Sports bodies' last-ditch effort to protect grassroots funding

The Football Association, Rugby Football Union and England & Wales Cricket Board have written to the Prime Minister as part of a last-ditch attempt to convince the Government not to take an axe to grassroots sports funding.

The governing bodies of Britain’s three biggest sports all signed a joint letter to David Cameron urging him to act over planned cuts of up to 40 per cent in the budget of the Department for Culture, Media & Sport, which are expected to be imposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer this month.

The Lawn Tennis Association, England Athletics, British Cycling and the Amateur Swimming Association were also among more than 20 national governing bodies (NGBs) to have endorsed the letter amid fears over the loss of much of the £100 million a year they are given to boost participation.

Seen by the Daily Telegraph, the letter marks the start of a two-and-a-half week campaign that will include lobbying of the Government by British sports stars past and present.

Members of England’s football, rugby and cricket teams could be recruited to help front the campaign, which is being orchestrated by the Sport & Recreation Alliance, the umbrella body for Britain’s sports NGBs.

The SRA also conducted a poll last month of more than 1,000 people, 75 per cent of who agreed grassroots sport should receive more funding from Government.

However, with Chancellor George Osborne close to finalising a comprehensive spending review that will be published on November 25, the campaign may have come too late to make a difference.

That could mean tens of millions of pounds being lost to sport just as sports minister Tracey Crouch is working on a new strategy to increase participation, having pledged this summer to “rip up” the existing one amid an ongoing decline since the Olympics.

The DCMS also funds Britain’s anti-doping agency, UK Anti-Doping, which last month warned its very existence was in jeopardy over proposed funding cuts.

The sports governing bodies’ letter to the Prime Minister reads: “Dear Prime Minister, When you spoke at the Welcome Party for the Rugby World Cup, you said that sport changes lives. We completely agree with you – sport improves the health and physical and emotional well-being of the nation, plays an important role in our communities, creates a sense of pride and citizenship, develops our young people and creates great economic benefits.

“That is why we – the national governing bodies of sport and recreation and our umbrella body the Sport and Recreation Alliance – are urging you to ensure that the spending review settlement and the upcoming new strategy for sport provides the basis for a truly active nation. As we launch the ‘Get Your Kit On’ campaign, we urge your Government to do what it has said it will do – place sport and physical activity at the heart of its policies across Government.

“The public are on our side and recent polling we have commissioned tells us that: 79% of the population agree that the Government should do more to support grassroots sports; 75% of the population agree that grassroots sport should receive more funding from the Government; 86% agree that sport plays a vital part in the education of children.

“Infrastructure is a priority for Government but sporting infrastructure requires investment too – not just in facilities, kits and clubhouses, but in volunteers, in coaches and in community programmes. Like HS2 and airport capacity, deciding to invest in sport will help to decide the future health, happiness and identity of the nation. Of course, in the current economic climate, investment has to be made wisely – it is not simply about wanting more money – with a recognition that the value of that investment cannot and should not just be measured in medals and participation figures.

“The upcoming sports strategy provides you with the opportunity to show in a fully joined up way, that the Government values the contribution sport makes. We, the sector, stand ready to play our part. By prioritising public funding for sport, your Government will leave a great legacy for the nation. We urge you to support the ‘Get Your Kit On’ campaign and support us in our aim to create a truly active nation.” Emma Boggis, the SRA’s chief executive, told the Telegraph: “Cutting investment in sport and recreation will have serious consequences in the short-term. More significant costs lie further down the line – with a serious impact stored up for health and education budgets as well as a hugely detrimental effect on our economic productivity.

“Government recognises the need to invest in our national physical infrastructure, but needs to take investment in our population’s health and wellbeing just as seriously.” 

First published on www.telegraph.co.uk 8 November 2015. Written by Ben Rumsby.