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Funding problems for grass roots sport

It is a busy time for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown. Yesterday the report he commissioned on climate change was published and last week he made a major foray into the world of sport. In an article headlined 'My fight to get Britain fit for the Olympics', he told of his own good fortune to have attended primary and secondary schools that had sport at the heart of their ethos. He wrote of how lucky he had been to play for his school rugby team when he was just 15, how he ran in the Scottish schoolboy championships and how it was at school that he had learnt to swim.

He then stated: "We need to restore school sport to its proper place … today, many schools offer children two hours sport a week. I want every school to do so and I want the hours to rise to at least four hours by 2010. This means that every child would do sport on most days. I want every school to offer after-school sport and links with a range of local sports clubs."

Ironically the Chancellor's views were published the day after the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee in the House of Commons heard worrying evidence that the cost of the 2012 Olympic Games was likely to spiral. The Central Council for Physical Recreation representatives stated their doubts over what lasting legacy there would be from the Olympics for the grassroots of sport and most importantly for participation levels. So far, £2.375 billion has been earmarked for construction and another £1 billion for regeneration around Stratford in east London.

David Higgins, the Chief Executive of the Olympic Development Authority, refused when giving evidence to MPs to state categorically that the project could be delivered within budget. This is hardly surprising. No Olympic project has ever managed to be delivered at its original cost and London will be no different.

But how the Government finds the extra money is the question that those involved within sport will want answering. This is where the Chancellor's role is so vital. He must ensure that the extra funding is not taken away directly or indirectly from sport. There must be no more raiding of the general sports lottery fund.

One immediate decision he could make would be to remove the tax on the Olympic scratch-card lottery. The lottery game is supposed to deliver £750 million toward the overall costs of the Games but so far just £60 million has been raised. A tax exemption would guarantee another £340 million goes into the pot, rather than Gordon's pocket.

Every penny taken from the sports lottery for the Olympics means less for sport in general and therefore less chance of hitting the Chancellor's targets for participation and more competitive sport for young people.

From: Hack away at red tape to release sport in Britain, Telegraph Sport, Kate Hoey, 01/11/2006

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