, the chief executive of the Scottish Football Association, will give a presentation to the APPG on the women’s game and the recent UEFA report on the social benefits of football to Scotland. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Sport offers so much in personal development, self-confidence, discipline and social skills, and it plays a vital role in building strong communities and a healthy society. For many, sport can be all-consuming, whether simply as a fan of a local football team, as someone who enjoys a game of golf at the weekend—when the weather permits in Scotland—as a linesman or as a performance athlete who dedicates their life to be the best at what they do. It would be a grave mistake indeed to understate the importance of sport to people’s lives.

Thanks to the media, when we think of performance athletes, we tend to think of multimillionaire football players, but professional athletes come from a wide range of varying disciplines that are all unique and as important as each other. The vast majority certainly do not provide people with the opportunity to retire to a life of wealth and comfort while still in their 20s.

For many athletes, including those who bring home Olympic medals, transitioning to a life beyond professional sport can be a challenge. That challenge often includes uncertainty in establishing a viable career beyond sport, but it can also include poor mental health and battles with depression and anxiety.