Let me begin by mentioning a great sports club in my constituency, Glasgow Warriors, which is currently second in the Guinness Pro14 League. No doubt it will take the top spot very soon. It shares its ground at Scotstoun, which is round the corner from my house, with Victoria Park athletics club. Both clubs are involved in great schools outreach activities in an attempt to engage young people who would not normally have experience of their sports.
I am now going to make a rather controversial statement which may cost me some votes: I am not a fan of football. There are many reasons for that, but one thing that bothers me is the reporting of it, which dominates television and the print media. I heard a Member say earlier that 10% of written reports were about female sport. I find that hard to believe, because I regularly look through the sports pages just out of principle to see how many articles there are about women. The reporting is pretty much all about football, and it is almost entirely male.
That has serious implications for the health and wellbeing of girls in particular. We know that teenage girls are far more likely to drop out of sport than boys. They are not seeing role models. They are not seeing girls like them succeed in various sports. It is great to hear about the increased participation of women in, for instance, football, rugby and cricket, but more traditional girls’ sports such as gymnastics, dancing, swimming and athletics do not receive much coverage.
Many people will not know that I was a gymnastics coach for a number of years, and coached at elite level. Dr Allin-Khan spoke of the difficulties experienced by those who did not have support. That is absolutely true: without parental and financial support, it is almost impossible for young people to participate in elite sport. They need their parents to run them to the venues, and to pay the costs of lessons and competitions.
However, there is also a big role for recreational sports, and sports for people with additional needs. As the Soviets knew when they were great at gymnastics, the more people participate in sport, the more excellence rises to the top of the pyramid, so we need to increase participation. There is a very special club in my constituency, the Glasgow Eagles sports club in Drumchapel. Its specialities are basketball and table tennis, but it is a club for people with additional needs, and it has done a great deal of work with autistic adults. It deals with mass participation, but the mass participation of people with special needs.
I think it is important for us also to recognise the dark side of sport. We know that in the past paedophiles have used sports coaching to groom young children. I urge every Member to support the Close the Loophole campaign by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, which is ensuring that 16 and 17-year-olds are given the same protection as younger children, particularly in areas such as sport, in which relationships can develop over a long period.